The Historic Federal Register

Project Scope and Description

Federal Register Delivered in Boxes

The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) has partnered with the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register (OFR) to make every issue of the Federal Register digitally available to the public. GPO’s Library Services and Content Management (LSCM) is managing an effort to digitize, authenticate, preserve, and provide free public access to this historic Government information via govinfo.


The Federal Register, also known as The Daily Journal of the United States Government, is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and presidential documents. The publication of the first issue of the Federal Register was March 14, 1936, which included a total of 16 pages. Between 1936 and 1994, over 1,779,000 Federal Register pages were published. This is a total of 14,587 individual issues, which will be digitized and made available for free, permanent public access. Prior to the start of this partnership, Federal Register issues dating from 1994 to the present were available via govinfo. Once this project is complete, all issues of the Federal Register, dating back to 1936, will be available via govinfo.

This initiative began in 2015 with OFR’s historic, print Federal Register collection.



  • Archival specialists and material handlers from GPO traveled to OFR, inventoried, and hand-packed each historic Federal Register volume. The volumes totaled 1,860 books and 300 boxes.
  • The historic publications were then transferred to GPO where pre-digitization preparations got underway.
  • An extensive condition assessment of each issue was undertaken (over 1,779,000 individual pages).
  • Along with the condition assessment, GPO staff worked to flag each individual issue in each bound volume so that when the issues are available electronically, they are easily searchable and browseable.
  • In total, 15,365 Federal Register issues, indexes, and codification guides were processed by the GPO team of 15 people.
  • Simultaneously, through the Library of Congress’ FEDLINK, a request for proposals for preservation digitization services of the Federal Register was announced in September 2015 and issued in October 2015. Proposals were received in November 2015.
  • In April 2016, the preservation digitization services for the Federal Register was awarded to Backstage Library Works (BSLW).
  • In May 2016, GPO transferred a test batch (sample set of issues from each decade) to BSLW. Working with BSLW, the test batch was processed and reviewed. Appropriate modifications were made, and full production began in September 2016.
  • In January 2017, the first batch of historic Federal Registers was made available via govinfo: 1990 - 1994.
  • In August 2017, the second batch of historic Federal Register issues was made available via govinfo: 1980-1989.

Next Steps

  • Continue quality control review of batches.
  • Make available the third batch of historical Federal Registers: 1970- 1979 (Fall/Winter 2017).

Stay tuned to the FDLP News and Events email service for announcements as more historic batches of Federal Registers become available on govinfo.

Resources and Background Information

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