The collection comprises the records of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an American environmental action organization founded in 1970. The records consist of correspondence; legal files; meeting minutes; press clippings; technical reports; photographs; and publications, including annual reports, magazines, and newsletters; documenting NRDC's administration and programs.
The administrative records consist of the records of NRDC’s founding director, John H. Adams; records of Board of Directors meetings; and organization-wide publications. The John H. Adams records document many aspects of NRDC’s founding and first decade of work in environmental law and activism. They include extensive correspondence, publications, reports, memoranda, and legal documents. Most notably among the organization-wide publications, the annual reports offer a detailed year-by-year summary of NRDC's activities.
The Nuclear Program records provide a detailed view of two major areas of endeavor, NRDC’s projects to support the verification of nuclear arms control agreements and its efforts to provide public information about nuclear weapons and atomic energy. The verification projects files document NRDC’s collaboration with the Soviet Academy of Sciences in the 1980s that resulted in the joint construction of seismic monitoring stations in the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) capable of detecting underground nuclear tests; a 1989 experiment in the Black Sea to demonstrate the feasibility of detecting nuclear warheads on naval vessels; and several related visits to restricted Soviet military sites. The public information and advocacy files offer, most notably, an extensive collection of publications from the Nuclear Program including published articles and chapters, conference papers, reports, and testimony. Among the program's most significant publications was the Nuclear Weapons Databook, a series that sought to provide the public accurate factual data about nuclear arms at a time when government secrecy prevented much of this information from freely circulating.
The Nuclear Program records also include an extensive set of subject files documenting the Soviet, and later Russian, nuclear weapons program and its effects on the environment at the end of the Cold War.
Later additions to the records include the administrative records of other founding members, including Frances Beinecke and Patricia Sullivan, which document the day-to-day activities and legal proceedings of NRDC. Later additions also include the office documents, correspondence, and administrative files of the offices of NRDC. These office documents detail both the national campaigns undertaken by NRDC as well as the strategies for forwarding the mission of NRDC. This is exemplified through annual reports, meeting minutes, and internal memorandums. These documents are supported through research that is also present in the additions, and focus on topics such as urban development, climate change, pesticide use, and superfund sites.