6.8 National Historical Publications and Records Commission
The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) enables the National Archives to reach beyond federal records and assist in “making access happen” with records held by state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, and other institutions. It carries out this mission through competitive grants that invest in archives preservation and access projects, online publication of historical records, digital dissemination of archival collections, curation of state government digital records, and research and development in new archival methods—particularly those that advance citizen engagement with primary sources.
Congress created the NHPRC in the same 1934 act that established the National Archives, acknowledging that some of nation’s most vital historical records are often held outside of federal stewardship, including the documents and papers of America’s Founding Fathers, dozens of U.S. Presidents and statesmen, civil rights leaders, scientists, inventors, and records that are primarily important to state and local history. Through the NHPRC, the National Archives is committed to partnering with the network of repositories that comprise the nation’s archives, and helps them to preserve and make accessible those records, wherever located, that are vital to a transparent and open government, as well as a deeper understanding of our rights, history, and culture.
During Fiscal Year 2017 and Fiscal Year 2018 the NHPRC will focus on implementing its strategic plan, newly devised and approved in May 2016 (Archives.gov/nhprc/about/strategic-plan.html).
There are four broad goals to the plan, with associated activities to carry them out.
- Connect the National Archives with the work of the nation’s archives
- Expand access to the nation’s historical records
- Engage the American people in preserving and discovering the American record
- Enhance the capacity of small and diverse organizations with historical records collections
The NHPRC will undertake a set of targeted initiatives during Fiscal Year 2017 and Fiscal Year 2018 that bring together many communities with an interest in these goals and related challenges, and we will lead collaborative efforts with those communities in developing common strategies for addressing them. We expect that the results of these initiatives will directly impact our grant program offerings going forward. In addition, in Fiscal Year 2017 the NHPRC will implement a reimagined Access to Historical Records grant program in response to input from the archives and library communities. We expect that the new program will result in new and first-time applicants with projects that bring innovation and best practices to light.
The NHPRC reviews its policies and procedures on an ongoing basis, and routinely solicits stakeholder input about its grant programs and processes. Recent public input on our processes will result in the following enhancements: the introduction of a new application process in Fiscal Year 2017 that requires only a brief (3-5 page) preliminary application; the reduction in cost share requirements for some grant programs; the streamlining of the application peer review process; the support of an annual meeting of grant project directors to network with NHPRC staff, NARA staff, and each other; and conducting regular surveys of our programs and processes (the first being conducted in April 2016).
Up-to-Date Information about NHPRC awards
We continue to report all grants made to the federal website, USASpending.gov, on a monthly basis. All NHPRC grants from 2001 to the present are featured on USASpending.gov including recipient name, project title, amount awarded, project period, location, and additional information. Individuals may also download the information into a variety of formats (such as CSV or XML files). We continue to comply with all DATA Act reporting requirements as well.
Quantitative Analysis of grants
We report monthly via the National Archives’ Performance Measurement and Reporting System (PMRS) the results of completed grants, including the number of cubic feet and electronic records preserved, amount of digital facsimiles created, and volumes published. In addition, we assess the overall success of each project. The information is available in a summary format on the PMRS website, with success rates beginning in 2002, and complete information after 2004. We summarize this information for quarterly narrative performance reports as well.
Communicating Results with the Public
The public has access to qualitative results of specific grants via our Facebook daily postings and other social media outlets, our bi-monthly online newsletter, the NHPRC annual report, our website, and our contribution to the National Archives’ Performance and Accountability Report.
Creation of New Resources Using Historical Records
Since its launch in June 2013, Founders Online (founders.archives.gov) has become an award winning web tool with an ever-growing population of users. This free and fully searchable database contains modern transcripts of over 175,000 documents from the nation’s founders and the founding era. The transcriptions and associated notes make the original documents accessible and intelligible. Users include educators, scholarly researchers and historians, journalists, curators, genealogists and students – all of whom tell us that Founders Online is powerful and easy to use.
We will continue to add more documents in Fiscal Year 2017 and Fiscal Year 2018 as additional materials become available from the editorial teams that continue their work on the transcriptions/notations not yet completed. In addition, the NHPRC will begin to collaborate with staff at the Library of Congress and other possible repositories to discover methods for linking digital scans of the original documents with Founders Online.