Statement in Support of Funding for the
National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)
Testimony Submitted to the House Appropriations Committee
Subcommittee on Treasury, Transportation, Housing and Urban
Development, the Judiciary and District of Columbia
Society of American Archivists
April 14, 2006
The Society of American Archivists, whose 4,600 members reside and work throughout
the United States, strongly urges that Congress allocate $20 million to support
current activities of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission
(NHPRC) and to enhance this modest but highly effective program in a way that
will significantly benefit the record of our nation.
Through its current authorization
of $10 million (which has been zeroed out in the President’s proposed
budget for FY 2007), the NHPRC provides grants to state and local governments,
historical and genealogical societies, and educational institutions in all
states and territories. The grants sustain the work of archivists, records
managers, historians, and others who preserve and make accessible records and
documentary editions for use by classroom teachers, biographers, lawyers, genealogists,
surveyors, documentary filmmakers, and many others. In addition to documenting
the history and culture of the nation, these records provide the essential
evidence of births and deaths, education, marriage and divorce, property held,
contractual obligations, and criminal conduct. Many of these local records
are tied directly to federal programs. They protect individuals’ rights
and entitlements as well as governments’ interests.
The NHPRC has a distinguished record of supporting innovation at the
state and local level that has a major impact on federal records. During the past
the Commission has awarded more than $150 million to more than 4,000 state
and local government archives, colleges and universities, and other institutions
to preserve and publish documentation of the American experience. Its grants
have made substantial contributions to preserving and providing access to our
nation’s documentary heritage in the following areas:
- Addressing the growing challenge of electronic records. NHPRC
provides funding to help records programs address the explosion of records
in electronic formats.
The work accomplished by the admittedly modest funding available has been
essential in creating scalable solutions that can be applied in towns, counties,
and organizations across the nation.
- Making community connections to national
history. NHPRC provides re-grants to states that make it
possible for smaller, grassroots organizations scattered
throughout the country to receive grants of even a few hundred dollars
make a significant difference. These organizations, including historical
societies, local public libraries, ethnic organizations, and local governments,
to preserving the diversity of the record that makes up the American experience.
a history for our children. The federal government has made a much-needed
investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to encourage the
study of history.
To bring history alive for their students, many elementary and secondary
school classroom teachers rely on documentary resources that can be found
our nation’s archives. These records provide students and teachers with
the literal evidence of our past and allow them to observe and study in the “laboratory” of
history. It is inconceivable that the only federal program directed at historical
records would be eliminated, seriously undermining our ability to bring our
history to the American people.
- Support for tribal archives programs. NHPRC
provides targeted support for Native American communities’ efforts
to build local archives programs. These programs provide Native Americans
with local access to records about
their history that are stored in other government archives, often many
miles distant. They also support tribal efforts to document and preserve
The records managed by the 56 state and territorial archives, more than
88,000 local governments, and more than 43,000 non-profit institutions in
the United States are an essential resource for documenting our democracy.
The NHPRC provides essential, irreplaceable support for these institutions.
NHPRC is the only federal program that concentrates on records programs and
projects. It is the only federal program that links federal archives with
those held by states, counties, municipalities, universities, and nongovernmental
organizations. It is the only program designed specifically with archives
and records management in mind.
Given NHPRC’s astonishing success, we strongly urge Congress to expand
this agency’s valuable work through a new program – The Partnership
for the American Historical Record (PAHR). PAHR might be structured to provide
formula-based grants to every state and territory, with each receiving base-level
funds plus an additional amount based on a formula that accounts for population
and geographic area. These funds could be distributed by the state archives,
making it much easier and faster for organizations to apply and compete for
By appropriating an additional $10 million to enable the Commission
to implement PAHR, Congress would take a major step forward in preserving
the American record.
This modest amount for archives would complement other national initiative
grants, such as $250 million for libraries through LSTA, $50 million for museums
through IMLS, and $35 million for historic buildings.
NHPRC is well-positioned to administer PAHR. The agency has a distinguished
record of cost-effective distribution of funds, and it is accustomed to administering
programs in which cost-sharing provides a stimulus for institutional investment
in historical records.
The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars to support history
programs in general, but NHPRC receives only a small amount to support records
programs that in turn support historical research. We have seen the positive
impact that NHPRC grants have made in thousands of organizations and communities,
both large and small, throughout our country. With modest funding, the Commission
provides support that allows the voices of all Americans to be heard, preserved,
The loss of funding at the authorized level of $10 million would cause irreparable
harm to America’s historical memory. The provision of additional funding
of $10 million for a state-based formula grant program could make a significant
- Creation of tools to increase access to historical and genealogical records,
including name indexes and digitization projects to make records available
- Expanded archival education and training for records custodians, who
often have no formal training in archives;
- New and expanded teaching materials
and promotion of National History Day; and
- Preservation actions, including
disaster recovery programs.
We appreciate the Subcommittee’s consideration of our concerns, and
respectfully seek your support for $20 million in funding for the National
Historical Publications and Records Commission – a critical investment
in preserving the heritage of our nation.
Society of American Archivists
527 South Wells Street, Fifth Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60607
312-922-0140 (SAA office)