Guidelines for Preparing a Letter to Congress on the NHPRC Issue
A few things to remember when writing letters:
Your letter should clearly define the issue, state why you are concerned about
the issue, and identify what action you’re asking the member to take.
Letters should be individually composed; form letters are taken less seriously.
Be sure to FAX you letter to your member of Congress. Email is not as carefully
considered because of the volume received and hard-copy letters are delayed
significantly (i.e., weeks or months) due to irradiation procedures.
Background information for your use in composing your letter:
- The issue: The National Historical Publications and Records
Commission is the grant-making arm of the National Archives and Records Administration.
In the President’s proposed budget, NHPRC has been targeted
for zero funding for grants and zero funding for staff to administer the
NHPRC and its grants program. This is, in effect, an elimination
of this grants program.
- Why NHPRC is important (general): NHPRC makes grants each
year to institutions across the country to preserve historical records, publish
historical papers, and make historical materials more accessible. Its grants
help state and local organizations:
- Edit and publish historical documents,
- Develop archival programs,
- Promote the preservation and use of historical records, and
- Promote regional and national coordination in addressing major archival
The agency leads the nation in supporting research and implementing scalable
solutions to the challenges of electronic records.
While the National Archives and Records Administration focuses on federal
records, the NHPRC helps archivists, documentary editors, and historians
by making available non-federal records (e.g., records of corporate organizations
and real estate transactions), that are also essential to our national story
and to the daily functioning of our democracy and our economy.
NHPRC grants preserve and make accessible records and documentary editions
that sustain the work of biographers, classroom teachers, documentary filmmakers,
journalists, lawyers, land surveyors, historians, genealogists, community
historians, museum exhibit designers, and others. (See NHPRC Fact Sheet for
NHPRC grants are a good investment. The average non-federal contribution
is almost 50%.
- Why NHPRC is important to our state/region (specific reasons why
you are urging support): Provide your member of Congress with
specific examples of how NHPRC has helped you, your repository, or your
state. This might include, for example, the number of grants given by NHPRC
and the value they have brought to documenting and making accessible the
state’s heritage, and particularly how users in the state/district
have made use of them. For a list of NHPRC grants, see the NHPRC Web site: www.archives.gov/grants/funded_endorsed_projects/states_and_territories/
Make your case with tangible examples if at all possible. For instance:
What action needs to be taken? End your letter by asking
the member of Congress to take a specific action, such as:
- Teachers in the Apocryphal School District used records on the Erie Canal
that were identified and made accessible by an NHPRC grant to the Apocryphal
Historical Society. The records were used to teach students how to recognize
fact and opinion, and to draw conclusions from contradictory eye-witness
accounts. This type of education use supports the learning standards initiated
as part of the No Child Left Behind efforts in this state.
- Filmmaker Sol Celluloid used photographs and film preserved and made
accessible through an NHPRC grant to the Transparent Visual Archives for
a path-breaking documentary on the experiences of soldiers from State X
during D-Day in World War II.
- For members of the Appropriations Committee: Please
see that NHPRC funding, which is authorized at $10 million, is restored
to at least $6 million for grants and at least $2 million (in the NARA
budget) for administration of this critical function.
- For members who are in a special caucus (Humanities Caucus,
Black Caucus, etc) or who may have influence with the Appropriations
Committee: Please urge your colleagues on the Appropriations
Committee to restore $8 million in grants funding for NHPRC along with
$2 million in the NARA budget for staff to manage this function.