Testimony Submitted to the
House Appropriations Committee
Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government
Statement in Support of Funding for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)
Society of American Archivists
March 13, 2007
The Society of American Archivists, whose 4,800 members reside and work throughout the United States, strongly urges that Congress ensure funding at the fully authorized level of $10 million for grants, plus $2 million for administration, to support current activities of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
Through its current authorization – which has been zeroed out in the President’s proposed budget for FY 2008 – 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, educators, and others who preserve and make accessible records and documentary editions for use by classroom teachers, students at all grade levels, 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 citizenship, civil status, and qualifications. Many of these local records are tied directly to federal programs. They protect individuals’ rights and entitlements as well as governments’ interests.
During the past 40 years, 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:
Improving accessibility of the historical record. The NHPRC research fellowship funds and archival processing funds supported the development of a method to reduce significantly the un-cataloged backlogs of collections in historical repositories around the country, thus helping those repositories to make important primary sources more quickly and easily available to students, scholars, and other researchers.
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, states, and organizations across the nation. Without such work, the nation faces historical amnesia as its documentary heritage rests increasingly in electronic form.
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 that can make a significant difference. These organizations, including historical societies, local public libraries, ethnic organizations, and local governments, are key to preserving the diversity of the record that makes up the American experience. These re-grants also ensure that it is not just the history of the great cities, but also of small communities in every corner of the country, that is preserved for future generations.
Ensuring 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 teachers rely on documentary resources that can be found only in 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 our people.
Support for tribal archives programs. The 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 their traditional cultures.
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.
The loss of funding for NHPRC at the authorized level of $10 million for grants plus $2 million for administration would cause irreparable harm to America’s historical memory.
We appreciate the Subcommittee’s consideration of our concerns, and respectfully seek your support for NHPRC – a critical investment in preserving the heritage of our nation.
Elizabeth W. Adkins, CA
President, Society of American Archivists
527 South Wells Street, Fifth Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60607
312/922-0140 (SAA Office)
313/845-0556 (Adkins Office)