Fact Sheet: 
NATIONAL HISTORICAL PUBLICATIONS AND
RECORDS COMMISSION

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) preserves and makes public America's documentary heritage essential to understanding our democracy, history, and culture.  Since 1964, the NHPRC has awarded $175 million to 4,300 projects in all 50 states and special jurisdictions.

 

Preserving and Publishing the American Record

The NHPRC supports archives across the country to preserve the American record.  Through grants to state and local government archives, colleges and universities, and other nonprofit institutions, the NHPRC provides access for scholars, family and local historians, journalists, documentary film makers, and many others. This rich and vital documentary heritage conveys knowledge of a shared national experience from generation to generation, assures continuity of operations, documents personal rights and entitlements, and provides evidence to hold governments and other institutions accountable for their actions and their democratic responsibilities. Grants have helped:

  • Every state archives to preserve a detailed record of state-operated Federal programs, and enabled 53 Re-grant Projects totaling $5.8 million, matched by state funds of $8.4 million, reach thousands of local communities. 
  • Establish or modernize archival records programs in major cities from Seattle to Boston; smaller municipalities from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Grand Rapids, Michigan; and rural and underserved communities from Troup County, Georgia to Lincoln County, New Mexico – among many others.

Preserve and make accessible oral history and tribal records of American Indian tribes – including the Seneca, , Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Chickasaw, Lumbee, Cherokee, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, Blackfeet, , Ramah Navajo, Oglala Sioux, Zuni Pueblo, Fort Sill Apache, Suquamish, and dozens more. 

  • Preserve dozens of photographic and other special collections, including the Archives of Industrial Society in Pittsburgh, images of southern life at the University of South Alabama, the Center for American History at the University of Texas, Harvard’s 19th century daguerreotypes, the Bancroft Library collection at the University of California, architectural drawings at the Chicago Historical Society, ship designs at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, and film footage for the documentary “Eyes on the Prize.”
  • Create dozens of “cyber archives” which make massive amounts of primary source material available via the Web.  Photoswest.org, for example, is an online database that contains selections from the Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Department and the Colorado Historical Society – bringing some 100,000 images from Colorado’s history to viewers.  The Helen Keller Archives at the American Foundation for the Blind, the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University, and the African American Experience Collection in Kansas are but a handful of projects bringing records online.

Electronic Records present particular challenges for preservation and public access, and since 1979, the NHPRC has awarded 63 grants totaling over $6.2 million for basic research and implementation grants in 18 states.

  • The NHPRC recognized early on the importance of electronic records, awarding a grant in June 1979 to the University of Wisconsin - Madison for a project in cooperation with the State Historical Society to develop procedures to schedule, accession, and retrieve information from machine-readable records of Wisconsin state agencies.
  • A three-year grant went to the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) to conduct research on long-term preservation of, and access to, software-dependent electronic records. This project leverages the SDSC's research in this area, which it has conducted for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and other sponsors. The project is specifically looking at the scalability and usefulness of the technology in archives other than NARA.
  • New programs at Northern Maine Development Commission, Michigan State University, and the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources which will provide model ways for similar organizations to preserve and make accessible electronic records.

National projects to publish special collections of historical records drawn from archives and other repositories have led to the preservation and use of:

  • 880 individual volumes of original documents,
  • 9,100 reels of microfilm,
  • 201 guides to collections.

These projects have helped facilitate use of original documents of the Founding Era of the Republic, including the papers of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, the first Federal Congress, the early Supreme Court, and the Ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

The NHPRC has funded publication of some or all of the works of 17 U.S. Presidents, the records of U.S. territories before statehood, the history of Emancipation, Women’s Suffrage, and the works of our greatest scientists, inventors, and explorers.  These original documents are the basis for telling America’s story.  Pulitzer Prizes for History have been awarded to documentary editors C. Vann Woodward, for Mary Chestnut’s Civil War, and Steven Hahn of the Freedom History Project, for A Nation Under Our Feet, and documentary editions have been the foundation for award-winning biographies such as David McCullough’s John Adams and Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton

Just one project – The Freedom History Project – an edition of documents pertaining to black American life in the years between the beginning of the Civil War and the advent of Reconstruction, has resulted in citations in 23 reference works, 15 documentary editions, 130 monographs, 212 scholarly essays, and 68 college-level textbooks and anthologies.  At least 152 college courses and eight publications for elementary and middle school teachers have made use of the work.  The documentary materials have been included in three CDs, nine books for young readers, two dozen books for popular audiences, nine exhibits, six films, 11 television programs – including Ken Burns’s “Civil War” series, 16 radio programs, 80 stage productions and 176 web sites.

For a list of NHPRC Grants by State and Territory, 1976-2006, please see the Commissionís website at http://www.archives.gov/grants/funded_endorsed_projects/states_and_territories/