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The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)—the grant–making arm of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)—has been targeted for zero funding for grants and zero funding for staff to administer the NHPRC and its programs in the president's FY 2006 proposed budget. A minimum funding level of $8 million is needed for grants and an additional $2 million for staffing and other program administration related costs in FY 2006 if this small but critically important program is to continue to provide access to key documents of our democracy, history, and culture.

At a time when the United States is espousing the spread of democracy and liberty around the world, the Federal program that has provided the essential leadership in and support for documenting our national story and the development of our democracy is threatened with extinction. President George W. Bush has sent Congress a proposed Fiscal Year 2006 budget that terminates both grant funding and programmatic staff support for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)—a tiny, but very effective, grant-making body within the National Archives.

If Congress allows the NHPRC to be zeroed out of the federal budget, this important program, which has played an essential federal leadership role and has an outstanding success record of using a small amount of federal funds to leverage other contributions, would come to an end. This would be devastating to projects editing and publishing the papers of nationally significant individuals and institutions; the development of new archival programs; the promotion of the preservation and use of historical records; regional and national coordination in addressing major archival issues; and a wide range of other activities relating to America's documentary heritage.

Over the past 40 years, the Commission has awarded a total of $153 million to over 4,000 state and local government archives, colleges and universities, and other institutions to preserve and publish important historical records that document American history. Through the work of the documentary editions, more and more of the documentary record has been made readily available in books and electronic formats, enabling the research on a wealth of award winning new books by noted historians such as Joseph Ellis, David McCullough, Michael Beschloss, Jack Rakove, James McPherson, and others. It is accessible documents and documentary editions that provide the essential evidence that enables historians to tell the story of our nation's history. Editions and archival collections have also provided the resources for the creation of a vast number of authentic tools for educators at all levels.


In FY 2004 the NHPRC received its full authorized level of $10 million, but FY 2005 Congress appropriated only $5 million—after the Administration proposed cutting the program to $2 million. Cuts of this magnitude threaten the programmatic integrity of the program. In spite of the cuts, last year the president signed legislation (P.L. 108–383) reauthorizing the Commission's grants program for another four years at the $10 million level. The White House should stand by its commitments and provide funding for the NHPRC.

Given the fiscal challenges that presently confront the nation, the National Coalition for History recognizes that the need for fiscal restraint in FY 2006. To that extent the coalition supports a budget figure for the NHPRC 18% less than the authorized level of $10 million. A total of $8 million is needed if the NHPRC is to meet its Congressionally sanctioned mandate to preserve, publish, and make accessible the documentary heritage of the United States. In addition, $2 million is needed in necessary funding for maintaining the staffing for this program.


The National Historical Publications Commission, the grant–making affiliate of the National Archives and Records Administration, was created with the National Archives in 1934, given its own staff in 1951, authorized to make grants in 1964, and reorganized in 1975 as the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. It is composed of fifteen members, representing the three branches of the federal government and six professional associations of archivists, historians, documentary editors, and records officers.

The NHPRC works to accomplish its mandate by setting strategic priorities and using modest federal grants to stimulate state, local, institutional, and private contributions and the assistance of its experienced staff to grantees to address these priorities. It is the only grant making organization, public or private, whose mission is to provide national leadership in the effort to promote the preservation and accessibility of historical records and to publish the papers of significant figures and themes in American history.

As characterized by former Archivist of the United States John Carlin, the NHPRC is "History's venture capitalist"—through federal outright and matching grants, it successfully leverages private sector contributions to projects such as the publishing of papers associated with nationally significant individuals and institutions. The NHPRC is currently helping to fund dozens of papers projects, including those of founders Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, and Madison; projects documenting the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the First Federal Congress; the correspondence between Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, the Frederick Douglass Papers, and the Papers of General George C. Marshall. It has funded hundreds of projects designed to preserve historical records of enduring value and cooperative state, regional, and national projects that address common archival issues, such as the complex problem of electronic historical records.

The President's proposed FY2006 would abruptly terminate the livelihood and programmatic integrity of this vital agency. If the President's recommendation of zero funding is adopted, documentary publications projects, which are already universally understaffed and underfunded, will lose experienced staff and their progress will be slowed, or even halted altogether. The very existence of state and regional activities in planning and implementing archival programs, already seriously hampered by funding cutbacks in the states, is imperiled. Without adequate funding, research on the pressing problem of electronic records will be curtailed, jeopardizing the preservation of important historical documentation—the raw materials for historians of the future.

The Commission has an excellent record of accomplishment and is seen as a model federal grants program. For example, following the disastrous events of resulting from the terrorist attack of 9/11, it was due to a NHPRC grant that New York City archivists and curators had a disaster preparedness plan in place and were able to cope with and minimize the detrimental impacts of the World Trade Center collapse on collections in lower Manhattan. Additionally teachers and students all over the nation are benefiting from the curricula and document packets developed by NHPRC sponsored projects.

As we Americans take stock of who we are and decide what parts of our culture, history, and values we will bring with us into the future, we must preserve the historical evidence. In preserving, protecting, and making accessible the nations documentary heritage, the NHPRC is playing a vital role. It deserves funding.


INDIVIDUALS: Faxed letters (preferred), phone calls, and e–mails to your Congressional representatives and senators asking them to support an $8 million figure for the grant-making arm of the NHPRC (an additional $2 million for staffing should also be requested). Well–reasoned arguments with examples to support them work best. Also, please pass this information on to your colleagues and others, urging them to act. For a listing of members of congress office addresses via zip code, tap into: http://www.house.gov/writerep/ and http://www.senate.gov/ or make use of the Humanities Action Network http://www.humanitiesadvocacy.org to send your message to your Congressional representatives.

ORGANIZATIONS: Communicate with the committee listed below, stating your organization's total membership, purpose, and support for the $8 million figure. It's particularly important to focus on the myriad uses of NHPRC–funded products, particularly educational applications. Please alert your membership to the need for action on this issue. Communications from constituents of the relevant appropriations subcommittee members are particularly helpful.


Letters to members of Congress need to clearly define the issue, provide a statement of why the writer is concerned about the issue, and identify an action the member is being asked to take. Ideally, letters should be individually composed—form letters will be taken with considerably less seriousness.

Letters should be FAXED to the member of Congress. E–mail is not often given the consideration deserved because of the volume coming in. Hard copy letters coming in, because they have to be irradiated prior to being delivered to a member's office arrive weeks if not months late.

In the House, the subcommittee of jurisdiction is the Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, District of Columbia, 2358 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515–6028; Phone (202) 225–2141; Fax (202) 225–0900. Members include: Chair—Joe Knollenberg (R–MI); Frank Wolf (R–VA), Harold Rogers (R–KY), Todd Tiahrt (R–KS), Anne Northup (R–KY), Robert Aderholt (R–AL), John Sweeney (R–NY), John Culberson (R–TX), and Ralph Regula (R–OH); Ranking Minority Member—John Olver (D–MA), Steny Hoyer (D–MD), Ed Pastor (D–AZ), Carolyn Kilpatrick (D–MI), James Clyburn (D–SC), Steve Rothman (D–NJ).

In the Senate, the subcommittee with appropriations jurisdictional responsibility for the NHPRC is: Transportation, Treasury, and General Government, Senate Dirksen Office Building, Room 133, Washington D.C. 20510; Phone (202) 224–5310; Fax (202) 224–4401. Eventually, the subcommittee will have nineteen members; thus far the following have been appointed: Chair—Christopher Bond (R-MO), Arlen Specter (R–PA), Robert Bennett (R–UT), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R–TX), Mike DeWine (R–OH), Sam Brownback (R–KS); Ranking Minority Member—Patty Murray (D–WA), Robert Byrd (D–WV), Barbara Mikulski (D–MD), Harry Reid (D–NV), Herb Kohl (D–WI), Richard Durbin (D–IL), Byron Dorgan (D–ND).

If you are a constituent of any of the above listed members of Congress, your voice especially counts. Please write!


*The longest surviving democracy on earth has a duty to document and preserve its history. The NHPRC makes grants each year to institutions across the country to preserve historical records, publish historical papers, and to make historical materials more accessible (for a listing of past NHPRC grants by states, tap into:http://www.archives.gov/grants/funded_endorsed_projects/states_and_territories/nc.html). The Commission has an outstanding record of making grants to edit and publish historical documents, to develop archival programs, to promote the preservation and use of historical records, to promote regional and national coordination in addressing major archival issues, and to support a wide range of other activities relating to America's documentary heritage. While the National Archives concentrates on federal records, the NHPRC helps archivists, documentary editors, and historians by making available non–Federal records of exceptional historical significance. Books by scholarly and popular authors like David McCullough's John Adams, would not have been possible without the type of documentary editions that emerge from the NHPRC's work.

*The public benefits that come from the preservation and dissemination of documents significant to an understanding of the United States were most eloquently stated by J. Franklin Jameson, founder of the National Archives and the NHPRC in a November 30, 1927 memorandum: "The publication of documentary historical materials is a regular function of all civilized governments, and it is not likely to be omitted by any government in which there is any appreciation of how much historical study does and can do for the promotion of national patriotism."

*Documentary editions and historical records are used not only by scholars, students, and teachers at every educational level, but also by documentary film-makers and museum curators. The Internet has literally opened up a new world for the dissemination of the products of NHPRC funded projects but that dissemination and truly democratic access to reliable historical sources will come at a substantial cost.

*NHPRC grants are a good investment for the country. They result in major matching investment from private sources, which would not have been available otherwise. Federal funds ensure potential backers that the projects are of genuine significance and capably staffed and organized. Through this model cost–sharing program, in which the average non–Federal contribution is almost 50%, NHPRC has efficiently used federal leverage to preserve our documentary heritage.

*Loss of the NHPRC's funding to projects will have a domino effect causing funding from other sources to be withdrawn or reduced.The NHPRC's grants are the linchpins for the funding structure of most projects--without them the structure will collapse.


The NATIONAL COALITION FOR HISTORY is a non-profit educational organization comprised of over nearly 70 history and archival organizations. The history coalition advances historical and archival programs in government and throughout the nation. Please contact us at: rbcraig@historycoalition.org or by writing to: National Coalition for History, 400 A Street S.E. , Washington D.C. 20003 ; (202) 544–2422 Ext. #116 / (202) 544–8307 (fax) Website: http://www.h-net.org/~nch/






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