The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) promotes the preservation and use of America's documentary heritage essential to understanding our democracy, history, and culture.  Since 1964, the NHPRC has awarded $169 million to 4,200 projects in all 50 states and special jurisdictions.

Today the NHPRC operates three programs: a Publishing Program, a Records Program, and an Electronic Records Program.  The Commission is currently considering embracing a new state “regrant” program advanced by The Council of State Archivists and several other national archival organizations that would be called the “Partnership for the American Historical Record.” For details on that program proposal visit: http://savearchives.pbwiki.com

The NHPRC’s Publishing Program supports documentary editing, training of editors, and publishing.  The program has funded or endorsed 296 projects which have produced:

  • Nearly 900 individual volumes of original documents,
  • 9,100 reels of microfilm,
  • Over 200 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 16 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

Documentary editors and the documents with which they edit have been featured in television documentaries dealing with the Civil War, and the lives of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Marcus Garvey, Emma Goldman, Margaret Sanger, and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Documents collected by the Black Petitions project provided the text for “Let My People Go,” a theatrical presentation that has been performed around the country. 

The First Congress, Lincoln, and Goldman projects have prepared curriculum guides for classroom use.  More and more projects are reaching general audiences through the Internet.  That documentary editions have a significant multiplier effect is suggested by the experience of the Freedom History project.  Its publications have been cited in 23 reference works, 130 monographs, 212 scholarly articles, and 68 college-level textbooks.  

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.

The NHPRC Records Program supports archival projects at state and local government archives, colleges and universities, and other nonprofit institutions. These projects all facilitate use of public records and other collections by scholars, family and local historians, journalists, documentary film makers, and many others. The records in state and local historical records repositories convey knowledge of a shared national experience from generation to generation, assure continuity of operations, document personal rights and entitlements, provide evidence needed to hold governments and other institutions accountable for their actions, and document the effectiveness of government programs. Grants have helped:

  • Reach all 50 states and territories with support for basic state archives and re-granting programs for local archives. Often, state archives are the only place to find a detailed record of state-operated Federal programs. Since 1984, over 50 Regrant Projects totaling $6 million have been matched by state funds to the tune of $8.4 million.   Grants to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas helped those states assess the damage to archives and records caused by Hurricane Katrina and strengthened statewide disaster preparedness.
  • Establish or modernize archival records programs in Seattle; Boston; San Diego; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Fairfax, Virginia; Troup County, Georgia; Manchester, New Hampshire; Lauderdale County, Mississippi; Somerville, Massachusetts; Rochester, New York; and Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania – among others. 
  • Preserve and make accessible oral history and tribal records of American Indian tribes – including the Seneca, Nooksack, Catawba, Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Chickasaw, Lumbee, Cherokee, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, Blackfeet, Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux, Ramah Navajo, Oglala Sioux, Zuni Pueblo, Fort Sill Apache, Suquamish, and dozens more.  Provide educational opportunities for tribal archivists through the Western Archives Institute.
  • Support for nonprofit institutions as they enhance public access to historical documents in their care.  The NHPRC has awarded in excess of $50 million since 1976 through several hundred grants to colleges, universities and other organizations with collections of personal papers, photographic collections of all types, architectural plans and drawings, ship designs, film and video footage, and sound recordings.  Among the special collections assisted include: 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 NHPRC Electronic Records Program has supported research and development into methods for preserving and making accessible those records created or stored in digital formats.   Since 1979, the NHPRC has awarded 63 grants totaling over $6 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.
  • The NHPRC has also provided grant support for non-NARA elements of the U.S. research team participating in the International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems (InterPARES) Project. The InterPARES Project is an international research initiative to develop the theoretical and methodological knowledge required for the permanent preservation of authentic records created in electronic systems.

For a list of NHPRC Grants by State and Territory, 1976-2005, please go to the Commission’s web site at http://www.archives.gov/grants/funded_endorsed_projects/states_and_territories/