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As I prepare to receive our first applications funding Literacy and Engagements with Historical Sources (drafts due 10/1/14, final 12/4/14), I often reflect on my first experiments with trying to have college students use documents on the web in the 1990s. It wasn’t always easy for them. Undergraduates were not all comfortable on the web. The Library of Congress’s American Memory site had functionality issues then. Most importantly, I wasn’t aware of all the trouble they were going to have with the assignment. I just gave up at that point and turned to printed primary source readers.

Young sailor on board ship during civil warAs much as the grant announcement stresses projects that will engage students or other audiences, I think every applicant will have to take into account how those “teaching” the resource will need to prepare. Michael Federspiel in an essay “Focus on the Questions in High School,” published in Uncovering Our History: Teaching with Primary Sources, ed. by Susan H. Veccia (2004) explains how he gradually learned to introduce his students to primary sources on the web. He learned he could not just bring his class to the computer lab and let them explore American Memory. He first needed to demonstrate skills in his class, both in using the site and in analyzing primary sources. Then once his students realized that in most cases looking at one primary source would raise more question, he opened up broader questions. He focused the class on photographer Mathew Brady’s pictures of the Civil War, but asked the student to pick a topic, and then use the pictures to make a hypothesis. After refining this assignment until it worked well for students, Federspiel used it as model for other assignments. He would limit his students to a single website, but let them pick the topic, and form the hypotheses. He concludes that the benefit of these assignments is his high school students saw that primary sources are key to history and “demand interpretation.”

For the Literacy and Engagement program, we do not require projects that will be taught by in-person instructor. So I’m curious to see how applicants might mimic some on these lessons learned in the classroom in an environment that draws the public in but without a teacher to offer the first demonstration and later give help and advice.  Share your thoughts here.

Of course, applicants may want to explore other ideas in this grant program and we welcome that. So join me for a webinar on Thursday, 9/11 from 3 pm to 4 pm ET. Simply click on this link:

https://connect16.uc.att.com/gsa1/meet/?ExEventID=86503625

Then, enter your name and email address.



Hoorah! Whether you are a first time applicant or a seasoned veteran of the grant application process, that feeling of success on receiving a “thumbs up” from the NHPRC, or any funder, never gets old. You competed successfully and the funding for your project is secured. Take a well deserved bow!MoneyBag

Now that you have the resources to make your project a reality, there is the next challenge – to advance from successful grant applicant to awesome grantee. As you roll up your sleeves and get to work, here is my own personal list of the attributes that successful grantees/project directors demonstrate, in no particular order of importance.

1. Be able to make a new plan, Stan. It’s all about having an effective, yet flexible, project plan. Every NHPRC applicant is required to submit a work plan as a part of the application process. Well thought out plans are critical to funding success – no surprise there. But flexible project plans that can adjust to unexpected circumstances, conditions, roadblocks, etc. – these result in really successful projects despite snafus. They require not only having your project’s goals and objectives carefully crafted, but also having a handful of ways to achieve them, just in case surprises occur – like you don’t receive full funding and must adjust accordingly, your project staff departs midway through the work, etc. Bottom line – creativity and flexibility in planning will help tremendously when you face the proverbial monkey wrench.

2. Keep your eyes on the prize. Before officially making an award, we review all project goals and objectives with each grantee. We put these goals in writing, and there is a reason for this – they are important. They demonstrate the ultimate value of your project well beyond your own institution. Successful grantees/project directors keep these goals front and center throughout the life of the project.

3. Grant projects are a team sport. Who’s on your project team? The most effective grantees think big when they think about team. They know it’s more than the individuals listed in a grant application budget. For example, the Development/Sponsored Office staff at your institution is essential – they need to know about your project, and you need to know what they bring to the table (often it’s the details of your project budget). The Public Affairs staff is handy, as they will assist with any press and outreach efforts, often including your web and social media presence. Do you have a boss and/or an advisory committee? They can be important reviewers of your work, as well as advocates for it all along the way. And how about the NHPRC staff? We want every project to be a total success, and we are here to help. Ask us for assistance, ask us questions, and work with us on budgets, particularly if revisions are necessary.

4. Communicating – across, up, down, over, out and beyond. Directors who share project information as the work proceeds attain circles of fans, followers, and public support. And they include the project staff in carrying out  the communications work plan. In fact, some of the most compelling project communications come from project archivists, technicians, interns, and volunteers who are making the discoveries, testing the methods, preserving the items, etc. It’s relatively easy (and immediate) these days to communicate in real time with blogs and a host of social media options to choose from, along with more traditional communications tools such as listservs, newsletters, etc.

5. Observe, analyze and report “reality”. The best directors make a habit of telling it like it is with their projects, and they do it in some detail. Comparing progress against objectives can be a sobering experience. Analyzing the challenges and shortfalls associated with a project may not always be pleasant, but it pays off in the end. You learn from successes as well as mistakes, and so does everyone else, including us. This is a rather huge part of the post award process, so we really encourage grantees to share their project stories, warts and all.

6. Celebrate those milestones! So many of us genuinely enjoy the work we do, but we forget to (A) tell others about it and (B) stop and celebrate accomplishments as they occur. You cannot believe how successful your celebration event can be until you try. We’ve seen everything from press and exhibition events, hosted by parent institutions, to stopovers from elected officials to alumni or friends groups’ gatherings. These are all good ways to mark the project’s achievements, give thanks to the staff, and generally make some noise. Work it, folks, as the benefits will far outlast the grant period.

7. Thinking beyond the grant project. Individuals who are in the habit of placing their grant-funded projects into the larger context of what they want to accomplish overall with their programs deserve the highest praise. This takes vision, analysis and planning, communication, team building, and, yes, leadership. They make the most of these opportunities and bring vision to the entire enterprise.  Kudos in particular to those who make it look easy! Anything I’ve missed, misstated or confused you with? Let me know! Share your ideas on what’s on your own list.

Preservation and Access

by on August 28, 2014


Two articles about digitization came across my desk this week; you probably saw them too. One argued for a re-prioritization of work so that more funds could be devoted to the preservation of audiovisual materials. The other explored the work of an organization seeking out and scanning old meteorological data that only exists on paper to make the data widely accessible.

So how do we balance them? Do we prioritize the material that is currently considered the most fragile? Do we set priorities solely based on format? If we do set priorities by format, would audiovisual material actually be the first priority? I would bet that some digital formats are more vulnerable than some audio or video formats.

Or do we set priorities based on research demand? The International Environmental Data Rescue Organization and other meteorological research collection efforts make a good case for responding to needs of researchers, but their focus can change more quickly than archives are able to respond to them.

All this has me thinking about the basics of
archives: preserve and provide access to
permanently valuable records and papers.

John Buchanan v. Robert Sayers. Augusta Chancery Court 1769

John Buchanan v. Robert Sayers. Augusta Chancery Court 1769. Virginia Memory

How do we prioritize one over the other?
We can’t. There is no point in preserving
something if we can’t or won’t make it
available for use. Similarly, we can’t make
it available if it hasn’t been taken care of.
Access and preservation are symbiotic partners
in our work. Just as there are many audiovisual
items at risk of being lost if we don’t take
preservation actions, meteorological records will
be lost we don’t seek them out and make them
available for use.



Trevblog

When I came to work as the Project Archives Assistant on the NHPRC grant at Appalachian State in the Fall of 2012, my only prior experience working in the archives was limited to a few months as a student. My interests lie primarily in absorbing knowledge concerned with the history and folklore of the Appalachian Region through music, literature, arts, material culture, and—perhaps most useful of all— conversations and word of mouth. This desire to understand the history local to the region drew me to attend Appalachian State in 2007. The deciding factor in my choice of university was the existence of the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, the largest and most comprehensive collection of Appalachian materials anywhere in the world. To say I was “a kid in a candy store” when wandering around in the collection would be putting it lightly. Within the open stacks I could find materials on anything from archaeological surveys of ancient Indian Mounds to records of Kentucky fiddler Marion Sumner to a video on Virginia architectural influences in southern Ohio. As if that was not enough, just on the other side of the wall in the Dougherty Reading Room I could view documents from the ballad collections of I. G. Greer, W. Amos Abrams, and Cratis Williams or read the letters of E. B. Olmsted, a ginseng buyer in 19th Century western North Carolina. After spending time in the Eury Collection, I was determined that, if I could not eventually work there, I would at least try to work towards finding a job in a similar collection somewhere within the region.

The NHPRC grant to process the backlog within the Appalachian Collection’s archives coincided with my graduation with a degree in Appalachian Studies in 2012. I applied for the University Library Specialist knowing I would have much to learn concerned with archival practices but I was excited at the prospect of handling and helping to preserve historic documents as part of a daily routine. In processing the backlog I determined to balance my previous experience as a researcher with the practical constraints and time limitations of the grant. I began each collection by asking the same key question: How can I arrange these materials in a relatively short amount of time while still making it easy for researchers to find the items they need? Tackling many of the larger collections within the backlog, I learned that each collection features a particular set of quirks dissimilar to others. To work out how to best process a collection I found that a hammer/anvil approach—hammer being the processing guidelines and anvil being the shape of the collection itself—is needed in order to address the problems within each collection. My supervisor and the grant writer for this project, Cyndi Harbeson, was a constant sounding board for my concerns and questions regarding how best to process or reprocess a collection and helped me in balancing processing times with creating researcher friendly collections. Fellow Processing Archives Assistant Anita Elliot also picked up the slack for me in helping with processing grant materials, including knocking out a large number of the small collections as well as offering advice from her own experiences in processing.

Aside from the practical duties of processing, working on the grant introduced me to materials which reignited my enthusiasm for Appalachian history. Some of my favorite finds (as well as other eye catching items) are included on the Backlog Blog (http://appcollgrant.library.appstate.edu/) which I will continue to update until November when the grant is completed. Perhaps the most invaluable experience from the grant (along with the obvious benefits of exclusive access to rare documents) was that it allowed me to work in close contact with a Special Collections team whose members possess both scholarly and personal knowledge of the Appalachia’s landscape and culture. I am indebted to the jumpstart the NHPRC has given to my career and I hope to continue to use the knowledge I have gained through this grant to preserve and explore more collections valuable to the study of the history of this region and its people.
- written by Trevor McKenzie, Project Archivist for the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian State Special Collections and Archives



Photograph_of_Women_Working_at_a_Bell_System_Telephone_Switchboard_(3660047829)

All of the NHPRC’s program officers are at the joint annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), and the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) this week.  We are fortunate that  this meeting is being held in the Woodley Park neighborhood of Washington, DC, which is only about four miles from our offices in the National Archives Building. This allows us to have a larger presence at the meeting than is possible when the meeting is out of town.

Our blog post for July 22 and our Facebook entry for August 11 outline the many opportunities that those attending the meeting will have to learn about the NHPRC’s grant programs and speak one-on-one with a program officer. We encourage you to stop by the NHPRC’s booth (#803) during exhibit hall hours.

If you are not attending the joint annual meeting, rest assured that we will all be back in the office on Monday, August 18 to help address your last-minute questions prior to our next grant application deadline, which is August 27.  Operators will be standing by to take your calls.



We’ve scheduled webinars for people interested in applying for a grant from the NHPRC:

Application deadlines: DRAFT October 1, 2014; FINAL December 4, 2014.

Digital Dissemination of Archival Collections program with Nancy Melley.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission invites applications for its new archival grant program to expand access to the nation’s most valuable archival resources. This grant program is designed to support the digitization of primary source materials with national historical significance. The program emphasizes the reuse of existing descriptive metadata and providing free online access to the digital surrogates.

A grant normally is for one to two years and for up to $150,000. The Commission expects to make up to 7 grants in this category for a total of up to $500,000. Grants begin no earlier than July 1, 2015.

Webinars will be held on the following dates and times:

Tuesday, August 19 @ 4:00 p.m. Eastern
Thursday, August 28 @ 4:00 p.m. Eastern
Wednesday, September 10 @ 3:00 p.m. Eastern

The webinar will be available at https://connect16.uc.att.com/gsa1/meet/?ExEventID=86764535; attendees will need to enter their name and email address.

State Government Electronic Records with Nancy Melley:

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission seeks projects that will accession, describe, preserve, and provide access to state government electronic records of enduring value. Only state archives are eligible to apply.

A grant normally is for one to three years and up to $200,000. The Commission expects to make 3 or more grants in this category, for a total of up to $600,000. Grants begin no earlier than July 1, 2015.

Thursday, August 21 @ 3 pm Eastern
Tuesday, September 9 @ 4 pm Eastern

The webinar will be available at https://connect16.uc.att.com/gsa1/meet/?ExEventID=86764535; attendees will need to enter their name and email address.

Literacy and Engagement with Historical Records with Lucy Barber:

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission seeks projects that explore ways to improve digital literacy and encourage citizen engagement with historical records.

Tuesday, August 26 @ 4:00 pm Eastern
Thursday, September 11 @ 3:00 pm Eastern

The webinar will be available at https://connect16.uc.att.com/gsa1/meet/?ExEventID=86503625; attendees will need to enter their name and email address.

 



Nixon

Forty years ago, on August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States. The troubled conclusion to his term in office was the result of the Watergate investigations, but to understand the history, we must understand the man.

Tracing the history of Richard Nixon illustrates the unique role that the National Archives and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission play together in preserving and providing access to primary source materials. The bulk of Nixon’s papers are at the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library. The National Archives Office of Presidential Libraries administers a nationwide network of 13 libraries beginning with the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. Material on Nixon’s service as Vice President from 1953-1960 can be found at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, and information on his run for the Presidency in 1960 may be found at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Between February 16, 1971 and July 18, 1973 Richard Nixon secretly recorded roughly 3,700 hours of conversations and meetings in five different locations. With the exception of the manually-operated equipment in the Cabinet Room, Nixon’s recording system was sound-activated and recorded a wide range of conversations of varying audio and substantive quality. The Presidential Recordings Program at the Miller Center, the University of Virginia, is making those the secret White House recordings more accessible through transcripts and historical research. These recordings constitute an extremely rich historical resource, but one that cannot be unlocked without considerable time and experience in working with the tapes. Once unlocked, the tapes can, are, and will make significant contributions to our understanding of recent political history and how the U.S. government works. To that end, the PRP brings together historians, journalists, and a talented team of student interns to work with these materials to transcribe, annotate, interpret, and share them.

Researchers are also encouraged to visit the Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower,  a project at the Johns Hopkins University Press, for details of Nixon’s Vice Presidency. The NHPRC supported the annotation of those papers for nearly 20 years before the project was completed.

More on Nixon can be found in the Public Policy collections at Princeton’s Mudd Library–in particular the history of the Cold War and mid-20th century economic policy. Through a grant to the Minnesota Historical Society, the NHPRC also funded the digitization of the speeches of Hubert Humphrey, Nixon’s opponent in the 1968 Presidential Election, and through a grant to Bates College, the preservation of the papers of Edmund Muskie, the 1968 Vice Presidential nominee, who also ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972.

These resources–and there are, no doubt, others–are the essential evidence for writing the history of those times. Whether through its holdings of Federal government records or through its NHPRC support for nationally significant historical records held at other repositories, the National Archives is vital to preserving every chapter of the American story.

 



We’ve scheduled four webinars for people interested in applying for a grant under Digital Dissemination of Archival Collections program.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission invites applications for its new archival grant program to expand access to the nation’s most valuable archival resources. This grant program is designed to support the digitization of primary source materials with national historical significance. The program emphasizes the reuse of existing descriptive metadata and providing free online access to the digital surrogates.

After completing digitization activities, applicants may also propose to undertake more complex work, such as document transcription, tagging, or geo-referencing, if these additional access points are justified by the value of the material and its expected users.

A grant normally is for one to two years and for up to $150,000. The Commission expects to make up to 7 grants in this category for a total of up to $500,000. Grants begin no earlier than July 1, 2015.

Application deadlines: DRAFT October 1, 2014; FINAL December 4, 2014.

Webinars will be held on the following dates and times:

Thursday, August 7 @ 3:00 p.m. Eastern
Tuesday, August 19 @ 4:00 p.m. Eastern
Thursday, August 28 @ 4:00 p.m. Eastern
Wednesday, September 10 @ 3:00 p.m. Eastern

The webinar will be available at https://connect16.uc.att.com/gsa1/meet/?ExEventID=86764535; attendees will need to enter their name and email address.



Schillingphoto

There is a lot of “pitching” that goes on at the NHPRC each summer. But alas, I am not referring to baseball.

Summer is a particularly valuable time for us to describe our grants programs to potential applicants. What’s the same and what’s new? What does it take for an application to be really competitive? These are invaluable discussions, and this is our “season” to make AND to listen to all sorts of pitches.

Taking place August 11-17 right here in Washington, DC, the joint annual meeting of SAA/CoSA/NAGARA provides the NHPRC staff with a perfect storm of opportunities to discuss your ideas in a variety of forums. You will have lots of chances to listen to and be heard from during this week-long meeting. SO don’t be shy! Below is a schedule of activities where you can meet up with NHPRC staff during the week:

GRANT PROGRAM Information Sessions

• NHPRC Exhibit Hall Booth (#803) – stop by anytime during exhibit hours to put a name with a face, discuss ideas, set an appointment for a lengthy conversation, or pick up some literature. In addition, we have scheduled a handful of “lightning” talks and Q&A sessions throughout the day on Friday, August 15:

  1. Archives Leadership Institute (with Lucy Barber) – 9:45-10:15AM
  2. Access to Historical Records (with Alex Lorch) – 11:45AM-12:15PM
  3. Digital Dissemination (with Nancy Melley) – 2:15-2:45PM
  4. Literacy and Engagement (with Lucy Barber) – 3:15-3:45PM

• NARA Mini-Theater in Exhibit Hall – if you can’t make it to these scheduled talks, the NHPRC staff will make a presentation on our two most popular grant categories – Access and Digital Dissemination grants – at the NARA mini-theater on Friday, August 15, 10-10:30AM

• Funders’ Corner in Network Café – throughout the meeting we will use our space in the Network Café to meet one-on-one with anyone who could use some sit down time to discuss ideas, challenges, etc.

 

STATE and GOVERNMENT ARCHIVES Activities

• PERTTS Workshop – NHPRC staff are attending parts 1 and 2 of this workshop taking place on Tuesday, August 12 and Wednesday, August 13

• CoSA Work Session – Come visit with me or Dan Stokes, and especially come listen to Nancy Melley describe the new NHPRC State Government Electronic Records grant program on Wednesday, August 13, Noon – 5PM

• State Board (SHRAB) Brown Bag Lunch – Dan Stokes and I will team up to give an overview of new NHPRC program initiatives for state boards, and listen to your feedback and challenges, on Thursday, August 14, noon-1:15PM

• CoSA Business Meeting – an opportunity to get an overview of the past year and help us read the tea leaves for what’s coming up in the next, with Dan Stokes and myself fielding your questions and comments, on Friday, August 15, 12:30-2:30PM

 

SESSION/EVENT Participation

• Session #501: Taken for Granted: How Term Positions Affect New Professionals and the Repositories that Employ Them will include NHPRC grants officer Alex Lorch among the speakers on Friday, August 15, 2:45-3:45PM

• Archives Leadership Institute Practices Workshop on Sunday August 17, 9AM-1PM will include one or more NHPRC staff attending

 

And for my final PITCH… we have found that applicants really benefit from discussing their ideas with us during this pre-application time, so I encourage you to use the annual meeting to your advantage. We are happy to chat and meet with you!



I noticed recently that my doctor’s practice has gone entirely electronic. There were gaps in the records of course, but I was pretty impressed at how complete the system was. And it got me to thinking about the history of electronic records in archives. NRFF-255-70-37(6)-CCK1; NA Id 278195

I had the privilege of working for the National Archives custodial electronic records program – one of the oldest archival electronic records programs in the country; its first accession was in 1970 –before joining the NHPRC. When I started at the National Archives, electronic records meant databases – generally in the form of flat files or CSV files. We didn’t preserve the user guides; we printed them out. Google was barely two years and social media was barely a flicker in Mark Zuckerberg’s eyes. Until the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) utility was built in the early 2000s, the only way to provide access to any electronic records was copying the files onto removable media and making a paper copy of the user guide.

NHPRC was an early proponent when it came to electronic records. The Commission funded its first electronic records project in 1979 – “to develop procedures to schedule, accession, and retrieve information from machine-readable records of Wisconsin state agencies.” We just funded a project at George Washington University that will result in preservation protocols for Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. In the 35 years between the two projects, we have funded about 100 projects that extend the profession’s ability to preserve electronic records. These projects provided training; tested new preservation protocols; set up electronic records programs in a variety of organizations: state archives, museums, colleges and universities; and explored how to preserve and provide access to specific types of records formats like email and GIS.

Where am I going with all this history? Good question. The rapid progress of the archives community in the last 15 years certainly is part of what I wanted to focus on, but there is something else too. I’m not entirely sure that I can articulate it: we will not be able to stop the evolution of records, but we will be able to deal with it.

What is our greatest triumph thus far in working with electronic records? What do you think our greatest challenge is in preserving and providing access to electronic records will be five years from now? How about ten?