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New Deadline for Comments is March 31st

by on February 27, 2014


Given the extensive changes being proposed and in response to requests, the NHPRC has extended the comment period on the proposed DRAFT grant guidelines in all six categories.

The new deadline to submit comments is Monday, March 31, 2014.  We ask that you share your thoughts by posting them on the NHPRC blog.  As always, we welcome comments from individuals and organizations who are interested in these NHPRC programs. The NHPRC staff will share your comments with the Commission members as they consider program changes in the coming weeks.


Comments

Danna C. Bell February 27, 2014 at 4:59 pm

The Society of American Archivists recently learned of the opportunity to review and comment on the proposed revisions to the NHPRC’s grants program. Although we did not have a chance to engage with SAA’s 6,200+ members to obtain a broader view of how the proposed changes might affect their institutions (given the February 27 deadline), we believe that our comments reflect the profession’s long-standing priorities. We understand that the proposed revisions are consistent with your report to the President, The Digital Citizen and the American Record, and that the report provides context for your recommended changes. We look forward to reading the report when it’s available.

SAA strongly supports the emphasis on access to historical records within the re-envisioned grants categories. This focus underscores the importance of NHPRC funding in serving as a catalyst to ensuring the care of and access to the American historical record as it exists in the regions, states, and communities of this country. It also reinforces the National Archives and Records Administration’s leadership in setting priorities and providing direction and guidance to the archival community in the United States.

The grants program clearly is moving toward more funding for state government archives, which is laudable in that it strengthens the Commission’s commitment to the management and preservation of the historical record within a network of archival repositories in a federal system. We raise an important note of caution, however, if that support comes at the expense of maintaining the Commission’s involvement in providing access to significant non-government archives that support a diverse and comprehensive record of our nation’s history. While we understand the issues of limited funding and prioritization, it is important that the strategic directions behind this decision are shared with the archival community, which we believe may be reflected in The Digital Citizen and the American Record.

The proposed grants categories support important directions, but we remain concerned that the historically modest funding available to NHPRC—and therefore to its grantees—severely limits the potential for making substantial progress on access issues. With fifty states, six territories, tens of thousands of local governments, and many thousands of historical records organizations, funding of sixty or seventy projects per year compromises the promise of access to the American historical record. As you know, SAA, the Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, and our regional archival associations have advocated actively for improved funding for both NHPRC and archival needs nationally. We urge the Commissioners and the National Archives to work with us to develop actionable steps to improve the level of funding for NHPRC and the American historical record.

Following are comments regarding each of the grants categories.

Access to Historical Records

The continued availability of a grants category to preserve and provide access to nationally significant records held in repositories around the country is most welcome. The increased emphasis on development of online tools will further strengthen the access component of these projects. To further extend the impact of these projects we suggest that:

• As projects that incorporate crowdsourcing, citizen engagement activities, mobile applications, or user feedback are funded, they include a commitment to sharing information on successes and challenges with the larger archival community. These projects may serve to demonstrate best practices or as models for other organizations.

• NHPRC must assess the overall performance of these efforts, provide evaluative reporting on the techniques (rather than on the individual projects), and share that information widely with the archival community.

State Electronic Records

This grant category provides the opportunity to make some very real progress in describing and making accessible electronic records of state government. Specifically for this grants category:

• We encourage NHPRC to give higher priority to projects that are replicable and scalable and that produce models that may be implemented in other institutions. This priority should be emphasized in the guidelines for this category.

• Projects in this area may also provide the opportunity for development of best practices from which both other state archives and non-profit archival repositories may benefit. We encourage NHPRC to work with successful grantees to actively share information on the specific approaches used and to promote efforts by others to incorporate the best practices that should result from these projects.

Literacy and Engagement with Historical Records

This new category has the potential to support innovative ways to encourage access to, and awareness of the importance of, historical records. We support this development, but strongly encourage support for programs that can serve as models for other organizations. We hope that NHPRC will support programs that encourage collaboration between organizations and programs that will have an impact on a number of communities or organizations. Further:

• Of special interest are programs that will bring archival collections into the K-16 educational community. As the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) encourage close reading of texts, especially non-fiction texts, we hope that where possible educational programs will link to these standards or encourage the use of primary sources as integral parts of classroom programs.

• We note that there is no specific definition of “digital literacy” within the document. Would you consider reviewing the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards, especially those for students and teachers and those related to the CCSS, as a basis for defining “digital literacy”?

• We are also interested in how this category can be used to help diversify the archival record by supporting community outreach into under-represented areas. We hope that community outreach projects supported by NHPRC would help to educate about the importance of archives and archivists and would encourage donation to repositories as well as use of the collections to tell a community’s story.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this review. We hope that SAA’s comments are helpful in your deliberations and that you will continue to communicate and collaborate with our organization and others in pursuit of our common goals.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment.

Danna C. Bell
SAA President, 2013-2014

Ammara March 14, 2014 at 5:34 am

Nice work

Pat Michaelis March 21, 2014 at 11:58 am

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed new grant programs for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. I am supportive of all of them but I will limit my comments to the ones that directly impact the Research Collections Division, which I head, and the State Historical Records Advisory Board, which I coordinate.

The Access to Historical Records program provides for preservation, arrangement and online description of historical records. I commend the Commission for requiring that the description of collections be available online. We have a number of large collections that would require substantial investments to digitize in their entirety but providing online descriptions lets researchers learn of materials relevant to them. Depending on the quantity of records in which they are interested, we can work with them to facilitate access. But, researchers need to know what is available before taking the next step. This grant program will support this kind of access. We recently benefited from a NHPRC detailed processing grant for the 2500 box Archives of the Menninger Foundation. The finding aid was a database and this is available on our website at http://www.kshs.org/p/menninger-foundation-archives/13787. In the past year, the high level descriptions of the collection and the database search screen have received over 2000 hits, supporting the assumption that this type of access is very useful to researchers.

The inclusion of the ability to provide digital preservation for unstable audio and visual formats in the Access to Historical Records program is also important. We have taken in a variety of these materials and always assume that we will “get to them.” But, that usually doesn’t happen unless we are responding to a researcher request. However, audio visual materials often have a great impact when they are used for educational purposes. Inclusion of digital preservation of these materials in this program will allow institutions with “backlogs” of these collections to undertake preservation measures but also enhance access by requiring digital copies.

The Literacy and Engagement grant program reflects the new reality that all sorts of potentially historical electronic records are being created daily. Given the challenges of long term preservation of digital records, increasing the public’s knowledge of what they need to do to preserve their own digital records and thus making them available, potentially, to historical repositories in the future. I started out dealing with manuscript collections—non-governmental unpublished collections of correspondence, etc.—and I have visions (nightmares) of not having these types of collections available in the future as correspondence is primarily via e-mail and mailboxes are cleaned out periodically. This grant program has the potential to be one of the most impactful programs that NHPRC has sponsored. If the general public becomes more knowledgeable about digital archiving, they will not only preserve their own collections but they will understand the challenges confronting government archives as they work to preserve electronic records that are the basis of accountability and transparency. This could lead to broader support for the work of government archives.

The program for Online Publishing of Historical Records continues NHPRC’s long standing efforts to make historical records readily available to the public. The Kansas Historical Society took advantage of microfilming grant to make some of its collections related to the early history of Kansas available through Interlibrary Loan, while also preserving the originals because an alternate copy was available to researchers. The Historical Society has an ever growing digital portal called Kansas Memory (www.kansasmemory.org). It now contains over 388,000 items ranging from photographs, diaries, maps, personal correspondence collections, selected correspondence of Kansas Governors, etc. We average over 25,000 hits per month as compared to 5000 in person researchers per year. To me, this demonstrates that the need is there if the content can be provided. Because of the quantity of our holdings and the labor required to create standards compliant digital images, we can only add a limited amount of material annually. However, the availability of this grant line will allow us to develop digitization grants focused on major collections. The inclusion of transcriptions in the allowable activities makes the materials word searchable but also provides access to younger students who do not read cursive handwriting.

The State Board Programming grants will allow State Historical Records Advisory Boards (SHRABS) to continue to undertake activities in several areas. Because many Kansas institutions with historical records do not have archives professionals on staff, the Kansas SHRAB has traditionally offered educational opportunities on a variety of topics to these “accidental” archivists. In the future, we will try to do more with encouraging citizens and students to use historical records, particularly those that are online. The SHRAB will also look at opportunities to encourage collaboration on various projects. Currently, a number of Kansas institutions are beginning an effort to collaborative collect Kansas web sites and this initiative, while not specifically a SHRAB activity, in the result of discussions among SHRAB members. Our concern with SHRAB activities is how to insure the necessary staff support to accomplish Board tasks. A concern about the program announcement is the issue of funding only 20 grants a year. Is it assumed that the states will develop alternating two year cycles so most of the state programs will be funded every other year?

In conclusion, I support the new grant lines that encourage online description and access and a more knowledge public about electronic records preservation issues. Working with local audiences through SHRAB programming often results in upgraded policies, procedures, and preservation in a variety of institutions with historical records. NHPRC is to be commended for revising its grant programs to reflect the reality of online access and digital preservation challenges.

David A. Haury March 27, 2014 at 9:37 am

I don’t know if NHPRC, ironically with two former State Archivists as members, intends to kill its children, CoSA and the SHRABS, but this proposal seems likely to diminish their capacities by starting to starve them of funding. Without CoSA dues support will CoSA return to an organization without permanent staff, with occasional grant projects, and primarily with annual meetings attended by a dozen or so fewer state archivists than today due to travel and funding restrictions in numerous states? Similar restrictions or budget pressures will also prevent certain states from funding any SHRAB meetings if administrative and travel support is cut for SHRABS. How much program funding will continue to go to a state whose SHRAB never can meet? With only 20 grants will states be divided into haves and have nots with most of the funding going year after year to the same states (not necessarily those who need it most). I hope some changes will be made so this doesn’t become the beginning of the end for CoSA and the SHRABS. Instead of funding NHPRC as envisioned by PAHR not many years ago, this proposal could be the anti-PAHR, moving NHPRC in the opposite direction.

Dr. David A. Haury, CA | State Archivist
Pennsylvania State Archives | Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
350 North Street | Harrisburg, PA 17120-0090
Phone: 717.783.9872 | Fax: 717.787.4822
http://www.pastatearchives.com | dhaury@pa.gov

James Grossman March 31, 2014 at 1:59 pm

The American Historical Association takes note of NARA’s proposed draft guidelines that require NHPRC grantees to “publish online editions and provide free online access.” We agree that broad dissemination of these essential documents is imperative, and hence support the requirement that grant proposals to NHPRC include plans for digital publication. We are less certain that either historical scholarship or public culture is well served by a rigid requirement that such dissemination be free of charge.

NHPRC funding has encouraged and supported the valuable and painstaking documentary editing work that has made collections of carefully edited primary sources available to historians, educators, and the public. The publications are of inestimable value to the nation and support the public culture and citizenship that is vital for sustaining democracy. The AHA is pleased to see proposed changes that will even further broaden the presence of these documents in American public culture, but it is equally imperative to maintain the quality of historical scholarship that is essential to the utility of these materials.

The collections that users encounter are not mere digitized compilations of documents contained in the nation’s vaults. Archivists, editors, publishers, and the institutions and funders who make their work possible contribute essential expertise. Which version of a speech was the final draft? Was a letter actually received? How much would awareness of a contemporary rhetorical convention substantially affect understanding of its author’s meaning? Our responsibility to the men and women who created the original primary source materials, and to the public for whom these papers are history, heritage, and cultural inheritance, requires attentiveness to these kinds of questions.

The ultimate question to be asked here is how we can ensure that these documentary editions continue to be produced with appropriate expertise and reach the widest audience. The digital revolution provides not only new means for producing and providing access, but also new opportunities for historical scholarship in the production of these projects. The world in which we research, write, and disseminate our work is changing, and expanding online publishing of historical records increases their utility, value, and appeal.

Similarly, the needs of digital government present challenges to state archives. The creation of government records in digital form can be vital for engaged citizenship, but also raises challenges for their preservation and use. To that end the AHA also supports the NHPRC’s move to provide funding to state archives in preserving and providing access to electronic government records.

Digital publication of all NHPRC projects will broaden access. The proposed transition period of four years, as well as funding to support the move to digital, will help projects to build sustainable digital resources, but that access involves new ongoing costs for elements such as preserving the digital files and creation of vital metadata. The expense of producing these works in either print or digital is significant, and publishers must be able to recoup their investment.

At the same time, these edited documents are a public good, and there are reasonable obligations that accompany public funding. Publishers can, for example, be reasonably required to complement a subscription model for digital publication with free access to secondary school students and teachers. This is not a matter of balancing diverging interests: everyone involved in the ecosystem—the institutions at which projects are based, the publishers, the archivists, the editors, and the funders—have an obligation to encourage both wide circulation and sustainable models of high-quality production.

James Grossman
Executive Director, American Historical Association

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