In 1972, parents of African American children brought a class action lawsuit alleging that the Boston School Committee violated the 14th Amendment with a deliberate policy of racial segregation. The judge found that Boston schools had intentionally carried out a program of segregation and ordered the School Committee to formulate a desegregation plan. When the committee failed to present an adequate plan, the court assumed an active role and oversaw implementation of court-ordered desegregation in Boston public schools. As the plan was carried out, many neighborhoods in Boston were plunged into unrest.
The historical records documenting the history of Boston’s efforts at desegregation might well have been hidden from researchers were it not for several grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
The first grants were awarded in the mid-1980s to help the City of Boston establish and develop a citywide archives and records management program. Over the years, the NHPRC has helped dozens of cities, towns, and counties start their own formal archives program.
In 2003 and 2005, the NHPRC awarded two grants to the City of Boston for its Public Schools Desegregation-Era Records Project to arrange, describe, and publish a Web-based finding aid to some 400 cubic feet of records relating to the desegregation era in city schools. Another grant went to to implement a city-wide archives and records management program, including the creation of a general finding aid to all 14,000 linear feet of records. The Guide to the Records in the City of Boston Archives is organized by department record groups. It provides historical information about each department and brief descriptions of their record series. Links are provided to available finding aids throughout the Guide. The Guide will be continuously updated as new finding aids are completed and new accessions come into the City Archives.
This past summer educators visited the National Archives at Boston to explore and examine primary sources related to desegregating Boston Public Schools. It was part of the National Archives annual Primarily Teaching summer institute.
These educators-turned-digitization scholars identified classroom-appropriate documents from the 1970s civil action court case Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James W. Hennigan et al. As a result of their work, teachers, students, and anyone interested in Civil Rights can now investigate 30 documents from this important case.
The documents they scanned, together with records from Chicago school desegregation, are now available online in the National Archives DocsTeach website.
This is a prime example of the powerful partnership of city government archives, Federal government support, and citizens engaged in making documents more widely available to the public. To find out more about National Archives resources for teachers, go to http://blogs.archives.gov/education/2014/10/17/boston-schools-desegregation-case/.
October observes both Hispanic Heritage Month and Archives Month, so I’m highlighting a recently completed project that speaks to both celebrations. The University of California at San Diego digitized the Herman Baca collection and, in the process, made some really great contacts with its outreach efforts.
Herman Baca Papers. MSS 0649. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
First some information about the Herman Baca and the collection he donated. He organized the San Diego chapter of MAPA (Mexican-American Political Association) in 1968 and served as its president through 1974. In the 1970s he organized the San Diego County chapter of La Raza Unida Party, a national third-party effort to increase the participation of the Chicano community as both registered voters and political candidates. Also in the early 1970s, Baca chaired San Diego’s Mexican American Advisory Committee (now the Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee), a program of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, and NEPSI, a narcotics education and prevention program. Baca also organized and served as the chairman of the board of Casa Justicia, a community-based social service agency providing support for undocumented persons dealing with immigration issues. In 1975, Baca founded the Committee on Chicano Rights (CCR), a non-profit corporation organized to develop and improve the educational, social, and economic conditions of Chicanos by encouraging participation in educational, community, and civic affairs. CCR took on local and national issues like the fight for Chicano Park, police brutality, zoning, farm workers’ rights, the KKK, and even President Jimmy Carter’s immigration plan.
The collection documents his grassroots activities and events of the Chicano movement and includes correspondence; organizational documents (articles of incorporation and bylaws, membership documents, public relations materials, meeting minutes, fundraising materials, etc.) for the Committee on Chicano Rights, the Mexican-American Political Association (MAPA), and La Raza Unida Political Party; interviews; court case files; writings of others; newspaper clippings; video recordings; Chicano artworks; and photographs. The Baca collection, including a license to digitize and make the collection available on the internet, was donated to UCSD in 2004, becoming the first Chicano Activism archival collection in the special collections library. UCSD digitized more than 42,000 pages of documents, posters, photographs and slides as well as approximately 25 hours of audio interviews from the collection.
During the project to digitize this collection, staff at UC San Diego’s Geisel Library engaged in a number of outreach activities to publicize the work and the collection. They promoted the project through the usual means, such as press releases – which were picked up by local newspapers including La Prensa, and newer outlets like Tumblr (http://hermanbacapapers.tumblr.com).
Postcard front publicizing the availability of the Herman Baca Papers online.
They also created buttons, bookmarks and postcards using images in the collection. These were distributed on campus and at local festivals – notably at the Cesar Chavez Celebration Kick-Off Luncheon, at Chicano Park Day, and at the Palomar College Civil Rights Festival – where they also provided live demonstrations of the digital collection using iPads and a MiFi connection. This is the first time I know of that one of our grantees went into the community and did live demonstrations to encourage use of a collection. I don’t think it would work for all of the digitization projects we fund, but it’s an interesting idea that can be used to great effect.
It’s a great collection and I encourage you to check it out.
by Alex on October 1, 2014
Following on Kathleen Williams’ 3 September blog post “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Grantees,” I am posting some important tips for applicants.
- Contact the director of the NHPRC grant program to which you plan to apply. Even seasoned grant writers can benefit from having a phone conversation or email chat with the grant program director. Why? One, the program officer can point out ineligible activities or any changes to the grant announcement guidelines. Two, program officers can often provide you with a sample application similar to the type of project you intend to undertake. Three, program officers can candidly tell you whether the proposal you plan to write seems competitive, and if not, then help you identify ways in which you might strengthen your project.
- If your institution has a sponsored programs office, contact them early on in the grant writing process and let them know of your intent to apply. Sponsored programs offices generally have high turnover. Being on a personal name-to-name basis with a particular grant officer in the sponsored programs office can really benefit you when the time comes to submit your application or when problems arise down the road.
- Contact your State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB). Authorized under NHPRC regulations, SHRABs review grant proposals submitted to us from institutions in their respective states. Most SHRABs like to know of institutions that intend to apply. SHRABs can provide invaluable advice to applicants and in some cases even review the applicant’s materials prior to the formal application deadline. For more information, please visit the SHRAB webpage on the Council of State Archivists’ website.
- Submit a draft. Even former NHPRC grant recipients intending to reapply should take advantage of the opportunity to submit a draft for review by an NHPRC program officer. Why? Drafts are read and commented on by the director in charge of the program to which you will apply: someone who has read countless good and bad applications and can identify ambiguities and weaknesses within the proposal. Drafts should include a full narrative and budget. Also, program officers read and respond to drafts in the order in which they are received, and so you don’t necessarily have to wait until the draft deadline to submit. The sooner you submit, the sooner you will receive comments, leaving you more time to improve your application prior to the final deadline.
- Follow the instructions in the grant announcement. This may seem obvious and expected, but you would be surprised how many applications fail to follow the instructions included in the grant announcement. One common mistake applicants make is exceeding the 20 page maximum for your narrative or supplementary materials. In this case, we will either ask you to remove pages to get your proposal within the page limits or simply remove any pages beyond the 20 page limit. Oh, and yes, you must include resumes of project staff in your supplementary materials. No, they do not need to include a full vita of all professional accolades and experience. Annotate your resumes to include experience and education that demonstrates the staff person’s ability to perform the project work.
- Don’t wait until the deadline to submit your application. Each cycle most grant applicants wait until the deadline date to submit their materials to Grants.gov. Why not submit your proposal a few days ahead of the deadline to avoid any problems? If the deadline is Thursday, for instance, and you submit on the previous Monday, then you are able to contact the NHPRC staff, make sure that your materials have been received and correct any mistakes that have been made.
Fifty years ago this month, the National Historical Publications Commission (“Records” was added in 1974) met to make its first grant recommendation. (There is no visual documentation of this meeting, but I’m sure it looked something like the above image.)
The first meeting of the NHPC had been held on January 29, 1935, in Room 1755 of the New Department of Justice Building, which served as the temporary office of the Archivist of the United States while the National Archives Building located across the street was being completed. The meeting was chaired by Robert D.W. Connor, Archivist of the United States. Among the other Commission members in attendance were Dumas Malone, representing the American Historical Association, and J. Franklin Jameson, representing the Librarian of Congress.
At that meeting the following motion was approved by a unanimous vote:
“RESOLVED, That the National Historical Publications Commission should, after making plans and estimates, recommend to Congress that in any celebration of the sesqui-centennial of the adoption of the Constitution, one element should be a documentary historical publication illustrative of the origins of the Constitution, to be executed under the supervision of the National Historical Publications Commission.”
Although the NHPC continued to meet during the following years to discuss and offer encouragement to a variety of documentary editing projects, no Federal funds were appropriated to support these efforts until 1964, when Public Law 88-383 authorized the awarding of “grants to State and local agencies and to nonprofit organizations and institutions, for the collection, describing, preserving and compiling, and publishing (including microfilming and other forms of reproduction) of documentary sources significant to the history of the United States.”
At the NHPC’s September 11, 1964, meeting, the following motion was approved by a unanimous vote:
“RESOLVED, That the National Historical Publications Commission hereby respectfully recommends to the Administrator of General Services as Allocation #1 under P.L. 88-383 the sum of $39,000 for the continued support from October 1, 1964, to June 30, 1965, of the project for compiling and publishing a Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution and First Ten Amendments, this amount representing three-fourths of a proposed annual budget of $52,000, and this allocation being conditional upon appropriations being made by the present Congress for the implementation of this legislation.”
In 1964, the National Archives and Records Service (NARS) was part of the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Administrator of GSA had sole authority to award grants, based on the recommendations of the NHPC. When NARA was created as an independent agency in 1984, the Archivist of the United States assumed that authority.
Not long after the NHPC’s meeting on September 11, 1964, Congress appropriated $350,000 to implement P.L 88-383, and the first grant was awarded to the Constitution Project, as recommended by the members of the NHPC. This grant of $52,000 covered the project’s expenses for an entire year. Approximately 5,000 grants have been awarded since Allocation #1.
Have you been watching “The Roosevelts” on PBS? Bully!
As many know, President Franklin Roosevelt was instrumental in the creation of the National Archives, signing the 1934 Act that established both the Archives and the National Historical Publications Commission (later renamed as the National Historical Publications and Records Commission).
But it was President Theodore Roosevelt who actually started the whole process. In the 1880s and 1890s, the American Historical Association began pushing for a national archives and for a commission to “edit and publish” historical documents of national significance.
In 1905, Roosevelt established the Commission on Department Methods, headed by Charles Keep, to consider, among its many reforms, the care of Federal records and the publication of historical materials. Over the next few years, the Keep Commission researched and worked on recommendations, and by 1909, the Commission’s Report called for a national archives and a Commission on Historical Publications. Several bills were introduced in Congress, but they were not passed before the end of Roosevelt’s second term.
But that didn’t stop TR’s interest in archives and history. In 1912, he was named President of the American Historical Association, and his Presidential Address, “History as Literature” is oddly prescient and vital to this day. He said:
The great historian of the future will have easy access to innumerable facts patiently gathered by tens of thousands of investigators, whereas the great historian of the past had very few facts, and often had to gather most of these himself. The great historian of the future cannot be excused if he fails to draw on the vast storehouses of knowledge that have been accumulated, if he fails to profit by the wisdom and work of other men, which are now the common property of all intelligent men. He must use the instruments which the historians of the past did not have ready to hand. Yet even with these instruments he cannot do as good work as the best of the elder historians unless he has vision and imagination, the power to grasp what is essential and to reject the infinitely more numerous nonessentials, the power to embody ghosts, to put flesh and blood on dry bones, to make dead men living before our eyes. In short he must have the power to take the science of history and turn it into literature.
Made me think of the Internet and the role that historians play in using archives to tell the American Story.
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.
As 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:
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!
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.
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. 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.
by Alex on August 20, 2014
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
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.