Advocacy

AHA on Document Collection Requirements: Wide Access Need Not Compete with Quality Production

Seth Denbo, May 2014

NHPRC LetterThe National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) is the arm of the National Archives that disperses grant funds to “promote the preservation and use of America’s documentary heritage.” Since its inception in 1964, the commission has funded over 4,000 projects at state and local archives, higher education institutions, libraries, historical societies, and other nonprofits. In conjunction with institutions that house the staff of these projects, and publishers that produce the volumes, microfilms, and digital editions, funding from the NHPRC has supported preservation, documentary editing, and many important publications.

The NHPRC recently published draft proposals for a major overhaul of grant programs on its blog Annotation (blogs.archives.gov/nhprc). The proposed new grants will be available in six categories, including Access to ­Historical Records, Literacy & Engagement with Historical Records, Online Publishing of Historical Records, Publishing Historical Records Online, State Board Programming Grants, and State Government Electronic Records.

The AHA wrote to Archivist of the United States David Ferriero and posted comments on Annotation, and the NHPRC received a large number of comments and letters from individuals and other organizations. The shape of the new programs and the activities they will support have raised tensions between the rigorous and often costly demands of the editorial process and the need for broad access that digitization can provide. Many comments express concern about whether the proposed programs, with their requirement for comprehensive free digital access, will support the valuable work the NHPRC has enabled in the past. Others lauded the emphasis on digitization and programs to help state archives deal with the deluge of digital government records.

Seth Denbo is the AHA’s director of scholarly communication and digital initiatives.

A version of this article appeared on the AHA Today blog (blog.historians.org).




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