Fact Sheet: The National Historical Publications and Records Commission

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) promotes the preservation and use of America's documentary heritage, which is essential to understanding our democracy, history, and culture. Since 1964, NHPRC has awarded $163 million to 4,100 projects in all 50 states and special jurisdictions.

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

  • 880 individual volumes of original documents,
  • 9,100 reels of microfilm,
  • 201 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.

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 such award-winning biographies as David McCullough’s John Adams and Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton.

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. All of these projects 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. For example, grants have helped to:

  • 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, 51 re-grant projects totaling $5.6 million have been matched by state funds of $8.1 million.
  • 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. Grants also have provided educational opportunities for tribal archivists through the Western Archives Institute.
  • Preserve dozens of photographic and other special collections, including 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 to viewers some 100,000 images from Colorado’s history.

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, NHPRC has awarded 60 grants totaling more than $6 million for basic research and implementation grants in 17 states.

  • 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 was awarded 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 and other sponsors. The project is specifically looking at the scaleability and usefulness of the technology in archives other than NARA.
  • NHPRC also has 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, see the NHPRC Web site at: