Guidelines for Preparing a Letter to Congress on the NHPRC Issue

A few things to remember when writing letters:

Your letter should clearly define the issue, state why you are concerned about the issue, and identify what action you’re asking the member to take. Letters should be individually composed; form letters are taken less seriously.

Be sure to FAX you letter to your member of Congress. Email is not as carefully considered because of the volume received and hard-copy letters are delayed significantly (i.e., weeks or months) due to irradiation procedures.

Background information for your use in composing your letter:

  1. The issue: The National Historical Publications and Records Commission is the grant-making arm of the National Archives and Records Administration. In the President’s proposed budget, NHPRC has been targeted for zero funding for grants and zero funding for staff to administer the NHPRC and its grants program. This is, in effect, an elimination of this grants program.
  2. Why NHPRC is important (general): NHPRC makes grants each year to institutions across the country to preserve historical records, publish historical papers, and make historical materials more accessible. Its grants help state and local organizations:
    • Edit and publish historical documents,
    • Develop archival programs,
    • Promote the preservation and use of historical records, and
    • Promote regional and national coordination in addressing major archival issues.

    The agency leads the nation in supporting research and implementing scalable solutions to the challenges of electronic records.

    While the National Archives and Records Administration focuses on federal records, the NHPRC helps archivists, documentary editors, and historians by making available non-federal records (e.g., records of corporate organizations and real estate transactions), that are also essential to our national story and to the daily functioning of our democracy and our economy.

    NHPRC grants preserve and make accessible records and documentary editions that sustain the work of biographers, classroom teachers, documentary filmmakers, journalists, lawyers, land surveyors, historians, genealogists, community historians, museum exhibit designers, and others. (See NHPRC Fact Sheet for more details.)

    NHPRC grants are a good investment. The average non-federal contribution is almost 50%.

  3. Why NHPRC is important to our state/region (specific reasons why you are urging support): Provide your member of Congress with specific examples of how NHPRC has helped you, your repository, or your state. This might include, for example, the number of grants given by NHPRC and the value they have brought to documenting and making accessible the state’s heritage, and particularly how users in the state/district have made use of them. For a list of NHPRC grants, see the NHPRC Web site:

    Make your case with tangible examples if at all possible. For instance:

    • Teachers in the Apocryphal School District used records on the Erie Canal that were identified and made accessible by an NHPRC grant to the Apocryphal Historical Society. The records were used to teach students how to recognize fact and opinion, and to draw conclusions from contradictory eye-witness accounts. This type of education use supports the learning standards initiated as part of the No Child Left Behind efforts in this state.
    • Filmmaker Sol Celluloid used photographs and film preserved and made accessible through an NHPRC grant to the Transparent Visual Archives for a path-breaking documentary on the experiences of soldiers from State X during D-Day in World War II.
  4. What action needs to be taken? End your letter by asking the member of Congress to take a specific action, such as:
    • For members of the Appropriations Committee: Please see that NHPRC funding, which is authorized at $10 million, is restored to at least $6 million for grants and at least $2 million (in the NARA budget) for administration of this critical function.
    • For members who are in a special caucus (Humanities Caucus, Black Caucus, etc) or who may have influence with the Appropriations Committee: Please urge your colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to restore $8 million in grants funding for NHPRC along with $2 million in the NARA budget for staff to manage this function.