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Press Release
June 13, 2013

National Archives Launches Founders Online Website

Search founders.archives.gov for historical gossip, intrigue, and political insights

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Washington, DC…The National Archives today launched the Founders Online website [http://founders.archives.gov/]. This free online tool brings together the papers of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison in a single website that gives a first-hand account of the growth of democracy and the birth of the Republic.


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Founders Online was created through a cooperative agreement between the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the grant-making arm of the National Archives, and The University of Virginia (UVA) Press.

In announcing the launch, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero was joined by University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan, NHPRC Executive Director Kathleen M. Williams, and George Mason University Professor of History Cynthia A. Kierner. National History Day student winners searched the records of the very beginnings of American law, government, and our national story.

“Through Founders Online, you can now trace the shaping of the nation, the extraordinary clash of ideas, the debates and discussions carried out through drafts and final versions of public documents as well as the evolving thoughts and principles shared in personal correspondence, diaries, and journals,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. After thanking NHPRC and its partners present for the launch, he continued, “This project is a key part of the National Archives’ mission and the President’s goal for Open Government and citizen access to make history accessible, discoverable, and usable by the American people.”

"I am excited to hear that the National Archives has finally launched its Founders Online website to increase access to historical documents from our founding fathers," said Senator Carper, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. "This partnership between the National Archives and the University of Virginia Press will preserve and protect precious pieces of American history for our children and for all future generations. Free online access to these documents will provide valuable insight into how our founding fathers worked together to shape this great nation. I firmly believe that you cannot know where you are going until you know where you’ve been, and I think everyone can learn some important -- and timely --lessons by reading these artifacts and understanding how our founding fathers were able to collaborate, despite deep differences, to build this great nation.”

“From the beginning, this has been a collaborative project that has brought together people and organizations that care deeply about our nation’s early history and the need to preserve it for future generations,” said University President Teresa Sullivan. “Today, with the launch of Founders Online, we take a great stride forward, as we make the words of our nation’s founders available to anyone, anywhere in the world.”

For the past 50 years, the National Archives, through its National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), has invested in documentary editions of the original historical records of the Founding Era. Projects led by dedicated historians and experts in editing historical documents have collected—from archives across the country and around the world—copies of original 18th- and 19th-century documents, transcribed them, provided annotations, and produced hundreds of individual volumes. Now for the first time, the combined efforts of that scholarship is available in a single online source, fully searchable, and freely accessible.

The Founders Online project emerged from hearings of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held in February 2008. Inspired by the testimony of historians such as David McCullough, Congress provided funding and directed the Archivist of the United States to expedite public access to these founding documents through online publication.

Founders Online includes thousands of documents, replicating the contents of 242 volumes drawn from the published print editions. As each new print volume is completed, it will be added to this database of documents.

In addition, all of the unpublished and in-process materials (about 55,000 documents) will be posted online over the next three years. Researchers will be able to view transcribed, unpublished letters as they are being researched and annotated by the editors and staff.

Altogether, some 175,000 documents are projected to be on the Founders Online site. This website promises to be of immense value for the public’s ability to understand the world and intentions of the nation’s founders. It will also provide a bold economic, educational, and technical model that will provide important lessons as we plan future efforts for online publication of historical materials.

For more information on the project, visit http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/winter/founders.html

For more information about the NHPRC,visit www.archives.gov/nhprc/.

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For press information, contact NHPRC Communications Director Keith Donohue at 202-357-5365 or email: Keith.Donohue@nara.gov.

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