National Historical Publications & Records Commission

Access to Historical Records: Archival Projects FAQs

What is the purpose of this program?

This program funds projects to preserve and digitize, arrange, and create online descriptions for nationally significant archival materials, including born-digital records. Applicants must have an existing archival program.

The purpose of the program is to increase public access to historical records.

How long have you been funding these types of projects?

The NHPRC began funding records projects in 1974. Over the past four decades, the NHPRC has modified its records programming in order to encourage archival repositories to embrace emerging trends in the archives field.

This grant program is designed to support archival repositories in preserving, processing, and digitizing primary source materials. The program also emphasizes the creation of online tools including EAD finding aids that facilitate the public discovery of historical records.

What do you mean by "broaden public understanding of our democracy, history, and culture?"

Applicants should demonstrate how the information contained within the records illustrate some aspect of U.S. history; for example, records from George Washington’s time as a land surveyor are important because they can illustrate the early roots of westward expansion, not because they have a connection of to George Washington. Other ways to illustrate the historical and cultural importance of records can be accomplished by documenting the research demand for these records, as well as the anticipated use that these records will receive from a broad cross-section of the American public.

Will this grant program support the preservation and processing of electronic records?

Yes, but applicants must have an existing electronic records program in place. This grant program does not support archival start-up projects of any kind.

What do you mean by "Applicants must have an existing archival program?"

Applicants must have records, dedicated spaces for records storage and user research, a web presence, methods to post online descriptions, sustainable infrastructure in terms of equipment and facilities, and knowledge and experience working with archival materials, etc. Please contact an NHPRC program officer if you need additional clarification.

Will this program fund preservation surveys or archival needs assessments?

No. Applicants interested in these activities might wish to research the National Endowment for the Humanities' Preservation Assistance Grants program.

Has the Commission funded projects that involve work at several institutions?

Yes. Proposals may present a consortium approach as long as there is demonstrated institutional support at each organization. For the purposes of the SF-424 application form and ongoing grant administration, only one institution may serve as the formal applicant and project coordinator.

How often do you award grants for this program? How do I apply?

The NHPRC accepts applications for Access to Historical Records once each year.

Our application process is through The easiest way to keep track of the funding deadlines is to subscribe to their Find Grant Opportunities page. We are listed as a "Sub-Agency" under the National Archives and Records Administration. You should read our Apply for a Grant page for detailed instructions on how to apply. Do not wait until the deadline date to become familiar with

What happens after I apply?

After you have completed an application, NHPRC staff will send out your application to 6-8 professional peer reviewers, all of whom will comment on your project's narrative and budget. We will then send you these reviews in order that you might briefly clarify any unresolved matters before we submit the application to the Commission. Based on your response, reviewers' comments, and staff recommendations, the Commission advises the Archivist of the United States, who makes the final decision on grant awards.

What role does the State Board play in the application and review process?

 A list of State Boards is available on the Council of State Archivists' website. When you begin planning for your project, contact your State Board coordinator. State Boards may offer advice and sometimes even review a draft proposal prior to application. Representatives from the State Board also serve as peer reviewers. If your State Board is inactive, you may still apply to NHPRC unless you are a state government agency.

How much money are we expected to contribute ?

We require the applicant institution to provide 25 percent or more of total project costs as cost share. Cost share can include both direct and indirect expenses, in-kind contributions, non-Federal third-party contributions, and any income earned directly by the project.

Will NHPRC pay for existing staff salaries and fringe benefits?

Reviewers may raise questions regarding institutional financial support and program sustainability if applicants request grant funds to cover substantial amounts of existing staff salaries and fringe benefits. The most competitive applicants typically apply existing staff salaries and fringe benefits to the cost share portion of their budget.