National Historical Publications & Records Commission

Digitizing Historical Records Grant Announcement

FY 2013 Grant Announcement (Initial):

Digitizing Historical Records

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), supports projects that promote the preservation and use of America's documentary heritage essential to understanding our democracy, history, and culture.

The following grant application information is for Digitizing Historical Records projects.

Funding Opportunity Number:   DIGITIZING-201306

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number:   89.003

  • Draft Deadline (optional):   April 1, 2013
  • Final Deadline:   June 11, 2013

NHPRC support begins no earlier than January 1, 2014.

The deadline for this opportunity has passed. These guidelines may be used for reference, but should NOT be used to prepare an application.

Grant Program Description

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission seeks proposals that use cost-effective methods to digitize nationally significant historical record collections and make the digital versions freely available online. Projects must make use of existing holdings of historical repositories and consist of entire collections or series. The materials should already be available to the public at the archives and described so that projects can re-use existing information to serve as metadata for the digitized collection.

To make these projects as widely useful as possible for archives, historical repositories, and researchers, the applications must demonstrate:

  1. The national significance of the collections or records series to be digitized;
  2. An effective work flow that repurposes existing descriptive material, rather than creating new metadata about the records;
  3. Reasonable costs and standards for the project as well as sustainable preservation plans for the resulting digital records;
  4. Well-designed plans that evaluate the use of the digitized materials and the effectiveness of the methods employed in digitizing and displaying the materials.

Projects may not use grant funds to create:

  • descriptive metadata or
  • edited transcriptions of the digitized materials or
  • websites where people will have to pay a fee to view the images.

For a comprehensive list of the Commission's limitations on funding, please see What We Do and Do Not Fund.

Award Information

A grant normally is for 1 to 3 years and up to $150,000. The Commission expects to make up to 8 grants in this category, for a total of up to $700,000.

The Commission requires that grant recipients acknowledge NHPRC grant assistance in all products that result from its support.


Eligible applicants:

  • United States nonprofit organizations or institutions
  • Colleges, universities, and other academic institutions
  • State or local government agencies
  • Federally-acknowledged or state-recognized Native American tribes or groups

Applicant organizations must be registered in the System for Award Management (SAM) prior to submitting an application, maintain SAM registration throughout the application and award process, and include a valid DUNS number in their application. Details on SAM registration and requesting a DUNS number can be found at the System for Award Management website at Please refer to the User Guides section and the Grants Registrations PDF.

Ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

Cost Sharing

Cost sharing is required. It is the financial contribution the applicant pledges to the cost of a project. Cost sharing can include both direct and indirect expenses, in-kind contributions, non-Federal third-party contributions, and any income earned directly by the project. The NHPRC will provide up to 50 percent of the total project costs.

Application and Submission Information

Applicants should follow the instructions on how to fill out the online forms and apply electronically using the Application Instructions section on the NHPRC website.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) requires that grant applications be submitted via In the event that is experiencing technical difficulties that prevent submission, applicants must first attempt to resolve the issue with the Contact Center (800-518-4726). If cannot solve the problem, applicants may request an alternative. To make use of the NHPRC backup system, applicants must contact Jeff de la Concepcion (202-357-5022) no later than 3:00 Eastern Time on the day of the deadline with their valid Contact Center trouble-ticket number.

A complete application includes the Application for Federal Assistance (Standard Form 424), Assurances -- Non-Construction Programs (Standard Form 424B), a Project Narrative, Summary, Supplementary Materials, and Budget. Applications lacking these items will not be considered. In order to ensure eligibility, applicants should first review the Federal grant administration rules and regulations governing grants from the NHPRC listed in the Administering an NHPRC Grant section.

Project Narrative

The Project Narrative is a description of the proposal. It should be no more than 20 double-spaced pages in 12-pt type on 8.5 x 11 inch paper with standard margins.

Please organize your narrative in sections:

1.   Begin with a brief overview of the project that explains the national significance of the historical materials and your methods. Then, explain how you selected the materials to be digitized. Relate that selection to the mission of your institution. Describe the nature and scope of your repository's holdings. Demonstrate that virtually all of your holdings are available to researchers and have online descriptions and that all new accessions receive a basic level of processing within a reasonable time.

Explain in further detail the historical significance of the materials. Specify how the project's collections document individuals, events, developments, organizations, and places. Indicate how researchers already have used these collections by providing citations. Demonstrate the demand for the materials by providing usage statistics over the past three years. Characterize the project's audience, and show how the activities proposed will increase public understanding of national history, culture, and experience.

2.   Explain your methods for providing free online access to these materials. (The Commission will not consider proposals where there will be a charge for access to the materials.) Include relevant portions of the existing finding aids or indexes in your proposal's supplementary materials as well as a link to them if available online. Indicate the quantity of materials to be digitized (estimate by sampling the materials). Be sure to demonstrate that your institution has all necessary rights to digitize the collection(s) for delivery online to the general public. Restricted materials should either be excluded or make up only a small percentage of the materials.

Indicate which digitization standards you intend to use, and why. Describe what kind of hardware and software you plan to use or develop to make these collections available online. Explain whether you plan to use a vendor for any part of the project and your selection process. If you plan to do the work in your repository, discuss what capacities you have and which you will need to develop (including personnel, training, equipment and software).

Explain how your proposed method of digitizing and providing access will ensure that users understand the context, content, and structure of the collection. Show how existing finding aids or other descriptive records will serve as the descriptive metadata for the digitized materials. Describe what kinds of searches and display methods you will offer the users and how these will take advantage of the existing information about the materials.

Explain how your preservation plans will protect the digitized surrogates beyond the end of the grant period.

Discuss how you will evaluate the success of your project. The Commission requires a final report that describes your results, along with recommendations regarding digitization for other repositories and a proposed business model for how you intend to continue archival digitization in the future.

3.   Include a plan of work that outlines the tasks and project costs (both grant funds and cost sharing) associated with the following stages:

  1. preparing the historical records for digitizing
  2. digitizing
  3. making the materials accessible for use, and
  4. evaluating the project.

In your supplementary materials, include a month-by-month project plan that indicates which project staff and resources will be used to accomplish each of the stages. As part of the project, applicants will be expected to document each stage, including any changes in work flow, as well as the actual costs of each stage.

4.   Describe the products of the digitization project including websites, manuals, and documentation that you intend to complete. Indicate if you plan to present the results of the project in professional newsletters, conference presentations, and journal articles. Describe how you will market your program and its website with press releases, brochures, speeches, websites and other types of outreach. A public website describing the project's methods is required in addition to the site where people access the digitized materials.

5.   For people named in the proposal, provide a narrative explanation of the skills and qualifications that will make this project successful. Describe staff experience in digitizing or supervising digitization projects or closely related experience. In supplementary materials, provide a résumé of not more than two pages per person for all staff named in the project budget. For those staff to be hired for the project, provide job descriptions or the call for consultants.

6.   List four to six quantifiable performance objectives that will allow you and the Commission to evaluate the project following the submission of the final report. For example: how many digitized images will be available, what per-unit cost does the project achieve, how many people will hear presentations about the materials, and how many people will use the materials.

7.   Provide evidence of your institution's ability to follow the relevant federal financial and management regulations. In particular, address the nature of your financial management system(s). Please note how you will track actual grant and cost share expenses in comparison with budgeted expenses. In addition, explain how your personnel and management systems track the amount of time staff and consultants would spend on your project.

Project Summary

The Project Summary should be no more than 3 double-spaced pages in 12-pt type formatted for 8.5 x 11 inch paper with standard margins, and it should include these sections:

  • Project's Purpose and Significance
  • Methods
  • Plan of Work for the Grant Period
  • Products to be completed during the Grant Period
  • Names, Titles, Institutions, Phone Numbers, and E-Mail Addresses of the Project Director and Key Personnel
    Please ensure that the project director listed on this summary is the same person listed in Section 8 (f), of the SF 424. If your institution requires a different contact person on the SF 424, please explain in one sentence.
  • Performance Objectives

Supplementary Materials

Attach up to 20 pages of Supplementary Materials to your Narrative, including:

  • Résumés of named project staff (please use only institutional addresses and phone numbers) (required)
  • Position announcement for any new positions to be paid for by grant funds (required, if applicable)
  • Plan of work, indicating activities by month (required)
  • Samples from existing finding aid(s) or indexes for selected materials (required)
  • Institution's preservation plan for digital materials (if available)

If these materials are available on a web site, please provide a URL.

Project Budget

You must submit a budget on the NHPRC Budget Form available on the Application Instructions page. Note that the form itself contains additional instructions. You may include with your application a narrative budget supplement for budget categories that require further detail. Provide specific budget figures, rounding to the nearest dollar.

Applicants will be asked to compute the project costs to be charged to grant funds as well as those that will be supported by the applicant through cost sharing, which includes both direct and indirect expenses, in-kind contributions, non-Federal third-party contributions, and any income earned directly by the project.

If the project expects program income, it should be allocated among specific budget categories on the cost-sharing column of the project budget. The total amount of expected program income should be reported on page 13 of the NHPRC budget form under "Project Funding for Entire Grant Period." The same amount should appear on the Application for Federal Assistance, SF424, item 18f. Please use the narrative budget supplement to explain the calculation of the expected income and its allocation.

All of the items listed, whether supported by grant funds or cost-sharing contributions, must be reasonable and necessary to accomplish project objectives, allowable in terms of the applicable federal cost principles, auditable, and incurred during the grant period. Applicants should review the appropriate Office of Management and Budget circulars on cost principles.

Charges to the project for items such as salaries, fringe benefits, travel, and contractual services must conform to the written policies and established practices of the applicant organization. In addition, successful applicants will be required to certify that they have adequate accounting and timekeeping procedures to meet the Federal requirements.

Budget Categories

In preparing the budget, please follow the suggestions below in each of the categories:

Salaries:   List each staff position and the full salary to be charged to the project and show the percentage of time each staff member will devote to the project. Indicate which positions are to be filled for the proposed project and which personnel are already on the staff of the applicant institution. Grant funds may be used to pay the salaries of only those individuals actually working on the project. You may count the time provided to the project by advisory board members.

Fringe Benefits:   Include employee benefits using your organization's standard rates. No separate benefits should be included for positions that are computed at a daily rate or using honoraria.

Consultant Fees:   Include payments for consultant services and honoraria. Provide justification for large or unusual consultant fees. Include consultant travel expenses in the "Travel" category.

Travel:   Include transportation, lodging, and per diem expenses. The NHPRC does not fund staff travel to professional meetings unless the travel is essential to accomplish the goals of the project.

Supplies and Materials:   Include routine office supplies and supplies ordinarily used in professional practices. Justify the cost of specialized materials and supplies in a supplemental budget narrative.

Services:   Include the cost of duplication and printing, long-distance telephone, equipment leasing, postage, contracts with third parties, and other services that you are not including under other budget categories or as indirect-cost expenses. The costs of project activities to be undertaken by each third-party contractor should be included in this category as a single line item charge. Include a complete itemization of the costs in a supplemental budget narrative.

Other Costs:   Include costs for necessary equipment above $5,000, stipends for participants in projects, and other items not included in previous grant categories. The NHPRC does not provide grant funds for the acquisition of routine equipment such as office furnishings and file cabinets, but we may allow for the purchase of archival equipment, such as shelving units, and technical equipment, such as computers and peripherals, essential for a project. Include technical specifications for equipment over $5,000 in a supplemental budget narrative.

Submission Dates and Times

  • Draft (optional) Deadline: April 1, 2013
  • Final Deadline: June 11, 2013

Applications must be submitted electronically by midnight Eastern Time on June 11, 2013.

NHPRC support begins no earlier than January 1, 2014.

Deadline Policy: Given that technical or administrative difficulties with may periodically delay the timely submission or receipt of applications, the Commission staff will make provisions for the receipt of such applications past the established deadline. Under these circumstances, applicants with technical or administrative issues related to must contact NHPRC staff as soon as possible, but no later than by 3:00 PM Eastern Time on the published application deadline. Applications that fail to meet deadlines for reasons other than those noted will not be considered for funding.

Application Review Information

The NHPRC staff will acknowledge receipt of the application soon after we receive it. The following evaluation criteria and weights will be used by NHPRC staff and other reviewers to form recommendations:

Criteria for Digitizing Historical Records Projects

  1. The national significance of the records to be digitized. (40 percent)
  2. Ability to complete the project's proposed objectives, judged by the qualifications of the staff, prior experience in digitization, and the reasonableness of the work plan and budget (including cost share). (30 percent)
  3. The efficiency of the project, as judged by the likely output versus costs (cost per unit). (15 percent)
  4. Effectiveness of the dissemination plans for the digitized materials and project methods. (15 percent)

Application Review Process

After submitting a proposal, do not discuss the pending application to the NHPRC with any Member of the Commission. Commission Members must ensure fair and equitable treatment of all applications and do not discuss proposals with individual applicants.

  • State Boards
    Your State Historical Records Advisory Board may evaluate the application on technical merits as well as its relation to state plan priorities.
  • Peer Reviewers
    We may ask 5 to 7 external peer reviewers to evaluate the proposal.
  • Commission Staff
    Approximately 3 months after the submission deadline, the Project Director receives blind copies of reviewers' comments and questions from the Commission staff. Applicants have an opportunity to expand on the material provided in the application, clear up any misconceptions, and generally strengthen the proposal before the Commission meeting. Staff makes overall recommendations to the Archivist, who chairs the Commission, based on the appropriateness of the project in meeting the Commission's goals, the proposal's completeness, conformity to application requirements and overall eligibility, and answers to the questions letter.
  • The Commission
    After reviewing proposals, the comments of peer reviewers, the applicants' responses to the reviews, and evaluations by the Commission staff, Commission members deliberate on proposals and make funding recommendations to the Archivist of the United States who, as Commission Chairman, has final statutory authority and selects award recipients. Throughout this process, all members of the Commission and its staff follow conflict-of-interest rules to assure fair and equal treatment of every application.

Award Administration Information


Grants are contingent upon available appropriated funds. In some cases, the Commission will adjust grant amounts depending upon the number of recommended proposals, priorities, and total budget. The Commission may recommend that the Archivist approve the proposal and extend an offer of a grant with applicable terms and conditions, or it may recommend rejection of the proposal.

Grant applicants will be notified within 2 weeks after the Archivist’s decision.

Agency Contact

Applicants are encouraged to contact Nancy Melley, Director for Technology Initiatives, at 202-357-5452, or She can:

  • Advise the applicant about the review process;
  • Answer questions about what activities are eligible for support;
  • Supply samples of successful applications;
  • Read and comment on a preliminary draft. Applicants should submit a draft at least 2 months before the deadline.

Applicants may also contact your State Historical Records Advisory Board Coordinator about your proposal and seek the board's advice. Many state boards have requirements for submitting draft proposals with deadlines earlier than those of the NHPRC.

For more information on how to comply with Federal regulations, see our Administering a Grant section.

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