National Historical Publications & Records Commission

Access to Historical Records: Major Initiatives FAQs

What is the purpose of this program?

The purpose of the program is to significantly increase public access to major historical records by using collaborative and innovative techniques that address needs in the profession and actively engage the public in the work of the project.

How long have you been funding these types of projects?

The Archivist of the United States awarded the first grants for this program in November 2017. For a description of funded projects, see the list of awards.

What’s the difference between Access to Historical Records – Major Initiatives and Access to Historical Records – Archival Projects?

There a number of significant differences between these two programs, including the cost share requirement and the amount of grant funds available. The Commission expects Major Initiatives applicants to undertake a more ambitious approach by working in collaboration with other institutions and/or innovation in the field of archives. Prospective applicants should contact Nancy Melley ( if they wish to discuss which of these two programs fits best with their project.

Can you provide a sample of a successful preliminary application?

Absolutely. Please contact Nancy Melley ( and provide a brief description of the project you intend to undertake, and she will provide you with a sample best tailored to advise your project.

Please keep in mind that each successful preliminary proposal’s work plan may differ modestly or even radically with the full proposal submitted by the applicant.

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 born digital and 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.

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

Yes, and in fact the Commission encourages applicants to present cross-institutional approaches to make significant historical records collections available to the public. 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 – Major Initiatives program once each year. Applicants are required to submit a Preliminary Proposal, which includes a SF-424, NHPRC budget form, and 5-page narrative.

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

Please reference the grant announcement for full program details and application instructions.

What happens after I apply?

After you have submitted a preliminary application, NHPRC staff will send your proposal to 6-8  peer reviewers drawn from archives and related professions, all of whom have some expertise with the subject matter or record formats of the project. They will comment on and score your project's narrative and budget. Based on those evaluations, the Commission staff will invite a select number of applicants to submit full proposals. All Preliminary Proposal applicants will receive the reviewers’ comments.

How much money are we expected to contribute?

The NHPRC requires at least 50 percent of the total project costs to be borne by the applicant and its partners 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 often 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.