National Historical Publications & Records Commission

Publishing Historical Records Projects FAQs

Publishing Historical Records Projects

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What changes does the modified grant announcement for Publishing Historical Records contain?

The modified Publishing Historical Records announcement requires that publishing project proposals "present plans for online publication of their editions, including methods of providing free access. These plans need not include provision for the retrospective conversion of material already published." The announcement also indicates that "the initial focus of . . . [previously unfunded] projects must be on the preparation of online editions." Moreover, projects must describe their plans to preserve their online products and provide continued access to them.

2. Will the Commission stop funding projects that are not producing free online editions?

The Commission's assessment of proposals will take account of digital publication plans. But the Commission's evaluation of a project is based on several factors, including the importance of the documents it plans to edit, the qualifications of its staff, the extent of its institutional support, and its productivity. Projects that do not submit plans for publishing free online editions will be significantly less competitive.

3. How soon should projects plan to publish their editions online?

Projects should plan to publish their editions online as soon as possible. The Commission is aware, however, that some projects will need adequate time to adjust existing workflows, obtain training, collaborate with others, and identify appropriate locations for their online editions.

4. What type of markup should projects employ?

Projects should describe their encoding plans in their proposals. In general, the Commission would prefer the use of TEI (Textual Encoding Initiative) tagging, but it is not required. TEI markup, which is the closest thing to a standard practice, will enable researchers to access texts through various current and future search engines, and would thus help ensure the permanence of these texts. But, projects that have published nearly all their volumes in one format might not be required to institute new procedures for their final volume(s). The ultimate goal will be retrospective conversion of previously published volumes, so that entire editions will be available online; but this goal is not likely to be realized in the immediate future. As an interim measure, projects may wish to prepare searchable PDF versions of their editions. Whatever their approach to this question, applicants should fully explain and justify their plans to provide intellectual access to their editions.

5. Can projects continue to publish on paper and/or microfilm? If projects raise outside funds to prepare publications, can these funds be counted as a cost-sharing contribution?

Projects may continue to publish on paper and/or microfilm, as well as electronically. Project contributions to the production of publications in any format, whether in the form of cash or such editorial work as copy-editing and indexing, may be counted as cost sharing. But, in such cases, projects will be responsible for maintaining the appropriate financial records, and for filing reports of the sales of book and/or microfilm editions.

6. Will the Commission provide additional funding to publishing projects to assist digital publication of their editions?

The Commission may provide funding to assist digital publication of editions it supports. At this time, any such support would be through grants to publishing projects, and not through a separate or additional program.

7. What information about digital publication plans should applicants include in their proposals?

Proposals should include the information requested in the Publishing Historical Records Announcement as described in the section on the Project Narrative:

Applicants should describe the total number of documents to be published online, both during the grant period and by the completion of the project. They should outline each stage of the planned work, clarifying complex work plans with time charts identifying anticipated activities, and indicating the project's anticipated year of completion. Applicants should provide detailed explanations of their plans for online publication, the technical standards to be used, and the strategies for long-term preservation.

Descriptions of digital publication plans should include, but need not be limited to, discussions of a project's current electronic publications, existing contracts and their provisions regarding electronic publication rights, discussions and/or informal agreements with book and/or digital publishers, possible partnerships with digital publishing centers, current project resources (in technology and personnel) for digital publishing, and requirements for training and possible opportunities for such training (e.g., ADE workshops, TEI tutorials or seminars, etc.).

Although not all publication plans may have been finalized, proposals should include specific steps that will be taken toward electronic publication during the proposed grant period, including such matters as editorial policies, technological capacity, and staff qualifications, with a view toward actual online publication as soon as possible. The Commission will expect projects to report periodically on their progress in laying the groundwork for electronic publication.

8. How much detail should projects provide in the plans? Does the NHPRC have any good examples of plans?

We can provide samples, but it will be helpful if applicants provide specific details on their own plans since digital technology is constantly evolving.

9. Would a project meet the mandatory online publication requirement if it had a free online component, but also a more elaborate subscription component?

It is the Commission's policy that whatever is produced with Commission assistance should be freely available on the Internet. This would not preclude projects from making materials produced without Commission funding available through online subscriptions.

10. Will projects that have already made their editions available on subscription websites such as Rotunda have to make their future volumes freely available on some other website?

This question will be relevant to several projects. Various issues are involved, and the Commission is giving this matter careful attention.

11. Should projects anticipate some sort of Commission initiative to create a single website on which documentary editions should be published? Will there be a standard search engine for which all editions should be tailored?

The Commission hopes that users will eventually be able to conduct searches across multiple editions. For the realization of this objective, some uniformity in markup, search engines, and user interfaces might be desirable. But various administrative, financial, and technical issues must be addressed before plans for a single web host for all editions could be implemented.

12. How should projects handle existing or future copyrights to their work completed with NHPRC funds?

Copyright issues are necessarily complex and each project may need to consult with its publisher as well as its institution to determine the rights to previously published material. As projects explore free, online publication, they also may want to incorporate less-restrictive copyright statements that will make it easier for researchers to cite the project's work. Projects may find it useful to review the options available at Creative Commons, ( that can help balance access while still protecting intellectual creation.

13. If the editors don't have the electronic rights to the volume, what sort of plan/project is NHPRC envisioning? Will grant funds be available to purchase the digital publication rights when these are held by publishers of book editions?

If a book publisher holds the electronic publication rights to your edition, you should determine whether you can regain these rights for a fee, or whether your publisher will permit you to make volumes of your edition freely available online as soon as possible after they have appeared in print.

14. If the NHPRC wants something maintained over time, there will be a charge. What proportion of the project as a whole and for what period of time, would it need to be freely available in order to qualify as free for NHPRC's purposes?

The Commission would like a project to be free 24 hours a day and seven days a week and to have the entire project freely available to the public.

15. What would be the Commission's attitude toward the online publication of transcriptions without annotation or other explanatory material?

The Commission recognizes that this is a transition period. But the Commission would eventually like to see all of the material produced with the Commission's support freely available online.

16. What interim steps would NHPRC welcome?

Although its ultimate goal is making complete editions freely available online, including retrospective conversion of previously published volumes, the Commission understands that some projects may need to approach this objective through such intermediate steps as website presentation of selected documents (in the form of images or transcriptions) with or without annotation or other explanatory material, PDF versions of printed volumes, guides to microfilm editions, indexes to printed volumes, databases, and curriculum guides.

Prepared: February 2012