National Historical Publications & Records Commission

NHPRC News -- February 2021

Mellon Foundation Awards Grant for Start-up Digital Editions

With generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Archives will offer new grants aimed at expanding cultural diversity in American history. The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) will manage the new grants program, funded at $2.35 million, for digital historical records projects.

“Thanks to our continued partnership with The Mellon Foundation, we will be able to share and amplify the voices of previously marginalized groups,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “These are important voices in American history and deserve to be heard. This has been an extraordinary time of dialogue and debate on the complicated issues of representation, opportunity, race, and rights. While there have been historic strides on many fronts, projects like this NHPRC/Mellon grant program will help as we continue to strive for a more perfect union."

The goals of this new program, titled Start-Up Grants for Collaborative Digital Editions in African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and Native American History, include:

  • Reaching out to minority researchers, especially those currently studying history and ethnic studies, and providing specialized training and support in documentary editing;
  • Encouraging and supporting innovative and collaborative re-thinking of American History— how it is conceived, whose voices it centers, and for what purposes;
  • Promoting planning and development of digital projects rooted in African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and Native American history and ethnic studies; and,
  • Bridging longstanding institutional inequities by promoting resource sharing and capacity building at all levels.

Grants will be awarded to collaborative teams with an emphasis on those at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges, and/or other Indigenous and Native American tribal scholars and community members, and members of the Asian American community. Priority will be given to start-up projects on historical topics that often fall outside the purview of mainstream history and humanities textbooks. The initial call for proposals deadline is June 9, 2021. Additional application information, including details and eligibility, is available online at

Three Named to Commission

Three new representatives have been named to the National Historical Publications and Records Commission since our latest issue.

refer to caption

Jonathan Bronitsky

President Donald J. Trump named Jonathan Bronitsky as a Presidential Appointee, replacing Naomi  Nelson. Dr. Bronitsky  is the Co-Founder of ATHOS, an agency that specializes in strategic messaging and literary representation. He has served as Chief Speechwriter to the U.S. Attorney General and Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice and as Principal Director at the U.S. Agency for Global Media. He has also designed and managed communications ventures for several public relations firms, and his writings have appeared in a number of national publications. Dr. Bronitsky received both his PhD in History and MPhil in International Relations from the University of Cambridge, and is a summa cum laude graduate of The Pennsylvania State University.

refer to caption

Beth English, Organization of American Historians

The Organization of American Historians has appointed its Executive Director Beth English as its representative on the Commission. She received her PhD in US History from the College of William and Mary, where she was a Glucksman Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor. She has also taught at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to her post at the OAH, she was Director of the Project on Gender in the Global Community at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs. English’s research and teaching focus on historical and contemporary labor and working class issues, gender, workplace cultures, and the US and Global Souths. She is the author of A Common Thread: Labor, Politics, and Capital Mobility in the Textile Industry (UGA Press 2006), co-editor of Global Women’s Work: Perspectives on Gender and Work in the Global Economy (Routledge, 2018), and author of numerous articles, chapters, and working papers. Her research has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the International Labour Organization. She replaces George Miles.

refer to caption

Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Society of American Archivists

The Society of American Archivists has appointed Tanya Zanish-Belcher as its representative to the Commission. She is the director of Special Collections and Archives and university archivist for Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Previously she held the position of curator of Archives of Women in Science and Engineering and Special Collections department head/associate professor at Iowa State University. She earned her BA from Ohio Wesleyan University (with honors in history) and an MA from Wright State University (historical and archival administration). Zanish-Belcher served as the 73rd President of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) in 2017–2018, following a year as Vice President. She is also a past president (2009–2011) of the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) and was a member of the SAA Council (2012–2015) and the SAA Foundation Board of Directors (2016-2020). She was a member of the NHPRC-funded Archives Leadership Institute Steering Committee (2013-2018) and was named an SAA Fellow in 2011. She is replacing Dennis Meissner.

Continuing Operations

In response to the national health emergency, staff at the National Historical Publications and Records Commission have been working remotely since mid-March, 2020. We are continuing to monitor open projects, and based on Office of Management and Budget guidance, we are looking for ways to assist your organizations. Please share with your Program Officer via email with any concerns you have due to the COVID-19 restrictions. You can find contact information on our website at


Grant Deadlines 

Archives Collaboratives

For projects to plan and develop a working collaborative designed to enhance the capacity of small and diverse organizations with historical records collections. 

  • Final Deadline: June 9, 2021

Access to Historical Records: Major Initiatives 

For projects that will significantly improve public discovery and use of major historical records collections.

This program has two phases. You must submit a Preliminary Proposal. Selected applicants will then be invited to submit a Final Proposal

State Board Programming Grants

For projects that strengthen the nation’s archival network through activities undertaken by state historical records advisory boards.

  • Final Deadline:  June 9, 2021

Institutes for Historical Editing

For projects to develop and administer basic and advanced Institutes for Historical Editing.

  • Final Deadline:  June 9, 2021

Publishing Historical Records in Documentary Editions

For projects to publish documentary editions of historical records.

This program has two deadline options:

  • Final Deadline:  June 9, 2021

  • Final Deadline:  October 7, 2021

NHPRC-Mellon Start-Up Grants for Collaborative Digital Editions in African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and Native American History

For projects to publish collaborative digital editions in African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and Native American History.

  • Final Deadline: June 9, 2021


News from the Field

Up and away!

refer to caption

1940s photograph by Vern Linderoth, part of the collections of the Schoolcraft County Historical Society.

The NHPRC has awarded Northern Michigan University (NMU) a $100,000 grant to launch UPLINK, a collaborative, regional digital network that will enable heritage organizations in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to preserve historical manuscript collections and offer online public access. 

NMU will be the home base for the project archivist. It will also serve as the principal service hub among three in the region capable of converting photographs, text and analog audio-visual media to a digital format.

“The U.P. supplied much of the mineral and timber resources that fueled industrialization in the United States during the latter half of the 19th century and through much of the 20th,” said NMU Archivist Marcus Robyns, who initiated the effort. “Despite this important past, the U.P. has struggled to identify, collect and preserve its documentary heritage. Most museums, archives and libraries are not well funded and short-staffed, primarily with volunteers. This has resulted in considerable challenges for preservation and access to important historical records, making digitization projects nearly impossible.”

With support from an NMU faculty research grant, Robyns visited 17 U.P. heritage organizations during the summer of 2019 and received nine responses to an online survey from those he was unable to visit. These represent about 80 percent of the heritage institutions in the Upper Peninsula.

“The majority of U.P. heritage institutions do not actively collect or manage digital records,” he said. “Those that do digitization work overwhelming digitize photographic material from their collections in-house, mainly at a volunteer's home using personal equipment. The majority of backup procedures are rudimentary, with digital content maintained on hard drives, flash drives, CDRs or DVDs. No organization has digitized a complete manuscript collection composed of different analog formats.”

As the principal service hub, NMU will host the project website on a dedicated server. The website will also serve as a portal to ArchivesSpace collection finding aids, Preservica's Universal Access page and digital objects uploaded to Digital Public Library of America

A governing board comprised of representatives from NMU, Michigan Technological University, Lake Superior State University and five member heritage organizations will manage the proposed network.

For more information, visit UPLINK at

For more information on the Archives Collaboratives grant program, go to

James Baldwin and the River Styx

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” -- James Baldwin

Novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and activist, James Baldwin (1924-1987) explored in his work racial, sexual, and class distinctions in the Western society of the United States during the mid 20th century. His best known works include Notes of a Native Son (1955), The Fire Next Time (1963), No Name in the Street (1972), and an unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, was expanded and adapted for cinema as the Academy Award–nominated documentary film I Am Not Your Negro (2016).

The NHPRC supported a project at Washington University in St. Louis to digitize the recorded readings from the River Styx poetry series. Here you can listen to Baldwin reading from his work at Duff's restaurant in St. Louis on November 14, 1984:

Washington University has other materials related to Baldwin, and you can find out more at

Dick Whittington Collection

Hikers in the Hollywood Hills, 1932 comes from the Dick Whittington Collection at the University of Southern California. The Whittington Studio was the largest and finest photography studio in the Los Angeles area from 1924 to 1987. Specializing in commercial photography, the Whittington Studio took photographs for nearly every major business and organization in Los Angeles; in so doing, they documented the growth and commercial development of Los Angeles.

Clients included Max Factor, the Broadway, Bullock's, and May Co. department stores, the California Fruit Growers Association, Signal Oil, Shell Oil, Union Oil, Van de Kamp's bakeries, Forest Lawn, Sparkletts Water, CBS, Don Lee Television, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, real estate developers, construction companies, automobile, aircraft, and railroad companies, and drive-in theaters. Another notable client was the University of Southern California, which contracted with the Whittington Studios for coverage of athletics and other events.

There are many other subjects as well, including this group of hikers. You can read more about their history at

An NHPRC grant to USC is supporting "Invisible L.A.," a project to digitize approximately 37,000 photograph negatives that document Los Angeles from the late 1930s through the end of World War II and publish a portion on the USC Digital Library and the Digital Public Library of America. In addition, the project will document procedures for a mass digitization technique suitable for damaged photo negatives that can serve as a model for other institutions with large photographic holdings.

You can see more at

Valley Forge

Signs of trouble showed up early in the winter of 1777-78. Writing from Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, George Washington sent a letter to Henry Laurens on December 22, 1777

"I do not know from what cause this alarming deficiency, or rather total failure of Supplies arises: But unless more vigorous exertions and better regulations take place in that line and immediately, This Army must dissolve. I have done all in my power, by remonstrating—by writing to—by ordering the Commissaries on this Head from time to time, but without any good effect, or obtaining more than a present scanty relief. Owing to this, the march of the Army has been delayed upon more than One interesting occasion in the course of the present Campaign—and had a body of the Enemy crossed Schuylkill this morning, as I had reason to expect from the intelligence I received at Four oClock last night, the Divisions which I ordered to be in readiness to march & meet them could not have moved. It is unnecessary for me to add more upon the subject. I refer Congress to the Copies, by one of which they will perceive how unfavourable also our prospect is, of having any considerable supplies of Salt provisions for the ensuing Year.

I would also take the liberty of reminding Congress of the necessity of filling, as soon as possible, the Offices of Quarter Master and Adjutant General.These posts are of infinite importance and without appointments to them, it will be impossible to conduct the affairs of the Army."

You can read the full letter, part of the NHPRC-supported George Washington Papers, at and discover more by searching for "Valley Forge"

The Peabody Award Archives

The Peabody Awards were presented for the first time in 1941 to honor excellent programs in broadcasting. Before the decade was over, the Awards included television programming, and by the end of the 20th century, cable television was a new category, and digital programs were honored for their part in telling the American story.

An NHPRC grant to the University of Georgia  went to support a partnership with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting to digitize and make available online 3,477 (approximately 4,000 hours) of public radio and television programs (1941-1999) submitted for Peabody Awards by 230 stations across the country. The Peabody Awards honor the most powerful and enlightening stories in television, radio, and online. Archivists at the University of Georgia’s Brown Media Archives collaborate with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting Library, which is a partnership of the Library of Congress and WGBH Education Foundation. Documenting local, state, and national history, the collection ranges from children’s programming to documentary to news series.

Peabody Spotlight is a digital series that draws from the vast Peabody Archive, one of the largest repositories of audiovisual materials in the United States. Peabody Spotlight focuses on significant societal issues as represented through the storytelling of Peabody Award winners and finalists, as well as more than 75 years of broadcasting’s best programming.

In “Black Power & Creative Expression,” the Peabody Spotlight focuses on three artists whose work was profoundly affected by the Civil Rights Movement: singer Nina Simone, photographer Gordon Parks and the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. 

To see the archival footage, go to