National Historical Publications & Records Commission

Access to Historical Records

The NHPRC supports projects that ensure online public discovery and use of historical records collections. All types of historical records are eligible, including documents, photographs, born-digital records, and analog audio and moving images. Grants have gone to local government archives, colleges and universities, and other nonprofit institutions. Approximately half of the NHPRC's funds since 1979 have helped preserve and make accessible literally millions of cubic feet of documents and records.


Applicants to the Access to Historical Records program may apply for Major Collaborative Archival Initiatives or Archival Projects support.

Our Major Collaborative Archival Initiatives program is for projects to:

  • digitize and publish online historical records as a "virtual" collection around a common theme, organization, or important historical figure(s); or
  • create and test new tools and methods for the archival field to enhance public access, especially for born-digital records.

Awards will be between $150,000 and $350,000.

Our Archival Projects program is for preserving and processing historical records to:

  • Convert existing description for online access
  • Create new online Finding Aids to collections
  • Digitize historical records collections and make them freely available online

Awards are for one or two years and for up to $150,000.


Click here for an Archival Projects Sample Application

Recent Major Initiatives Awards

Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center, Boston, MA
$229,048 to support a two-year project, in partnership with the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, to create the ARGO (American Revolutionary Geographies Online) portal of geographic depictions of North America (1750 -1800) curated from dozens of repositories. (RM103387-22)

Brown University, Providence, RI
$250,000 to support a two-year project called “Divided America,” which will digitize, and make available online, approximately 238,000 pages of material from small- to medium-sized issue-focused conservative groups between 1948 and 1999 and make them accessible through the Brown Digital Repository. (RM103389=22)

History Colorado, Denver, CO
$250,696 to support a two-year project to process and describe 253 linear feet of the Mazzulla Collection and digitize approximately 50,000 items from the collection. Fred Milo Mazzulla (1903-1981) was born in Trinidad, Colorado to Italian immigrants and became an amateur western historian, photographer, and writer, amassing a collection of more than 250,000 photographic images of the American West. (RM-103390)

Puerto Rico Public Broadcasting Corporation, San Juan, PR
$349,839 to support a project, in collaboration with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, to digitize and make available online 2,709 hours of radio broadcasts from public radio station WIPR, and make available an additional 5,000 hours of already-digitized broadcasts, dating since 1949. The project will also make available Spanish and English transcripts of the broadcasts, and encourage the public to participate in correcting the Spanish transcriptions. (RM103143-21)

Museum of Chinese in America, New York, NY
$150,000 to support a project to digitize and make available 150 oral histories drawn from 11 oral history collections: Waves of Identity, 8th Avenue in Sunset Park, Chino-Latino interviews, Performing Chinese America, 9/11 Chinatown documentation, tales of gentrification in Chinatown, Chinese Americans designers, stories of Chinese Americans food and identity and the Chinese American Diaspora. These audio and video recordings document a wide range of the lived experiences of Chinese Americans across the United States. (RM103142-21)

Washington State Archives, Olympia, WA
$90,000 to support a project to digitize the eastern division civil, criminal, probate, admiralty, and equity cases from the Washington Territory Court era (1853-1889). Plaintiffs and defendants represent all sectors of society in Eastern Washington from prominent citizens to lesser-known residents, and include records on divorce, vigilante justice, and public petitions. After digitization and online publication, the project will make the records available for citizen archivists to transcribe via the Scribe application. (RM103141-21)

Johnson C. Smith College, Charlotte, NC
$194,938 to support a collaborative project with partners from Special Collections at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Duke University’s Digital Humanities Lab to create an online exhibit on the effects of urban renewal in African American neighborhoods in Charlotte, North Carolina. The partners will digitize and provide contextualization of documents and other records in an augmented reality digital environment. The project aims to trace the impact of urban renewal strategies that resulted in “lost” communities. Users will learn about segregation, the Civil Rights Movement, the Fair Housing Act, Black entrepreneurship, social and voluntary club life, leadership, Black families and institutions. (RM103139-21)

Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH
$107,058 to support a project to reprocess and catalog the 226 linear feet of the Warren G. Harding Papers and provide a comprehensive finding aid. The papers document the life (1865-1923) of the 29th President of the United States, from his years in the newspaper business, time in the Senate, the 1920 presidential campaign, and his presidency.  (RM10315-21)

FY 2021 Archival Projects

Willamette University, Salem, OR
$98,075 to support an 18-month project to arrange, rehouse, and describe 298 linear feet of unprocessed materials from the records of Oregon’s long-serving statesman, U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield (R-OR, 1967-1997). The project will create and publish series descriptions, scope and content notes, and folder level listings for the Media and Constituent Services series within the broader Hatfield collection’s finding aid. (RH103030-21)

Delaware Public Archives, Dover, DE
$22,865 to support a project to digitize approximately 36 cubic feet of its Early Legislative Papers Collection dating from 1731 to 1860. The bulk of the collection covers the period from 1776 to 1792. (RH-103151-21) 

Science History Institute, Philadelphia, PA
$132,875 to support Science, War and Exile: Oral Histories of Immigration and Innovation, a project to increase access to 350 hours of oral histories with 70 scientists who immigrated to the United States. Using the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer tool, the Institute will add these interviews to its online digital collections. (RH-103153-21)

University of Georgia Research Foundation, Athens, GA
$81,727 to support a project to digitize and enhance the descriptive information for the correspondence and speeches of novelist, writer, and civil rights activist Lillian Smith housed at both the University of Georgia and the University of Florida. The collections total 37.5 linear feet and will be made available through the Digital Library of Georgia and the Digital Public Library of America. (RH-103156-21) 

Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ
$35,342 to support a project to process collections of papers of five pathbreaking New Jersey politicians:  Arthur A. Quinn (1856-1957), state legislator and labor leader, Bernard Michael Shanley (1903-1992) who served on the White House staff during the Eisenhower Administration, Richard Joseph Hughes (1909-1992),  New Jersey’s first Catholic governor (1962-1970), Brendan Byrne (1924-2018), governor of New Jersey from 1974 to 1982, and Donald Payne (1934-2012), first African American member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey (1989-2012). (RH-103158-21) 

University of North Texas, Denton, TX
$126,989 to support a project to digitize 1,804 hours of audio-visual material from The Black Academy  of Arts and Letters and transcribe 250 hours of speeches, lectures and literary readings drawn from African, African American and Caribbean arts and letters recorded between 1977 and 2013. (RH-103177-21)

Research Foundation of CUNY on behalf of Brooklyn College, New York, NY
$150,000 to support a project to catalog and digitize 62 hours of film footage from A Life Apart, a  documentary related to Hasidism in America, 1992-1996. The unused footage serves as  audiovisual field notes on the religious practices, cultural mores, communal  organization, family life, inter-communal relations, and the Americanization of a distinctive immigrant community from the end of WWII to the last decade of the 20th century. (RH-103183-21) 

Indianapolis Museum of Art, Inc., Indianapolis, IN
$95,700 to process 482 cubic feet and create finding aids of the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s administrative records from the director’s office and other museum departments, 1883-2017. (RH-103184-21)

Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, MD
$50,056 to support a project to digitize 18,000+ documents, dating from the mid-17th century to the mid-19th century, that make up the alienated government records found in the Maryland State Papers collected by John Thomas Scharf (1843 -1898).  As a member of the Maryland Historical Society, Scharf sought out and collected historical records from around the state, often rescuing them from certain loss and destruction. (RH-103188-21)

City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
$133,934 to support a two-year project to enhance discoverability and access to City of Pittsburgh archival collections, including City Council records, Board of Viewers’ case files, and City Planning Department records. The project will arrange, describe, and rehouse seven collections totaling approximately 750 cubic feet that document the period 1816 to 2006. (RH-103189-21)

Union College, Schenectady, NY
$149,710 to support a project to enhance the current finding aid and online access for the John Bigelow Collection. Bigelow (1817-1911) had a distinguished career as an author, abolitionist, newspaper editor,  diplomat, and influential public servant. He served as Consul General at Paris (1861-65)  and Minister to France (1865), was co-owner and co-editor with William Cullen Bryant of the New York Evening Post, and was a founder and the first president of the New York Public Library. (RH-103198-21)

University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
$116,916 to support a project to digitize approximately 192,700 pages of 3,854 silent film scores from Grauman’s Theatres. The collection includes complete sets of photoplay music and performance parts  for full orchestra with performers’ and theater managers’ markings and indicia that provide information about the way this body of music was used to accompany silent movies, from 1912 to 1929. (RH-103202-21)

Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence, RI
$41,939 to support Brave, Enterprising Spirits: Documenting Rhode Island Soldiers in the American Revolution, which will digitize and make available approximately 6,400 pages of Revolutionary War regimental and Providence Hospital records from 1775 to 1783. (RH-103203-21) 

University of California, San Francisco, CA
$149,814 to support a project to digitize and provide access to approximately 68,000 pages from the papers of five women who were pioneers in behavioral developmental pediatrics: Dr. Hulda Thelander, Dr. Helen Gofman, Dr. Selma Fraiberg, Dr. Leona Mayer Bayer, and Ms. Carol  Hardgrove. (RH-103206-21) 

Musical Arts Association, Cleveland, OH
$62,250 to support a project to digitize approximately 192,000 pages of program books dating from 1918 to 2009 that  document performances by the Cleveland Orchestra and provide online access to 6,400 program books on the orchestra’s website. (RH-103208-21) 


For a report that analyzes the results of mass digitization projects funded since 2006-2018, with a particular focus on the costs of such efforts, see: Cost-effective Large Scale Online Access.