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 Initiatives or Archival Projects support.

The Major Initiatives category funds projects to significantly improve public discovery and use of major historical records collections. Projects may:

  • Digitize historical records collections, or related collections, held by a single institution and make them freely available online
  • Create new freely-available virtual collections drawn from historical records held by multiple institutions
  • Provide access to born-digital records
  • Create new tools and methods for users to access records

The NHPRC welcomes collaborative projects, particularly for bringing together related records from multiple institutions. Projects that address significant needs in the field and result in replicable and scalable approaches will be more competitive. We also encourage organizations to actively engage the public in the work of the project.

The Archival Projects category, which is designed to increase the diversity of applicants by requiring a 25 percent cost-share requirement, awards grants to assist organizations preserve and process historical records to:

  • Create new online Finding Aids to collections
  • Digitize historical records collections and make them freely available online

Leadership Initiative

As part of its Strategic Plan, NHPRC created the two new funding categories in Access to Historical Records, and the first grants were awarded in 2018. Staff have prepared a report that analyzes the results of mass digitization projects funded since 2006, with a particular focus on the costs of such efforts: Cost-effective Large Scale Online Access.