Publishing Historical Records
The NHPRC supports projects that publish documentary editions of historical records. Produced under rigorous standards, Commission-sponsored documentary projects make important primary source materials from all periods of American history more accessible and understandable. Projects focus on the papers of major figures from American history or cover broad historical movements in politics, social reform, business, military, the arts, and other aspects of the national experience.
In the course of our history, the Commission has funded or endorsed more than 300 projects that have preserved and published on microfilm, in print editions, and digital editions online. Many of these projects, which bring papers and documents together with annotations, have provided the backbone of research for well-known prize-winning works by historians and writers such as Walter Isaacson, David McCullough, Joseph Ellis, Jill Lepore, and Ron Chernow. In turn, those works have been instrumental in new works from the Broadway musical “Hamilton” to Ken Burns’s documentary “Vietnam.”
Organizations may apply through the Publishing Historical Records category, which currently has two annual deadlines. Grants are awarded for collecting, describing, preserving, compiling, transcribing, annotating, editing, encoding, and publishing documentary source materials online and in print. Because of the focus on documentary sources, grants do not support preparation of critical editions of published works unless such works are just a small portion of the larger project. All applicants should be aware that the application process is highly competitive.
All new projects must publish a digital edition which provides online access to a searchable collection of all documents. The NHPRC encourages projects to provide free access to online editions.
As part of its Strategic Plan, NHPRC began working with digital editions on ways to build a sustainable system for the digital publication and discovery of historical records.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the NHPRC formed a partnership to fund the Digital Editions Publishing Cooperatives program. In 2018, planning grants were awarded to eight cooperatives to build a sustainable system for the digital publication and discovery of historical records.