National Archives to Put the Founders Online
Press Release · Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Washington, DC…The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the grantmaking arm of the National Archives, is pleased to announce a cooperative agreement with The University of Virginia (UVA) Press to make freely available online the historical documents of the Founders of the United States of America.

The NHPRC and UVA Press will create a new web site which provides access to the fully annotated published papers of key figures in the nation’s Founding era. The project is designed to include the papers of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin. The National Historical Publications and Records Commission will provide funding in the amount of up to $2 million for the UVA Press to undertake the work on the published papers.

Through this web resource, users will be able to read, browse, and search tens of thousands of documents from the Founding Era. A prototype web site including the contents of 154 volumes drawn from print editions of the papers of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison will be prepared by October 2011. The fully public version will be launched by June 2012 and will also include the 27 volumes of the Papers of Alexander Hamilton. By June 2013, the Founders Online expects to add the 39 published volumes of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin. The new resource will include the complete contents of 242 printed volumes, including all of the existing document transcriptions and the editors’ explanatory notes.

“This new archive of the Founding Era will revolutionize our understanding,” said David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, “by creating for the first time a free and fully searchable collection of the Founders’ own words in the context of their time. As scholars and statesmen debate the meaning of documents such as the Constitution and Bill of Rights, they can turn to the originals and the wit and wisdom of the Founders’ own debates. And we can only express our gratitude for the effort of dedicated editors and scholars to create this work, a national monument to the founding of our nation.”

This award to help the University of Virginia Press create a new online presence for the papers of our nation's founders is great news for the University and for scholars everywhere," said University President Teresa Sullivan. "For ten years, the Press has built on the pioneering vision of U.Va. faculty to harness digital technology in the service of scholarship and education through the Rotunda imprint. As a public university, we applaud the leadership of the National Archives in bringing this important archive to life. Making these materials available to the public for free reflects the core values of the University and indeed of our nation's founding generation, whose words will now be readily available to teachers, students, and citizens.”

Historian Ron Chernow, author of the recent biography Washington: A Life, said, “Unfortunately, the Founders have become remote and abstract, when in fact they are rich, full-blooded, and fiery characters. This new site will not only help students learn more deeply and develop a visceral love and respect for this era, but it will stimulate interest in history for teachers, too, and will reconnect them to primary sources.”

In conjunction with entering into the cooperative agreement, Archivist David S. Ferriero also announced the appointment of three leading scholars to a special Founding Fathers Advisory Committee. The three members are Edward L. Ayers, President of University of Richmond, and leading scholar on the Civil War and American South; Mary Beth Norton, Professor of American History at Cornell University, and leading scholar on the social and political era of the 17th and 18th century America; and David Hackett Fisher, Professor of History at Brandeis, a leading scholar on the colonial era and Pulitzer Prize-winner author of Washington’s Crossing (2004). The Committee will advise the Archivist on the progress of the Founders’ editorial projects, and it is scheduled to meet at the National Archives on December 13, 2010.

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For press information, contact NHPRC Communications Director Keith Donohue at 202.357-5365 or See more information about the NHPRC [].


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