The National Archives recently launched the Founders Online website [http://founders.archives.gov/]. This free online tool brings together the papers of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison in a single website that gives a first-hand account of the growth of democracy and the birth of the Republic.
Founders Online was created through a cooperative agreement between the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the grant-making arm of the National Archives, and The University of Virginia (UVA) Press.
The Founders Online project emerged from hearings of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held in February 2008. Inspired by the testimony of historians such as David McCullough, Congress provided funding and directed the Archivist of the United States to expedite public access to these founding documents through online publication.
Founders Online includes thousands of documents, replicating the contents of 242 volumes drawn from the
published print editions. As each new print volume is completed, it will be added to this database of documents.
In addition, all of the unpublished and in-process materials (about 55,000 documents) will be posted online over the next three years. Researchers will be able to view transcribed, unpublished letters as they are being researched and annotated by the editors and staff.
Altogether, some 175,000 documents are projected to be on the Founders Online site. This website promises to be of immense value for the public’s ability to understand the world and intentions of the nation’s founders. It will also provide a bold economic, educational, and technical model that will provide important lessons as we plan future efforts for online publication of historical materials.