Bill to “Preserve America’s Historical Record” Introduced

On May 14, 2008, the “Preserving the American Historical Record Act (PAHR)” (H.R. 6056) was introduced by Congressmen Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Chris Cannon (R-UT). The PAHR legislation would establish a new federal program of formula grants to the states and territories to support archives and historical records at the state and local level. This week’s introduction of the PAHR bill marks the culmination of years of effort by the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) , the Society of American Archivists (SAA), and the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administration (NAGARA).

The National Coalition for History has endorsed the PAHR bill and urges you to contact your House member to ask that they co-sponsor the bill. The original co-sponsors for the bill are: Sanford Bishop (GA), Joseph Crowley (NY), Eliot Engel (NY), Steve Israel (NY), Carolyn Maloney, (NY), Jim McDermott (WA), James McGovern MA), John McHugh (NY), Jerrold Nadler,(NY) and Edolphus Towns, (NY).

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) would administer the Preserving the American Historical Records program. PAHR would be entirely separate from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The legislation authorizes $50 million a year for five years for the initiative to preserve and provide access to historical records by supporting:

  • The creation of a wide variety of access tools, including archival finding aids, documentary editions, indexes, and images of key records online;
  • Preservation actions to protect historical records from harm, prolong their life, and preserve them for public use, including digitization projects, electronic records initiatives, and disaster preparedness and recovery;
  • Initiatives to use historical records in new and creative ways to convey the importance of state, territorial, and community history, including the development of teaching materials for K-12 and college students, active participation in National History Day, and support for life-long learning opportunities; and
  • Programs to provide education and training to archivists and others who care for historical records, ensuring that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to fulfill their important responsibilities.

Base funding would be provided to each state or territory, with the remainder of funding distributed using a population/area-based formula. A 50 percent match for any funding awards would be required of state and local partners.