NHPRC May 2009 Meeting

On May 27, 2009, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) recommended to the Archivist of the United States 82 grants of $5.9 million for projects in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

NHPRC Director Kathleen Williams provided a status report on the current fiscal year’s budget, and the Obama administration’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget that was recently sent to Congress. Ms. Williams noted that NHPRC staff is now seeing an impact of the downturn in the economy on the program. For example, some on-going projects are seeking increases in NHPRC funding as a result of reductions in the amount they receive from the private sector or from host institutions. In addition, new projects have been unable to file applications because, without private sector funds, they cannot meet the minimum threshold to qualify for NHPRC grants.

As we noted in our recent story on the NHPRC’s FY ’10 budget, the good news is that the Administration is proposing $10 million for grants and the annual battle to stave off the elimination of the NHPRC will not have to be fought again this year.

However NARA’s “2010 Performance Budget—Congressional Justification” recommends apportioning the $10 million in funding amongst three program areas. The Founding Fathers Online initiative would receive $4.5 million. The NHPRC’s existing program of publishing historical records of key individuals and movements in documentary editions would receive $2 million. In addition, the archives preservation, access, and digitization grants that go mainly to assist states in their archival programs would receive $3.5 million.

The result is a slightly bigger pie, but 45 percent of it will go to the Founding Fathers initiative, in reality meaning less funding for the NHPRC’s traditional core programs.

In testimony submitted to Congress on the NHPRC’s FY ’10 budget request, the National Coalition for History argued that the Congress created the NHPRC to make precisely the kind of resource allocation decisions the Administration proposes in its FY 2010 budget request. NCH believes Congress should leave these funding decisions to those with the professional expertise to determine priorities, not to bureaucrats at the Office of Management and Budget who sought throughout the Bush administration to eliminate the program altogether.