Founding Fathers Advisory Committee Holds Inaugural Meeting

The Founding Fathers Advisory Committee (FFAC) held its initial meeting at the National Archives on December 13. The FFAC was established to provide the Archivist of the United States advice and recommendations on issues relating to the goals, performance, productivity and completion of the Founding Fathers papers projects currently being funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Archivist David S. Ferriero recently announced the appointment of three leading scholars to the Founding Fathers Advisory Committee. The Presidential Historical Records Preservation Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-404) authorized the establishment of this committee to study and advise on the progress of five ongoing projects as they publish – in print and online – authoritative editions of Founders’ writings. The five projects are the papers of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. A sixth Founders project–the Papers of Alexander Hamilton–has been completed but is not yet available online.

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 Founding Fathers Committee will also monitor the ongoing effort between the NHPRC and The University of Virginia (UVA) Press to make freely available online the historical documents of the Founders of the United States of America. A cooperative agreement of up to $2 million will allow users 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

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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 hopes 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.

Congress provided the NHPRC with $4.5 million in its fiscal year 2010 budget to fund the establishment of the Founding Fathers On-Line Initiative. $2 million of that funding will be used to begin to put the published volumes of the various projects online and the remaining $2.5 million will fund making the unpublished transcripts of the projects online. Additional funding will be required to maintain and upgrade this new resource past the development stage.