Helping Smaller Archival Repositories Preserve Their Collections and Make Them Accessible

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As I mentioned in a previous blog, the NHPRC is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the State Historical Records Advisory Boards (SHRABs) in 2015. The SHRABs in many of the states have received funding for regrant programs that permit them to make small grants of their own. These regrant funds are often awarded to smaller historical societies, museums, libraries, and colleges for projects that would not necessarily be competitive at the Federal level. Through state regrant programs, many hundreds of institutions have benefited from approximately $7,000,000 in funding.

For many records repositories, adequate funding is not available for something as basic as purchasing all of the archival supplies that are needed in order to adequately preserve their collections. Regrant funds have helped to address this need. For example, recent regrant awards made by the Oklahoma Board are allowing the Will Rogers Memorial Museum and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum to purchase archival supplies for rehousing collections of family papers and rodeo photographs. In Ohio, the state board provided funding so that the Warren County Historical Society could place the photographic collection of The Western Star, Ohio’s longest running newspaper (1807-2012), in archival folders and boxes, and for Otterbein University to properly rehouse the papers of Walter G. Clippinger, the university’s president from 1909 to 1939.

Although purchasing archival supplies is one of the most common uses of regrant funds, many other types of projects are also funded. The Arizona Archives Alliance, for example, was awarded funding for a symposium focusing on the role of archivists in addressing issues of social justice in their collecting. Many other institutions have engaged the services of a consultant, hired staff to process collections, or participated in archival training.

In recent years, an increasing number of regrant projects have focused on the digitization of a wide variety of records, including government documents, oral history interviews, maps, and photographs. Unfortunately, many of the institutions that undertake digitization projects only make these digital images available onsite.  In addition, many repositories that use regrant funds to process collections do not make their finding aids available online.

In 2015, the first grants under the NHPRC’s new State Board Programming Grants program are being awarded. With these grants, the NHPRC is placing a greater emphasis on using regrant funds to ensure that smaller repositories have the capacity to place finding aids and digital images online so that a broader range of historical documentation is widely available. For many citizens, it is the records that document their local communities that are the most important to them.  The NHPRC is working to see that these records are easily accessible.

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One Response to Helping Smaller Archival Repositories Preserve Their Collections and Make Them Accessible

  1. Deborah Garwood says:

    Thank you Dan for this news. I’m pursuing my MSLIS online, specializing in archives. Several themes in your post, such as the funding for archival supplies, archivists grappling with ethics, and online access to digitized archival images, echo important and long-standing issues in the archives field. The 2015 initiative is timely and strategic! Increasing access is perhaps the most urgent issue today, because greater public awareness of archives brings their rich holdings to life in social discourse.

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