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The Records Program supports preservation microfilming projects involving deteriorating documents with significance for research in American history. These documents are typically in a state of physical deterioration which prevents their being made available for research use or which might lead to their destruction if research use of the originals were continued. Microfilming projects supported by the Records Program ordinarily film entire collections or groups of records within one institution or one type of institution in an area. If a project involves the gathering and selection of documents in many locations with the primary purpose of the project being to improve access through the sale and wide distribution of a microform product, the applicant should submit the proposal to the NHPRC's Publications Program.

The NHPRC has developed microform guidelines for use by both grant programs. These guidelines are periodically revised to reflect changes in technical standards and other developments relating to the creation and use of microforms. Applicants should request these guidelines and study them carefully prior to preparing a proposal seeking support for microform activities. Familiarity with the guidelines' provisions is essential if appropriate project workplans and budgets are to be developed. The Commission requires applicants to submit a signed "Microform Guidelines Agreement" with all proposals involving microform work. This agreement indicates the applicant's commitment to adhere to Commission standards for any work undertaken wholly or partially with grant funds. A "Publisher/Vendor Supplement" to the microform guidelines, including a special "Microform Publisher/Vendor Agreement," is also available.

In all microform proposals, applicants should indicate the specific technical standards to be followed regarding equipment, filming, processing, quality control, storage of the film master, and generation of distribution copies of the film. If filming is to be done in-house by the applicant, the proposal should discuss the applicant's previous experience with microfilm projects and plans to involve qualified staff. If filming is to be done by a service bureau or other contractor, the proposal should describe how the contractor has been or will be selected, the contractor's qualifications for the task (i.e., experience in filming similar materials), and the terms of the contract, especially those relating to technical standards and quality control.

Microform proposals should describe any proposed new finding aid or the adaptation of an existing finding aid for use with the film. The Commission gives preference to microform projects in which the product is made available to users through loan and sale copies.


A wide range of projects and activities relating to electronic records and the use of automated techniques in archives is eligible for records program support. Development of archival programs for electronic records, conferences relating to archival computer systems, automated databases of descriptive information about holdings, and publications and educational programs relating to archival automation are some of the activities that have already received Commission funding. Because of the expense and technical complexity of many projects involving automation and electronic records, applicants should investigate the experience of others in these fields and build on their successful approaches and recommendations.

The Commission encourages projects which investigate archival issues and problems, such as standards and suitability for archival use, of new types of electronic media. Applications for projects to develop archival programs for electronic records should take a life-cycle approach, paying particular attention to records management strategies, adequacy of documentation, appraisal criteria, and the provision of reference service for archivally accessioned materials. The Commission encourages cooperative, interinstitutional or interagency approaches to these problems. The Commission will not provide grant funds to create machine-readable files of data extracted or copied from non-machine-readable primary or secondary sources (an example would be a computerized file of census data copied from original manuscript census forms).

The Commission will, however, provide funding for the transfer of historically significant machine-readable data from non-standard or technologically outmoded electronic storage media, such as punched cards, to more contemporary forms, such as magnetic tape, for preservation and use. Such applications should describe carefully the environmental conditions under which the new storage media will be housed after transfer; transfers should be made only to those media which conform to accepted national standards for long-term preservation. Applications to accession, arrange, process, and preserve machine-readable files should discuss carefully the archival and historical research value and retrievability of the information contained in the records.

Archival projects focusing on or incorporating automated techniques are frequently supported by records grants. The Commission encourages all applicants to use automated techniques, such as word processing, if they will improve the project's effectiveness and efficiency of operation. The Commission may consider supporting the rental or purchase cost of technical equipment, software, and similar items if the applicant satisfactorily justifies the need for such equipment for project work. The purchase or rental of such items, however, should not be the dominant focus of the grant request or grant budget. Applicants requesting funds for outright purchase of equipment must show that this will result in significant savings over rental or lease costs during the grant period. The Commission prefers to support equipment purchase on a 50-50 cost-sharing or matching basis.

Proposals involving the development and use of automated systems should describe in detail (including samples) the format and content of the records and the final products to be created, the equipment and programs to be used, the standards to be followed and/or created by the project, provisions for public access to the data included in the system, and plans for security backup of files and ongoing maintenance of the data following the grant project. Budgets should list costs for individual items and should indicate the basis for cost determination, such as vendor quotes or hourly rates for computer time.

The Commission recommends the use of hardware and operating systems which reflect dominant industry and professional standards and trends, and applications software whose suitability for archival applications has been or can be clearly demonstrated. In order to ensure the selection of appropriate equipment and computer software, applicants are encouraged to prepare an analysis of their institution's functional requirements and general automation needs prior to approaching the Commission for funding of specific automation projects and to include a summary of this analysis in the narrative portion of their application. Although funds are occasionally provided for computer software development, the Commission feels that in most cases off-the-shelf software, established networks and turnkey systems, or existing in-house systems will provide the most cost-effective, long-term solutions.

The Commission encourages, when appropriate, the use of the United States Machine-Readable Cataloging (USMARC) formats, such as the Archival and Manuscripts Control (AMC) and Visual Materials (VM) formats. Conformity to standards promulgated by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and similar organizations is also recommended.

Applicants are encouraged to discuss applications relating to archival automation and electronic records with Commission staff prior to submission of formal proposals.


Chairman (ex officio)

Archivist of the United States
Don W. Wilson

United States Senate

Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland

United States House of Representatives

Lindy C. (Mrs. Hale) Boggs of Louisiana

United States Supreme Court

Harry A. Blackmun, Associate Justice

Presidential Appointees

Albert J. Ossman, Jr., Bethany College
William A. Schambra

Department of State

William Z. Slany, Director, Historical Office

Department of Defense

Alfred Goldberg, Historian, Office of the Secretary

Library of Congress

James Hutson, Chief, Manuscript Division

American Association for State and Local History

David H. Hoober, State Archivist of Arizona

American Historical Association

Carol K. Bleser, Clemson University

Association for Documentary Editing

Warren M. Billings, University of New Orleans

National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators

William S. Price, Jr., North Carolina Department of Cultural

Resources, Division of Archives and History

Organization of American Historians

Norman A. Graebner, University of Virginia

Society of American Archivists

Helen W. Samuels, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

(July 1989)


Richard A. Jacobs

Executive Director

Nancy A. Sahli

Director, Records Program

Richard A. Cameron

Assistant Director for State Programs

Lisa B. Weber

Assistant Director for Technological Evaluation

Laurie A. Baty

Grants Analyst

Daniel A. Stokes

Grants Analyst

Sandra P. Anderson

Program Assistant, Grant Administration

Delores G. Taylor


Mailing Address (Regular or Express Deliveries)

National Archives Building
Washington, DC 20408

The Records Program office is located in Suite 607 of the National Archives Building, 8th and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC.

Telephones: (202) 523-5386

Records Program Staff

(202) 523-5384

Executive Director
Program Assistant (Grant Administration)

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