Key Historical and Records Preservation Bill Passes the Senate

WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) commended the Senate’s passage last night of his bipartisan legislation that will help struggling state and local governments protect their sensitive records – including historic documents and governmental records – from natural disasters and natural decay. Sen. Carper’s bill, S. 2872 reauthorizes appropriations up to $10 million a year until 2014 for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The bill will now go to the House of Representatives where a similar bill has already been introduced by Representative Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). 


The NHPRC is the 75-year-old grant-making body of the National Archives and is the only national grant-making organization in the nation whose sole focus is the preservation and publication of America’s documentary history. The NHPRC primarily supports the professional development of archivists, documentary editors and record-keepers through fellowships, institutes, conferences, workshops and other programs. In addition, the NHPRC has undertaken a number of projects that focus on the records of under-documented groups, such as Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and other ethnic and interest groups, in addition to social and political movements. Any grant money given by the NHPRC must be matched by outside funding.


"Helping state and local governments protect their sensitive records is a responsibility the Federal government has taken seriously for over 75 years," said Sen. Carper. "It can’t be said enough that without the NHPRC supporting the hard work of our nation’s archivists and historians we may have lost entire families’ – and towns’ – records. In fact, the NHPRC has been instrumental in protecting and preserving many Native American civilizations’ way of life. I am proud to support this important piece of legislation and look forward to the President signing it into law."


In recent years, the NHPRC has gained significant attention because of its efforts to leverage technology and help digitize state and local records in case of a major disaster. For example, grant money from NHPRC saved thousands of historical documents and governmental records in dozens of Louisiana towns affected by Hurricane Katrina and helped those local governments get back up and running without delay.


This bill follows on the heels of S.3477, the Presidential Historical Records Preservation Act of 2008, which required the National Archives to digitize the writings of the Founding Fathers’ and other prominent historical figures publications and publish them online. The bill also required the National Archivist to develop a prioritized capital improvement plan for federally maintained presidential libraries for all investments over $1 million.