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Monday, October 17, 2016

National Efforts Directed at Digitizing Records and Documents

The U.S. National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration "supports a wide range of activities to preserve, publish, and encourage the use of documentary sources, created in every medium ranging from quill pen to computer, relating to the history of the United States." The NHPRC supports major archive initiatives to digitize historically significant collections and make them freely available online. Quoting from the NHPRC's Facebook page:
We have a new grant program that may interest you. The program offers up to $350,000 for major archives initiatives with an emphasis on innovation and collaboration. The new Access to Historical Records – Major Initiatives program is designed to broaden public access to historical and cultural records. There’s a five-page preliminary proposal due by 19 January 2017. The Commission will then invite a select number of applicants to submit a full proposal. 
Does your institution need to conjoin the records of a major historical subject held by several repositories and make them freely available online? Does research demand for a high-value audio or moving image recordings collection necessitate digitally converting and posting them online? Are there new tools and methods that would greatly enhance the public’s ability to access and use records? Have you begun developing a method to make work with born digital records more efficient and want to prove that method is replicable?

These are just a few suggestions. We want to hear all your creative ideas and discuss how they might fit with this program. If you would like to schedule a time to talk about a proposal idea, please email or call the Director for Access, Alex Lorch ( or the Director for Technology Initiatives, Nancy Melley (
In pursuing its goals, the NHPRC partners with a members of the national historical and archivist community.

Genealogists need to become aware that their goals in documenting individuals and families falls squarely into the overall interests of those who wish to preserve all important historical documents. Because this is the case, genealogists would do well to support a broader range of historically significant digitizations projects.

The historical development of genealogy in the United States has created a somewhat artificial division between "history" and "genealogy." However, the only bachelor level university genealogical degree programs in the United States at Brigham Young University is part of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, Department of History. But despite this inclusion, many historians do not consider genealogy to be a "serious" academic discipline. This is due, in part, to the generalization of the pursuit and the participation of many who are untrained in basic historical research.

I believe it is important for all genealogists to be more fully aware of both local and national efforts to digitize historically significant records and support such efforts. The benefit to our genealogical community will be the increased availability of online genealogically significant collections.

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