Doing more with less — NHPRC grant programs

I’ve been meaning to write about the new NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission) grant programs for a while now, because I think they will challenge the archival community to move in positive directions.

At our More, Better, Faster, Cheaper forum last year, we featured talks from Dennis Meissner and Tom Hyry on the Greene-Meissner report [PDF], and on implementing Greene-Meissner at Yale. As many readers will know, NHPRC funded the Green-Meissner study, and it’s great to see a grant agency following suggestions put forth in a study they funded.

In a nutshell, NHPRC has incorporated Greene-Meissner into two of their grant programs. The first is a Basic Project program, focussed on processing backlogs. Adjust your practice and eliminate your processing backlog. Once you have eliminated your backlog, it needs to stay eliminated — you cannot come back to NHPRC for another backlog grant (you’ve changed your practices to keep up, remember?).

Once you have caught up by doing minimal processing, you can come back to NHPRC for a grant under their Detailed Processing program. If you can demonstrate, based on researcher need or significant preservation challenges, that a collection merits further attention, an institution can apply for funds under this program. Note that if you have a backlog or a “hidden collections” issue, you are not eligible for grants in this program.

This pair of programs from NHPRC are terrific, and help to support new attitudes towards large collections and processing in the archival community. The deadline for both programs has passed for this year, but I look forward to hearing success stories as grant recipients complete their work.

I was sad to see the announcement that NHPRC’s Executive Director Max Evans will be leaving NHPRC. He’s faced significant challenges in maintaining funding for the agency, but has soldiered on. We’ll miss him in Washington, but wish him well as he returns to Utah next year.