13 July 2017

RPAC Encourages Family Historians to Support NARA and Library of Congress

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RPAC Encourages Family Historians to Support NARA and Library of Congress

As many of us celebrated the 4th of July holiday last week, the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) posted a message reminding us that the 2018 federal budget is being worked on and that the two named great resources to genealogists could be at risk.  Each of us can work to ensure that invaluable and venerable programs are recognized for all that they have done in terms of preserving our history and ensuring access to it and what is still needed to be done.

With thanks to Jan Alpert and Barbara Matthews.

On May 22, 2017, President Trump released more details about his proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Overall there were cuts to many of the programs that genealogists regularly use. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is targeted for a $16.6 million reduction in addition to the elimination of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), an archival grant making arm of the National Archives which provides local and state funding in the preservation of essential historical materials making them more accessible to the public. Since 1964 NHPRC has provided grants to every state and you can view a detailed list for the last thirty years at https://www.archives.gov/nhprc/projects/states-territories. When the NARA budget is cut the hours at the Washington D.C., College Park, Maryland, and Regional Archives are usually reduced. As staff cuts are made to meet the budget, our fees are often increased and the delivery time is extended for document requests. Genealogists are the largest customer base of the National Archives. If we don’t support NARA, who will?

The Library of Congress is slated to receive a $56 million increase in the FY 2018 proposed Trump budget. In addition to the library being a world-class research facility, genealogists also are benefitting from Chronicling America which is digitizing early American newspapers from 1836 to 1922 and digitizing the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of cities across the United States which have survived. If your state newspapers are being digitized, it is likely in partnership with the Library of Congress. The budget negotiations will continue for months, so although the Library of Congress is well positioned in the Trump proposed budget, funding could be reduced before the final budget is approved. Let’s not take that chance.

As genealogists, we need to support the funding of projects which provide digitization and online access to historical documents. We have the most impact if we write our Congressional Representatives. On the RPAC website http://www.fgs.org/rpac we have provided a copy of this article with links to sample letters you can send in support of NARA, NHPRC, and/or the Library of Congress. With each sample letter we have provided a chart showing the actual FY 2016 and FY 2017 funding in comparison to the proposed FY 2018 budget.



If RPAC is new to you, check out the About RPAC page.



What other federal budget items could directly or indirectly affect genealogical research?









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