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Committee Report | January 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011 - 9:40am

SED Seal                                                                                   




Cultural Education Committee


Jeffrey W. Cannell


Preserving the American Historical Record: Federal Legislative Initiative


December 29, 2010


4, 5 




Issue for Discussion:           

The Council of State Archivists (CoSA) is leading a national collaborative effort among all the state archives in the U.S. for federal legislation to provide $50 million in formula-based funding to all states to support the preservation of and access to historical records held in state and regional repositories and governments.   The New York State Archives is taking a leadership role in this effort, and the Preserving the American Historical Record (PAHR) bill has been a Regents priority for the past two years.  Kathleen Roe, Director of Operations for the Archives and chair of the CoSA Government Affairs Committee, will brief the Cultural Education Committee on the status of the bill and plans for legislative action in the 112th Congress.

Reason(s) for Consideration

The PAHR bill will be re-introduced in the 112th Congress by Congressman Maurice Hinchey of New York and Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Carl Levin of Michigan.  

Background Information

The PAHR bill was introduced in the 111th Congressional session and guided through the House by Congressman Maurice Hinchey.  Twenty-three New York House members signed on as co-sponsors of this bill.   Senators Hatch and Levin introduced the bill in the Senate, and NY Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand immediately signed on as co-sponsors. 

The Preserving the American Historical Record Act would provide formula-based funding to states for statewide projects and redistribution to local governments, historical societies, library historical collections, universities, and other organizations to ensure essential care of documents and historical records in many forms, from paper to electronic media.

States would establish strategic funding priorities reflecting local needs for projects in the following areas:  creating access tools, including archival finding aids, documentary editions, indexes, and images of key records online;  preservation actions, such as digitization projects, electronic records archives, and collections assessment;  disaster preparedness and recovery initiatives for essential records;   educational initiatives to use historical records in creative ways, including the development of teaching materials for K-12, college students, new immigrant populations, and lifelong learners;  programs to provide education and training to archivists and others who care for historical records, in particular to ensure they are prepared to manage both the electronic records being created and to provide online access for public use.

This legislation provides federal funding for historical records repositories that is comparable to that currently provided for libraries, museums, and historic preservation.  The legislation requests $50 million to be distributed based on population and geographical area; New York would receive $2.8 million to distribute annually.

New York has over 3000 organizations that hold essential primary historical resources, both in non-profit historical records repositories and local government archives.   This bill will provide important financial support to ensure the availability of these resources for a wide range of uses by the people of New York.   As a country that is a union of states, the role of those states in forming the national story is essential to document and make widely accessible.  And with the current financial situation in New York and with the Cultural Education Fund in severe deficit, the PAHR legislation can provide essential resources to support New York’s documentary heritage.


The Regents should renew their support of the PAHR bill as part of their federal legislative agenda and encourage the New York Congressional delegation’s members to actively work for the passage of this legislation.