Cultural Education Committee




Carole F. Huxley




The Documentary Heritage Program of the New York State Archives



September 20, 2005








Issue of Discussion


          Status of the Documentary Heritage Program (DHP) for which we plan to request a transfer of funds from the Cultural Education Account to increase the funds available for competitive grants from $100,000 to $1 million and for regional advisory services from $400,000 to $500,000.


Proposed Handling


          Geoffrey Williams, Chair of the New York State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB), the council that provides the Commissioner and the Archives with advice on the status of historical records in New York State and strategies for improving their preservation and accessibility, will describe SHRAB’s statewide priorities and discuss with the Regents how the DHP can help New York’s historical records community focus its efforts on those priorities.


Since 1988, with just $100,000 each year, occasionally supplemented by funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the DHP has financed 306 projects to 174 institutions.  Yet, the interest and the need are so great that the funds awarded represent only 31% of the funds requested.  More funds are needed to ensure that New York’s historical records are identified and preserved.  Without these funds, much of our heritage is likely to be lost.




Procedural History


          After sixteen years of operating on $500,000 from the Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund (LGRMIF) [$400,000 for regional advisory services and $100,000 for competitive grants], the DHP has yielded remarkable results from this very small investment.  However, much more needs to be done to ensure the preservation and accessibility of records in more than 3,000 New York history and community organizations.   Next year, we plan to put forward legislation in a Departmental Bill that will make $1 million available from the Cultural Education Account for grants through the DHP.  This will allow the program to funnel the entire $500,000 now available through the LGRMIF to support regional advisory services and administration of the program.


Background Information


The New York State Documentary Heritage Program was established in law in 1988 (Education Law, Section 140).  The Program is administered by the New York State Archives.  Originally authorized for $2 million, the DHP has operated on $500,000 transferred annually from the Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund ($400,000 for regional services and $100,000 for grants).   These funds are occasionally supplemented by federal grant funds.  The DHP offers regional services and a statewide competitive grants program.  Any non-governmental organization that holds historical records and makes them publicly accessible may use the DHP’s services and apply for a grant.  Such organizations include not-for-profit archives, libraries, historical societies, museums, community organizations and similar institutions within New York State.  The DHP has awarded just over $2 million since 1988 to identify, administer and make accessible New York’s historical records.   To date, this small investment has made possible the documentation of the Latino community in Amsterdam; the Korean communities in New York City and the Capital District; the Norwegian community in Brooklyn; the Jewish experience in New York State; and environmental affairs and mental health issues statewide.  The program has also helped to develop and maintain over 3,000 archival programs that are preserving and providing access to many community records around the State.  However, more needs to be done.  We lose historical records through deterioration or destruction every day.  If they are not identified and saved, New Yorkers will lose an important piece of their heritage and their history.  The $100,000 grant program only touches the surface of the problems that must be addressed. 




          The Regents will support the use of $1 million from the Cultural Education Account for grants through the Documentary Heritage Program.


Timetable for Implementation


          A Departmental bill will be submitted during the 2006/07 legislative session to increase funding for the Documentary Heritage Program by $1,000,000 using funds from the Cultural EducationAccount.