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State Historical Society of Iowa

Historical Resource Development Program: Documentary Collections

Project Types and Funding Priorities

If your project focuses on preserving documents, records, newspapers, photographs or similar types of historical materials, you should apply in the Documentary Collections Category.

Resources in this category can include a variety of resource formats, such as albums, atlases, blueprints, broadsides, diaries, drawings, electronic records, films, ledgers, letters, maps, memoirs, minutes, newspapers, newsletters, oral histories, pamphlets, post cards, plats, photographs, photographic negatives, programs, reports, videotapes, and visuals.

There are many resource types in the documentary collections category. Some examples of resource types are: records held in business, ethnic, fraternal, and corporate offices; documentary collections in libraries, museums, historical societies, colleges, churches, non-profit organizations; records held in county and municipal government offices; and privately held collections.

The Iowa Historical Records Advisory Board (IHRAB) provides guidance and advice to the REAP/HRDP program. IHRAB has developed a priority order for considering applications in the documentary collections category. Highest priority goes to documentary collections that have unique and significant historical value. REAP/HRDP grants can be used to preserve these materials. After preservation measures have been taken, the grants can be used to interpret the materials and to make them accessible to the public.

The Iowa Historical Records Advisory Board generally regards REAP/HRDP projects to preserve and to provide basic access to significant endangered historical materials (e.g., to arrange and describe the materials) as higher priorities than projects to convert materials and existing finding aids to electronic form or projects whose main purpose is to make digitized materials available via the internet. Digitization is a valuable access tool, but according to current archival standards, microfilming is still the best permanent preservation technique when reformatting materials. It is acceptable to include digitization as an added component to a microfilming preservation project.

The following emphases are listed in priority order. This priority order is a general statement, and does not bind the review panel to awarding grants in this order. The review panel may, for example, rank a compelling grant application to interpret a resource (a Priority III emphasis) above an uninspired application to microfilm materials (a Priority I emphasis).

Preservation/Conservation of the Resource (Priority I)

Educational development and training, for example:

  • Workshops on proper archival techniques and standards including such topics as de-acidification, encapsulation, UV filtering, and storage.
  • Formatting alternatives such as paper, microfilm, fiche, electronic, and preparation of materials for re-formatting.
  • Microfilming documents and records, with the proper preparation of material and adherence to professional microfilming standards
  • Processing collections – organizing, sorting, cataloging, arranging/describing, producing indexes, lists, inventories, and finding aids.
  • Purchasing archival supplies such as UV filters, acid-free folders, boxes, envelopes, Mylar and tape for encapsulation.

Collection Development/Acquisition (Priority II)

Educational development and training workshops and training in such areas as:

  • What to collect (collection management)
  • What to save (records management)
  • How to save (conservation and preservation techniques)
  • Disaster Preparedness
  • Surveys of resources not already in repositories
  • Development of special collections such as:
  • Documentation strategies
  • Oral and video histories
  • Special emphasis collections
  • Acquisition by purchase

Interpretation of and Increased Access to the Resource (Priority III)

  • Exhibits of documents and records
  • Educational outreach programs
  • Preparation of bibliographies, books, brochures, dramatic scripts, and manuscripts
  • Preparation of film and video documentaries
  • Purchase of already preserved material for increased public access
  • Preparation of materials and finding aids for electronic distribution*

Physical Environment and Access Tools for the Resource (Priority IV)

Equipment**, such as:

  • Microfilm reader/printers and computers
  • Shelving and cabinets for storage of the resource

*Please note that the view of the State Historical Society of Iowa, at this time, is that digitization is an option for organizations to plan/build collections digitally to provide for greater researcher access but it is not currently recommended as a technique for historic preservation. Over the next year we will be working on standards for organizations that want to use digitization as a preservation method. Until those standards are in place, projects to digitize collections will be considered a Priority III project.

**Please note that rarely have equipment purchases been recommended for funding in the documentary collections category.

Professional Standards

All projects must comply with certain nationally-accepted professional standards. Applicants must demonstrate knowledge of, intention to, and ability to adhere to, the professional standards that pertain to the grant category to which they are applying.

Every project is strongly encouraged to involve a trained professional in a discipline appropriate to the project scope. If the application requests funding for a documentary collections activity, then the project is strongly encouraged to include the services of an appropriate archives or special collections professional.

The applicable standards for Documentary Collections are as follows:

  • All documentary collections projects must incorporate professional standards and best practices.
  • Applicants must demonstrate that they have the commitment and ability to provide care for collections on a long-term basis. In addition, applicants must demonstrate to the review panel that they understand, and intend to adhere to, applicable national standards.
  • Applicants must show that they will follow technical guidelines generally accepted by the library, archives, and conservation communities.
  • The State Historical Society requires very specific microfilming standards.
    • If microfilming is included as a component of a project, then the project must produce first (S-) and second generation (S-) masters on silver halide film meeting American National Standards Institute (ANSI) PH 1.41 (preferred) or ANSI PH 1.28.
    • Production procedures are to be guided by American National Standards Institute/Association for Information and Image Management (ANSI/AIIM) MS 23 or other relevant standards, such as ANSI/AIIM MS 5 for microfiche.
    • Storage for first generation camera masters must be in accordance with ANSI PH 1.43. Film enclosures must adhere to ANSI PH 1.53.
    • The two master copies of each roll of microfilm become the property of the State Historical Society and are stored according to national standards.
    • Each microfilming grant also requires the production of at least one service copy of each roll of microfilm. The service copy is held by the grantee.

Digitization Project Questions

This section provides an opportunity for applicants for digitization projects to consider and demonstrate knowledge of long term preservation concerns that are unique to digital formats. This is also to address the applicant’s intention and ability to provide for the long term preservation of digital files created by the project.

Staff Resources

As you prepare your application, you may have technical questions about specific types of resources and professional standards. The following staff resources are available:

Questions about the grant application process:
Kristen Vander Molen, Grants Manager – 515-281-4228

Questions about projects in the documentary collections category:
Tony Jahn, State Archivist – 515-281-4895
Jeffrey Dawson, Deputy State Archivist - 515-281-7801
Delpha Musgrave, Newspaper & Local Records Preservation Coordinator - 515-281-5655
Becki Plunkett, Special Collections Archivist – 515-281-8976

Locating Goods and Services for Documentary Collections Projects

The law establishing the HRDP program stipulates that grantees should give preference to Iowa vendors. Goods and services should not be obtained outside the state unless the grantee demonstrates that it is neither feasible nor prudent to obtain the goods or services within the state.

Our office has found that sometimes grantees have no choice but to choose an out-of-state vendor. For example, few archival supplies are available in quantity from Iowa vendors. There are some Iowa businesses that provide archival supplies, however. The following list is intended to provide guidance in locating archival products.

Some Sources of Archival Supplies

Within Iowa, the following suppliers may have the archival materials you seek:

Archival Products
P.O. Box 1413
Des Moines, Iowa 50306-1413

Art supply stores in larger Iowa communities may also stock some containers and related supplies that are appropriate for storage of paper holdings.

There are several archival suppliers located in other states, including:

Bags Unlimited, Inc.
7 Canal Street
Rochester, New York 14608

Gaylord Bros., Inc.
P.O. Box 4901
Syracuse, New York 13221-4901

Hollinger Metal Edge
6340 Bandini Blvd.
Commerce, CA 90040
Phone: 800-862-2228
Fax: 888-822-6937
9401 Northeast Dr.
Fredericksburg, VA 22408
Phone: 800-634-0491
Fax: 800-947-8814

University Products

Microfilming Services
Documentary collections that are to be microfilmed generally have to be transported to the microfilm vendor. Grant applicants located in some parts of Iowa may find that a qualified microfilm vendor located in an adjoining state may be the prudent choice for their project. For example, if a library located in Council Bluffs wants to microfilm its newspaper collection, it might consider using microfilm vendors located in Omaha, Nebraska. Likewise, a northern Iowa community may find that a microfilm vendor in La Crosse, Wisconsin, is the best choice for its project.

Finding a Professional to Work on your Grant Project

The Consortium of Iowa Archivists (CIA) is a group of archival personnel who work with archival collections in Iowa. The group decided not to organize formally but to exchange ideas and concerns informally by contacting other members when issues arose. An Internet website contains a member directory, which may be a starting point at identifying a professional that could assist with your project. Keep in mind, this member directory is not currently being maintained and some of the contacts are out of date.

The Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium's mission is to initiate, encourage, and enhance preservation and conservation activities in and among all Iowa repositories and institutions whose collections include a variety of materials such as audio-visuals, microforms, paper-based, and electronically-stored information for the benefit of present and future generations.

The ICPC may be able to help you locate a documentary collections professional. Contact information for the ICPC is as follows:

The Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium
c/o The University of Iowa University Libraries
100 Main Library
Iowa City, IA 52242-1420