Parsing the State of State Records Report: State Historical Records Advisory Boards (SHRAB)

Feb 14, 2020

Parsing the State of State Records Report: State Historical Records Advisory Boards (SHRAB)
By Veronica Martzahl
In preparation for the upcoming SHRAB Town Hall webinar, this post will take a look at what survey respondents had to say about their State Historical Records Advisory Boards. SHRABs are a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve been fortunate to serve on the Massachusetts SHRAB since before I was a state archives employee and have seen first-hand how SHRABs can assist and strengthen the archival communities that they support.
Authorized under Federal regulations governing the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the functions and goals of SHRABs have evolved significantly over the past few years. For many years SHRABs saw their primary purpose as NHPRC grant reviewers, providing local insight on applications submitted by institutions in their states. Recent changes to the review process at NHPRC now emphasize subject-expert peer review and this has greatly diminished the role of SHRABs in this activity. Boards have had to reinvent themselves with new goals and focus.
The good news is that 2/3 of respondents indicated that their state board is authorized and active or in process of being established. The unfortunately flip side of this is that 1/3 of respondents indicated their boards are inactive, non-existent or in some other state of flux. The biggest hinderance to activity is maintaining membership. Even states that list themselves as active often report difficulties in maintaining full, active membership. Time constraints and geographic distance can make it hard for SHRABs to be fully staffed. Personally, I can attest to struggling in MASSACHUSETTS with maintaining representation from the western part of the state and making sure that meetings are not always just held in Boston. I can only imagine the complexities involved in organizing SHRABs in much larger states. Support of virtual meetings (to the extent allowed by local public meeting laws) and clear guidelines of the roles and responsibilities of SHRAB members are potential ways going forward that the NHPRC and CoSA can support building SHRAB membership.
When SHRABs are active, they are doing varied, impactful work. In FY2017 and FY2018, archival workshops and trainings were the most frequently supported activity, with support of Archives Month a close second. Regrant, traveling archivist, and general advocacy programs also were frequently reported. 
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Looking to future surveys, I’m curious to know a bit more about the membership of SHRABs. What is the diversity of institutions, collections and perspectives represented by the membership? I’m also curious about how SHRAB can work together. There have been some initial conversations between some New England SHRABs regarding regional activities and it is exciting to contemplate were those activities might lead us.
Be sure to register for the SHRAB Town Hall scheduled for Tuesday, February 27th starting at 3:00 pm Eastern.

Category: General News

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