If you ever found yourself clicking through the various pages on the Library of Virginia website, you may have come across one detailing the State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB) and thought to yourself, “SHRAB? What is that?” After a few years of inactivity and one pandemic, the Virginia SHRAB is gearing up to get back to work supporting historical sites and archival repositories across the state!
In 1975, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) sought to establish similar commissions throughout the United States to help with awarding grants to those seeking to preserve the records of “outstanding persons” and others who contributed to the history of the United States. The Virginia iteration of SHRAB was established in 1976 by Governor Mills Godwin. The board got to work straight away appointing board members, reviewing and evaluating grant applications, and conducting their first statewide survey in 1983.
Almost forty years later, the current SHRAB sent out a survey to see where assistance can be provided, although this time the survey went out over email rather than through the post. The first needs assessment survey led to the development of a re-granting program a few years later, focusing specifically on conservation efforts for archival and heritage institutions across the state. The 2021 survey still had an emphasis on conservation and preservation, but there is a growing need for help with digitizing collections and handling the growing backlog of electronic records.
Even when SHRAB wasn’t running its own re-granting program, the board continued to oversee and review a number of grants over the years. Proposals were rated by the board on a scale of 1-5, with recommendations made on whether the grant should be approved or resubmitted for the next grant application cycle. Institutions ranged from small historical societies applying for conservation funding to large repositories such as the Virginia Historical Society, the University of Virginia, and even the Library of Virginia. The board was not always unanimous in its decisions, which likely led to interesting meetings when discussing which grants to recommend to the NHPRC.
There are currently fifty-six SHRABs across the United States including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. In the forty-six years since their inception, SHRABs have distributed millions of dollars in funding to boards and repositories across the country. Each board is headed by the State Coordinator, usually the State Archivist or the State Librarian. Members are appointed by the Governor and serve three-year terms. While board membership for Virginia’s SHRAB has doubled since its inception, each member continues to bring a wealth of knowledge to the table from their various backgrounds, careers, and locations across the state.
After a few years of lying dormant, the Virginia SHRAB is excited to get back to supporting organizations across the Commonwealth! With new appointees and a new strategic plan in development, 2022 promises to be an exciting year for the board and for archives across Virginia.
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Library of Virginia, Office of the State Archivist, State Historical Records Advisory Board files, 1983, Acc. 32450, State Government Records Collection, The Library of Virginia.