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June 29, 2008

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to jim, no it doesn't cost as much to maintain large databases online. You have an initial up front cost of servers and setup after that it's just a matter of keeping the servers up (does not require a large amount of personel) and then every so often a few typist to add to the data base.
The problem will happen when it gets bidded out, after all it's a govt. contract so the bidding may not be competitive (which happens a lot).

Richard Cox has a thoughtful blog post on the NARA report at http://readingarchives.blogspot.com/2008/06/founders-archives-and-documentary.html. He takes a slightly different approach than I do in this posting, but it is well worth reading.

BTW- I was never very good at math. I should have figured $41 million (total) - $17 million (federal)=closer to $24million non-Federal contribution. Still a chunk of change.

Just looking at the report, it's noted for the current fiscal year that sources of funding for the papers of the Founding Father's is:

$1,542,080-Federal
$2,231,038-Non Federal
$3,773,118-Total.

So approximately 59% of funding for the papers this year is provided by non-Federal sources. A lot of this might be coming from private grants, or States, or whatever. Nevertheless, the sponsoring institutions had to wrestle them up.

The NARA report claims that $17 million has been provided by the Feds altogether over many years. So I think we can unscientifically guesstimate that $41 million has been provided by non-Federal sources over many years. Somebody has a vested interest, indeed.

Furthermore, I have in my "in-box" innumerable requests to support NHPRC. Hard to plan when your sources of money is a year to year thing. Point is- Federal money is a smaller portion of the pot then you are leading us to believe.

Furthermore, who is going to maintain all this data, especially the huge portion that will constitute the imaged documents? Who is going to migrate it and keep it over time? How much will it cost? You suggest LC, but LC currently only points to sources. This is far different from maintaining the data on-line over time. Not sure that problem has been solved, despite press releases from certain government agencies. If precedent has anything to do with this, I guess that UVa, or Cornell, or someone will be picking up the 59% of the cost. Oh, and doesn't it cost 3-5 times as much to maintain data on-line as it costs to put it on line? Just wondering.

You might have some valid points, and I hope NARA consders them. But there is a lot more going on, Mr. Hirtle, then you have figured in your philosophy.

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