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# Monday, August 20, 2007
NARA Record Request Fees Go Up Oct. 1
Posted by Diane

We’ve known it was coming since the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) proposed last February to raise its reproduction fees for records you order.

The good news is, it could’ve been worse.

Effective Oct. 1, NARA will charge $75 for a Civil War pension file of up to 100 pages, plus $.65 per additional page (for longer files, staff will contact the requestor with a price quote before filling the order). NARA will charge $50 for pre-Civil War pension files regardless of page count, and $.75 per page to copy other records.

While still a steep increase from the current $37 for a Civil War pension file, these fees are less than the $125 and $60 NARA originally proposed for Civil War and pre-Civil War pensions, respectively. (Still, save some cash by sending your request before October. The July 2007 Family Tree Magazine has instructions for ordering Civil War pensions.)

In the Aug. 17 Federal Register, national archivist Allen Weinstein attributes the change to public comment-inspired alterations in formulas for calculating document reproduction costs. Though its average pension file order was for 106 pages, 65 percent of orders were for files less than 100 pages.

NARA received 1,281 comments during the 60-day comment period. About half the commenters identified themselves as genealogists.

Looks like some comments hit a nerve by saying NARA’s proposal exaggerated actual copying costs. Weinstein wrote, “We firmly reject allegations that the  fees are being raised capriciously for the purpose of supplementing funding for the agency or reducing the number of reproduction orders received.”

He added it’s not practical to compare NARA’s photocopying costs with those of other entities because of archival document considerations including file retrieval and replacement, paper fragility, separating papers from fasteners, placing non-standard-size documents on copiers' glass platens and ensuring image legibility.

Weinstein said NARA lacks funding for digitizing all the Civil War pension files. The agency considers them prime candidates for a digitization partnership, but “there is no near-term alternative to the current process for fulfilling fixed-fee order requests for reproductions of Civil War pension files.”

Libraries and Archives | Public Records
Monday, August 20, 2007 10:25:08 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
Thursday, August 23, 2007 3:16:09 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Why don't they digitalize the records when they are copying them via photocopier? It can't be that expensive for the technology needed to do so and it would save wear and tear on irreplacable records. The records could be then made available online as they are copied; and not as a mamoth undertaking of copying all the records at one time.
George A. Bausman, Jr.
Thursday, August 23, 2007 5:46:02 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
National archivist Allen Weinstein comments '....archival document considerations including file retrieval and replacement, paper fragility, separating papers from fasteners, placing non-standard-size documents on copiers' glass platens and ensuring image legibility.'
"Paper Fragility" is what scares the heck out of me. I see no reason to jeopardize our country's historical documents anyway, regardless of fees. This is glaring resaon for digitilazation and an online database. They could still charge a fee of course.
Google seems to be digitizing books fairly quickly, maybe they can offer some advice.
Julie Meekin
Thursday, August 23, 2007 8:47:47 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
I have been to the Archives in DC and have handled some of the Civil War files/documents. I can tell you first hand that some are beginning to crumble. Though I handled them carefully when I was finished there were tiny bits of paper on the table. So I agree with digitizing these documents but the down side of the digitizing may very well be that the NARA will then destroy the originals as they did with the Revolutionary War documents. This thought disturbs me greatly.
C Chandler
Friday, August 24, 2007 4:00:53 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Hi, C. Chandler and others,
I've never heard anything regarding destruction of Revolutionary War documents, so I asked NARA. The press contact said "NARA never destroyed Revolutionary War records and will not destroy any others after digitization."

Further, the commercial company Footnote is digitizing Revolutionary War service records from microfilm, so the originals are remaining untouched.

I also asked about your suggestion, George, that Civil War pension files be digitized as they're copied for customer orders. I had the same thought. Basically the press office's response was that on-demand digitization incurs the same costs as photocopying, so the fees would still go up.

Which doesn't address your comment exactly, George, but I suspect that the massive number of files makes the relative few that would be digitized this way less than a drop in the bucket. When NARA eventually has the whole slew digitized by a contractor, I doubt it would change anything cost-wise that this small number of records is digitized.
Saturday, August 25, 2007 10:27:31 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Diane, I happy stand corrected. My information came from an NARA employee years ago when I asked about the original Revolutionary War documents. I was excited to see some of the documentation and asked if it was possible to see the originals. I was told flatly that the originals were destroyed after they were microfilmed after all storage was a problem. That is my only frame of reference until today. Again thank you.
C Chandler
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