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New Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Guidelines Available!

May 6, 2016 | By Joel Wurl

NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access welcomes applications for its Humanities Collections and Reference Resources (HCRR) grant program, with a deadline of July 19, 2016.  These grants support projects to preserve and create intellectual access to such collections as books, journals, manuscript and archival materials, maps, still and moving images, sound recordings, art, and objects of material culture.  Awards also support the creation of reference works, online resources, and research tools of major importance to the humanities. 

HCRR offers two kinds of awards:

  1. Implementation Grants -- $350,000 maximum, for up to three years. Eligible activities include: 
  • arranging and describing archival and manuscript collections;
  • cataloging collections of printed works, photographs, recorded sound, moving images, art, and material culture;
  • providing conservation treatment for collections, leading to enhanced access;
  • digitizing collections;
  • preserving and improving access to born-digital sources including the updating of existing digital resources;
  • developing databases, virtual collections, or other digital resources and project-specific tools to codify information on a subject or to provide integrated access to humanities materials;
  • creating encyclopedias;
  • preparing linguistic tools, such as historical and etymological dictionaries, corpora, and reference grammars; and
  • developing tools for spatial analysis and representation of humanities data, such as atlases and geographic information systems (GIS).  
  1. HCRR Foundations Grants -- $50,000 maximum, for up to two years. To help in the formative stages of initiatives to preserve and create access to humanities collections or to produce reference resources, Foundations grants will support planning, assessment, and pilot activities that incorporate expertise from a mix of professional domains.  Drawing upon the cooperation of humanities scholars and technical specialists, these projects might encompass efforts to prepare for establishing intellectual control of collections, to develop plans and priorities for digitizing collections, to solidify collaborative frameworks and strategic plans for complex digital repositories and resources, or to produce preliminary versions of online collections or resources.

Awards from the most recent year’s HCRR program include the following:

Arhoolie Foundation, El Cerrito CA

Digitizing the Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings

A three year project to continue the preservation, digitization, and creation of public access to the Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings, considered to be the world's largest and most complete collection of Mexican American vernacular music. 110,000 recordings have been preserved so far funded by previous grants from various organizations. This grant will enable the preservation of a further 24,000 individual recordings from 33-rpm, 78-rpm and 45-rpm discs (digitizing, scanning of labels and graphics, creating keywords and metadata).

Barnum Museum Foundation, Inc.

Creating the P.T. Barnum Digital Collection

The Barnum Museum, of Bridgeport, CT, and the Bridgeport Public Library will collaborate to conserve, catalog, digitize and create global access to their inter-related collections. The twenty-month long project is designed to implement a plan developed over the course of a year with an NEH HCRR Foundations grant (awarded April 2013). The plan will allow the institutions to realize their objectives of preserving and creating access to the significant collections of artifacts, ephemera, and manuscripts pertaining to P. T. Barnum and many of his associates, as well as items donated by Barnum and his family. Barnum's international fame has endured because of his extraordinary and diverse achievements, which reach far beyond his well-known circus endeavors.

California State University, Dominguez Hills

California State University Japanese American Digitization Implementation Grant

A consortium of California State University archives will conduct an Implementation project to digitize documents concerning the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The project involves the extensive holdings of Japanese American materials in 15 CSU archives consists of four major steps: digitizing the materials, creating descriptive metadata for 5000+ digital objects, creating access through the project portal for online discoverability, and contextualizing the objects with website enhancements.  As a result of a previous NEH Foundations grant, the project plan has been vetted and formulated through onsite visits to seven campus archives, a two-day scholar's symposium, meetings, conference calls, and assessment activities.

Harvard University

The Giza Project: Consolidated Archaeological Reference Database II

Continued development of an online resource linking an archaeological archive with 3D visualizations derived from excavations at the Giza pyramids in Egypt over the past century and a half. Phase one of the project, now complete, entailed development of a database; phase two proposes integration of 3D models into the database.  Project is a collaborative international initiative based at Harvard University that has as its goal the collection, digital preservation, study, and presentation of all records from one of the best known archaeological sites in the world.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

In Her Own Right: Women Asserting their Civil Rights, 1820-1920

The Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) (via fiscal sponsor HSP) will conduct planning grant to explore options for a multi-repository project to digitize and curate content around the struggles for women's rights in the century leading up to the passage of the 19th Amendment, drawing on 55 relevant high research value collections in 11 member institutions totaling 614 linear feet of material. The grant will result in both a pilot website and a comprehensive plan for its continued development, including the creation of a set of online resources that, if then funded and implemented, will result in a nationally significant body of primary source material of great timeliness and lasting impact.

Michigan Technological University

Copper Country Historical Spatial Data Infrastructure

A project to create a reference resource that will provide information on the history and environment of the copper mining region of Upper Michigan through a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) portal containing digitized maps and archival documents.  It will be developed, part, via a highly-immersive interactive online Citizen Historians Portal that will engage a nationwide heritage community to help build and contribute to this advanced space-time linked digital archives.

New York Botanical Garden, Bronx NY

Digitizing and Transcribing the John Torrey Papers: Natural Science and Exploration in 19th Century America

A project to digitize and begin crowdsourcing the transcription of the John Torrey Papers, the nation’s largest collection of pioneering American botanist John Torrey's (1796-1873) manuscript materials. The project will digitize 28,000 pages and begin crowdsourced transcription of the entire collection. Transcription will include integration of FromThePage transcription software into CONTENTdm, an innovation in manuscript transcription. Dissemination tools will include a teen transcription project, a "John Torrey Study Day" for high school and college students, a traveling exhibition, and a website.

 StoryCorps, Inc.

StoryCorps Public Archive

This project will make the organization’s collection of over 65,000 interviews—recorded with people from all walks of life, from across the country, since 2003—accessible to scholars, researchers, and the general public through an interactive, searchable website.

University of Oklahoma

Community Archiving of Native American Music: Best Practices for Institutional Facilitation

This project will consult with Native communities to ascertain the desirability and logistics of a large-scale digitization and preservation program for Native American music recordings in Oklahoma. The immediate goal of the project is to develop a series of protocols for best practices in ethically facilitating the preservation and digitization of music recordings primarily held by Native communities and their members.

University of California, Santa Cruz

Final Passages: The Intra-American Slave Trade Database

A project to enable the addition of thousands of records of intra-American slave trafficking and a new “Final Passages” web interface into Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. These records represent the many American regions—including North America, French  Islands in the Caribbean, inland Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, and Peru—that acquired slaves indirectly rather than straight from Africa, as well as slave traffic within the Americas after abolition of the transatlantic trade.

University of Texas, Arlington

The Disability History/Archives Consortium: A Portal to Disability History Collections

The development of strategic plans for building an online reference to be known as the Disability History Portal. The DH/AC will embark on a year-long strategic planning process, beginning with a face-to-face meeting in Texas attended by over two dozen founding institutional members and academic advisors. The meetings and committee work will set the long-range objectives of the DH/AC, determine the technology infrastructure and phasing required to build the Portal, identify outreach strategies for state and specialized archives, and establish a sustainable governance and business structure. The group will develop a formal white paper to guide the Portal's development, including integrating the cataloging/metadata across member institutions and ensuring accessibility of sources for users with disabilities.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York NY

The YIVO Vilna Collections Project

The arrangement and description of 301 linear feet of manuscripts and archives and the creation of over 458,000 digital images from these sources, which form part of the “Vilna Collections” held by the YIVO Institute, a repository housed in the Center for Jewish History. Images created by YIVO will be merged with extant holdings of the Lithuanian Central State Archive and National Library of Lithuania as part of a larger seven-year initiative.

Sample narratives, “frequently asked questions,” budget guidance, and other resources are available on the HCRR program landing page.  Prospective applicants seeking further information are encouraged to contact the Division at 202-606-8570 or preservation@neh.gov.  Program staff will read draft proposals submitted six weeks before the deadline.  Details on the full slate of funding opportunities in Preservation and Access, along with news and features, can be found on the Division’s website

Support for these projects was awarded through the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program from NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access: PW-234707-16 to the Arhoolie Foundation, El Cerrito, CA; PW-234721-16 to the Barnum Museum Foundation, Inc., Bridgeport, CT; PW-234690-16 to the California State University, Dominguez Hills, Carson, CA; PW-234775-16 to the Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; PW-234799-16 to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; PW-234885-16 to the Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI; PW-234827-16 to the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx NY; PW-234854-16 to the StoryCorps, Inc., Brooklyn, NY; PW-234685-16 to the University of Oklahoma, Norman, Norman, OK; PW-234691-16 to the University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA; PW-234683-16 to the University of Texas, Arlington, Arlington, TX; PW-234783-16 to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York NY.