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42 liberal arts colleges and universities in the US join digitisation project

With $2.2 million in support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and in partnership with Artstor, the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) is offering 42 liberal arts colleges and universities the opportunity to join its Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research. The Consortium intends to improve teaching and learning, enhance faculty and student/faculty research, and streamline administrative capabilities through a uniform digital system of cataloging research material collections.

The grant will support three years of workshops for librarians and faculty and staff members and will subsidize use of Shared Shelf, Artstor’s digital asset management service already used by institutions such as Harvard and Cornell. With this grant, digital documentation of collections held by institutions such as Presbyterian College (SC), Tuskegee University (AL), and University of St. Mary (KS) will now be maintained‎ and made publicly accessible via the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) through Artstor, the nonprofit organization that provides Shared Shelf and serves as one of DPLA’s content-providing “hubs.”

The collections include Russian icons from Allegheny College (PA); Civil War history objects from Central Methodist University (MO); oral histories of Erie area refugees from Gannon University (PA); the story of Buddhism in the Catskills from Hartwick College (NY); the record of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to Keuka College (NY); Egyptian Papyri from the Robert C. Horn Collection at Muhlenberg College (PA); and many others.

CIC President Richard Ekman said, “As digitization allows hidden collections to be shared, teachers and scholars all over the country will benefit. The Mellon Foundation’s grant will jump start these efforts at 42 institutions.”

Ekman added, “These institutions—some of which are in remote locations—are known for their dedication to teaching and for providing life-changing liberal arts education to students from all backgrounds. Through the Consortium, they will be able to gain access to an important national digital resource. Their one-of-a-kind collections will be more visible and more widely used.”

In the networked age, the treasures of small colleges can add to shared national digital resources. Jim Voorhies, director of Harvard University’s Carpenter Center, emphasized the value of the archives when discussing Consortium participant Bennington College’s collection of glass slides of the late art historian and museum director, Alexander Dorner. Voohies noted that they “will be beneficial to scholars and complement the collection of his papers held at Harvard.”

Artstor President James Shulman said, “The Mellon Foundation’s support will enable important collections—oral histories of the Ottawa people, the Civil Rights movement in Greensboro, 17th century maps—to be managed and cared for. But the collaboration among these CIC colleges also will provide an on-ramp for these collections to flow into an emerging national digital platform. We are delighted to partner with CIC in supporting these projects.”