February 16, 2018

Cornell Library Expands Project for Digital Collections at HBCUs

By Norman Oder

$375,000 Mellon Foundation grant aims to ensure sustainability of HBCU history

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  • Third phase of project
  • Includes business plan
  • Expands collections to digitize

Cornell University Library (CUL), in cooperation with the HBCU Library Alliance, which includes dozens of historically black colleges and universities, has received a $375,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to promote sustainable digital collections that reflect the unique history of the HBCUs.

Singers at Hampton UniversityThe extant Digital Collection Celebrating the Founding of the Historically Black College and University includes several thousand scanned items. “By opening the doors to [long-hidden knowledge], we’re enabling a new dialogue on American history and the African-American experience,” said Anne R. Kenney, Cornell’s Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, in a news release.

(At left, singers at Hampton University, VA, in 1874.)

The project, “Building Collections, Building Services, and Building Sustainability III: A Sustainable Framework for the HBCU Library Alliance,” expands the number of HBCU digital collections chosen for research and teaching, plus a business plan to market HBCU Library Alliance digital initiatives and programs. It also will include an online workshop devoted to digital services.

In the first two phases of the project, beginning in 2005, CUL trained 23 HBCU library staff in building digital collections; that’s led to a searchable group of more than 7000 digital images from the archives of 20 HBCUs. Project manager Ira Revels said the “critical third phase” aims to ensure sustainability.

Along with Cornell University, the HBCU Library Alliance and Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center will provide staff and logistical support for project. The HBCU Library Alliance a consortium that promotes sharing of expertise, programs, and services.

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