Council on Library and Information Resources

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Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives

  • Upcoming Hidden Collections Conference Sessions

    Presentations, posters, papers, and other upcoming Hidden Collections project-related conference sessions.

    • Friday, April 25, 2014 | 10:30AM - 12:00PM MARAC Spring 2014: "Defining Your Product: Approaches to and Outcomes of Processing Audiovisual Collections" – Megan McShea, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 2011 Hidden Collections project: Uncovering Hidden Audiovisual Media Documenting Postmodern Art.
    • Friday, April 25, 2014 | 1:45PM - 3:15PM MARAC Spring 2014: "Forgotten Firsts: Women Lurking in the Archives" – Nicole Greenhouse & Shira Bistricer, Jewish Theological Seminary. 2012 Hidden Collections project: Jewish Ethnomusicology from the East: The Archives of Johanna Spector.
    • Friday, May 9, 2014 | 10:30AM - 12:00PM SCA Annual General Meeting 2014: "The Access Tightrope: Balancing Access with Privacy" – Michael C. Oliveira, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, University of Southern California. 2012 Hidden Collections project: Out West: The LGBTQ Community Archive Cataloging Project.

    Click here to view other project-related resources

  • Save the Date!

    2015 Cataloging Hidden Special Collections & Archives Symposium & Unconference: Innovation, Collaboration, and Models

    Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
    University of Pennsylvania Libraries
    Thursday, March 12, 2015 - Unconference & Reception
    Friday, March 13, 2015 - Symposium

    Click here for more information & updates

  • Connect with Hidden Collections on Social Media

    Follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram to get the latest updates, news about our funded projects, peeks into recipient site visits, community news, and other program highlights. Interested in connecting with our recipients? We also maintain a list of Twitter accounts related to the Hidden Collections program.

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About the Program

Libraries, archives, and cultural institutions hold millions of items that have never been adequately described. This represents a staggering volume of items of potentially substantive intellectual value that are unknown and inaccessible to scholars. This program seeks to address this problem by awarding grants for supporting innovative, efficient description of large volumes of material of high value to scholars.

The Council on Library and Information Resources administers this national effort with the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Since the program began in 2008, 109 grants totaling over $23.5M have been made to a variety of institutions nationwide.

The primary criterion the review panel uses to evaluate projects is their potential national impact on scholarship and teaching. The second and third criteria are: innovative and/or highly efficient approaches to description that either adopt established model practices or serve as models for others, and the adoption of workflow, outreach, and data sharing practices that maximize connections to scholarly and other user communities. The panel requires the application of standards for processing and description that maximize the potential for interoperability and long-term sustainability for project data in the online environment. Most U.S.-based not-for-profit cultural heritage institutions are eligible for the program, and, beginning in 2013, Canadian cultural heritage institutions may participate as partners in U.S.-led collaborative projects. Applicants may nominate collections of any format and from any field worthy of national attention, but the collections in question must be truly hidden, that is, they must not currently be discoverable by scholarly users working within the relevant subject domains, either through digital or analog means.

All nonconfidential information that applicants supply is made publicly available through CLIR's Hidden Collections Registry. Applicants are encouraged to use this Registry to find partners working with similar collections. Joint or collaborative applications are strongly encouraged.

Although the program does not provide funds for the creation of digital surrogates of cataloged materials, CLIR hopes that many funded projects will ultimately be enhanced with publicly accessible digitized versions of the newly cataloged collections. For a more detailed description of the philosophy and mission of the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program, see CLIR's original proposal to the Mellon Foundation (pdf).

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    We occasionally send announcements and news about this program by e-mail. If you would like to be added to our distribution list, please click here.

    For further information, contact CLIR at