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Mellon Funds New CLIR Program to Digitize Hidden Collections

Contact: Kathlin Smith


Washington, D.C., December 9, 2014-The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) funds to create a national competition for digitizing collections of rare and unique content in cultural memory institutions. The program is built upon the model of CLIR’s Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program, launched in 2008, which awarded its final round of grants this month.

In 2015, CLIR expects to award through the new program about $4 million to institutions holding collections of high scholarly value. Developed through consultation with digital library practitioners and funders, and with input from the broader community, the program will be designed to:

  • encourage approaches to digitization that make possible new kinds of scholarship in the digital research environment
  • support the digitization of entire collections, rather than selected items
  • promote strategic partnerships, since few institutions have the capacity to handle and scan the wide array of objects in their collections
  • promote best practices for ensuring the long-term availability and discoverability of digital files, and
  • ensure that digitized content is made available to the public as easily and completely as possible.

“We thank the Mellon Foundation for its support of this new program, which will encourage efficient, innovative, and deeply collaborative approaches to creating full access to content of high value to scholars, students, and the broader public,” said CLIR President Chuck Henry. “The grant contributes significantly to CLIR’s Coherence at Scale for Higher Education initiative, which aspires to align local digitization efforts within a national context. Recipients of the awards for digitization, which we expect will include museums, archives, historical societies, and other cultural institutions, will have the power to extend the impact of their work radically, facilitating new forms of inquiry and potentially transforming our understanding of human history, cultures, and thought.”

“This tremendously exciting new initiative will be essential for filling in gaps in our digitized cultural record,” said Dan Cohen, Executive Director of the Digital Public Library of America and CLIR Board member. “Funds for bringing unique materials online are scarce, and often when rare collections are digitized only a handful of representative items are selected. Under CLIR’s guidance and with the Mellon Foundation’s generosity, Hidden Collections will surface what is currently only available to a handful of scholars, which is truly something to applaud.”

CLIR will post complete program guidelines on its website and issue a request for proposals in January 2015. Webinars for potential applicants will be scheduled early in the new year.

A review panel, comprising scholars from a range of disciplines and experts in metadata standards, copyright and intellectual property, and digital pedagogy, will be formed to evaluate proposals and select award recipients. Funding decisions will be announced in December 2015.

The Council on Library and Information Resources is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning.

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