Use this step-by-step guide to the Digitizing Hidden Collections Application.
Access the Digitizing Hidden Collections application form.
Find answers to our most commonly asked questions.
Please note: The information on this page will be refined and updated in response to applicant input. Questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Initial Application stage is open to all eligible organizations and consists of a series of writing prompts and a small number of uploaded documents. The application will request basic information about the organization(s) applying to the program and about the proposed digitization project. The required uploads include a proposed project timeline and budget summary.
Initial Application stage: March 1 – April 30, 2021
The Final Application stage will be open to a selection of organizations chosen from the Initial Application pool. Applicants will receive anonymous reviewer feedback from the program’s independent review panel and have the opportunity to participate in other information-sharing activities focused on building a Final Application, which will be similar to the full proposals solicited by previous Digitizing Hidden Special Collections calls. Information collected in the Initial Application stage will help to build the Final Application.
Full application instructions and template will be posted for invited applicants by July 30.
This program is for nonprofit, academic, independent, and community-based organizations in the US and Canada that collect, preserve, and share rare and unique materials with the general public. Eligible organizations must propose eligible projects falling within the program’s scope and be prepared to abide by the program’s award terms.
Applicant organizations and any collaborating organizations must fall under one of the following categories and meet the requirements for that category:
Two or more eligible organizations may apply to collaborate on a project. When two or more organizations collaborate, one of the organizations must be appointed as the lead applicant, accepting responsibility for project oversight and the management of grant funds.
This program supports the digitization of rare and unique historical and cultural materials in a variety of formats and the creation and promotion of online access to those materials. Any expenditures of program funds must be directly related to these purposes.
Materials nominated for digitization through this program must be owned and held by an eligible organization prepared to abide by the program’s award terms.
To determine whether the content you wish to digitize fits within the program’s scope, see Frequently Asked Questions, below.
To receive funding through this program, all grant recipients are required to adhere to the following terms regarding funding amounts and length of projects. Agreement to additional stipulations related to intellectual property and reuse will also be required.
All requests must align with the Allowable Costs as described in the application instructions
This resources serves as a step-by-step guide and a collaborative workspace for preparing a Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives: Amplifying Unheard Voices application. The document walks applicants through each question, describes what should be covered in each response, and offers space to draft responses.
Want to assess your readiness to apply? View the questionnaire, also available in the Applicant Handbook.
Reviewers will be asked to evaluate proposals based on a brief rubric, which has been included as an appendix to the Applicant Handbook.
For questions that are not answered below or in the Applicant Handbook, check the answers provided during our Applicant Webinar or Q&A Session. Still need help? Contact CLIR’s Grants Team at email@example.com. During open application periods, CLIR staff are available and ready to help via email.
Your project fits within the scope of this program if
If you’ve confirmed all of the above statements, you may be a good fit to this program. If not, we encourage you to explore our Related Funders to see if one of those offers a program that may be a better fit. Any additional questions about eligibility or project design can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
This program’s focus is the creation of digital representations of unique content that will deepen public understanding of the histories of people of color and other communities and populations whose work, experiences, and perspectives have been insufficiently recognized or unattended. CLIR is committed to projects that contribute to the public good, using methods that are thoughtfully designed, sustainable, and prioritize community-centered access.
Through its support of digitization, this program will enhance the emerging global digital research environment in ways that support new kinds of discovery and learning. It will help to ensure that resources held by collecting institutions become thoughtfully integrated with the open Web to contribute to a more complete understanding of human history. To promote ethical access, careful preservation, sustainability, and usability, approaches to digitization should be coordinated across institutions and in consultation with stakeholder communities. By encouraging authentic partnerships and communication, CLIR expects to help broaden understanding of the challenges and opportunities inherent in digitization work among all people who manage and use rare and unique collections.
For the purposes of this program, special collections are any kind of rare or unique materials housed in secure, monitored environments and made available to the general public. Archives are unique, often unpublished, materials associated with a specific individual, topic, location, or organization that is of historical and/or cultural interest. The materials may be of any format as long as they are owned and held by an eligible organization. The special collections and archives must have been created by or describe peoples of color and other communities and populations whose work, experiences, and perspectives have been insufficiently recognized or attended.
For the purposes of this program, applicants must convincingly argue that their materials are “hidden” in the sense that they cannot have a meaningful impact on public understanding of people, communities, and populations whose work, experiences, and perspectives have been insufficiently recognized or attended in the past until those materials are digitized, discoverable, and accessible in ethical, respectful, and legal ways.
CLIR will accept applications for collections that have been fully or partially described as well as those for which no descriptive records exist. Because most finding aids for archival materials do not include item-level descriptions, CLIR understands that some digitization projects will require the production of original descriptive metadata, even if these collections have already been described in a finding aid or in a catalog at the collection or series level. Such descriptive metadata would be in addition to the technical and administrative metadata required to manage the digital objects.
See also: So what do we mean by “hidden”?, Re:Thinking (Blog post, February 12, 2015)
The “core values” for Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives are statements that affirm the program’s broad objectives. These statements are provided to guide applicants in developing their projects, and to guide reviewers in assessing applicants’ proposals. CLIR’s review panel and officers of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation advise program staff in reassessing the program’s priorities and the relevance of the core values to these priorities on an annual basis, making adjustments as needed.
The five core values are: public knowledge, broad representation, authentic partnerships, sustainable infrastructures, and community-centered access. Additional information on the program’s core values can be found on the program’s homepage.
CLIR’s program seeks to serve the “public good” in two senses: first, to emphasize that access to cultural and historical knowledge by the general public is necessary for the healthy functioning of any democratic society; and, second, to recognize that a coordinated and collaborative approach to managing that knowledge as a shared resource and responsibility is the fairest and most effective strategy for preserving human knowledge for future generations. The emerging global digital learning environment affords many opportunities to create broad access to knowledge and to collaborate on decisions about how that access is created and maintained, but only when collecting organizations prioritize the broader public good will it become possible to build a learning environment that is equally representative of and beneficial to all.
CLIR’s program supports digitization projects that will thoughtfully capture and share the untapped stories of people, communities, and populations who are underrepresented in digital collections in ways that contribute to a more complete understanding of human history. This program’s theme and core values focus on often “hidden” histories that include, but are not necessarily limited to, those of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other People of Color; Women; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Non-binary, and other Genderqueer people and communities; Immigrants; Displaced populations; Blind, Deaf, and Disabled people and communities; and Colonized, Disenfranchised, Enslaved, and Incarcerated people. This value is inclusive in nature rather than exclusive, and applications are welcomed that can make a compelling case for the collection(s) nominated for digitization. The use of “voices” and “stories” does not limit collections to narrative or oral history materials as diversification of the historical record can be accomplished through digitization of a variety of materials.
Authentic partnerships foreground meaningful engagement with the communities and organizations whose materials the source materials tell and build inclusive teams across organizational and geographic boundaries. Each partner’s needs and goals should be acknowledged in the project planning stages, working to design the project together. Throughout the process, each partner should be clear on the goals and deliverables and have a voice in any decisions about how they are fulfilled.
Partnerships might also be with community organizations and groups represented in collections. Community members should have avenues to give feedback on the project and recipient organizations should commit to soliciting and integrating that feedback into their approach in a way that honors community members’ lived experiences, especially in cases where organizations are led and staffed by individuals who are not members of the represented communities themselves.
Building authentic partnerships takes thoughtfulness and time. If you are seeking a collaborator to work with you formally on a Digitizing Hidden Collections project, we recommend reaching out to your known network of organizations, especially targeting organizations that may have expertise or resources that compliment your own. Listservs, message boards, and social media may offer ways to make connections or gather potential contacts within an organization that may be unfamiliar to you.
Digitization is only the first step when considering expanding access to materials; organizations should be prepared to sustain the digital resources over time. The DLF Digitizing Special Formats wiki provides a number of resources to consider when planning for a digitization project. Exploring the standards established by associations and organizations, such as Digital Preservation at the Library of Congress, could also help you consider important questions in the planning stages of your project. Consider the viability of providing access through digital collection aggregators or other platforms outside your own organization and implementing technical and description standards that will help your collection live within the increasingly interconnected landscape of digital collections.
Rather than exclusively valuing broad open access, this program advocated for approaches to access, description, and outreach that make digitized content as widely available and useful as possible within legal and ethical constraints. Applicants should consider differentiated access, empowering the communities and peoples represented in collections with their own knowledge to filter access through appropriate lenses as defined by their own values and concerns. While the program does require that metadata created during the course of project work be dedicated to the public domain, ethical exceptions are permitted.
Yes. Eligible organizations in the US. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands may apply, and eligible organizations in the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut may also apply.
No. Applicants may propose the digitization of source materials that are protected by copyright or other laws, so long as the applicant institution and all partner institutions are prepared to execute and abide by CLIR’s intellectual property agreement for this program (sample IP Agreements are available in the Document Library above). CLIR encourages the use of the standardized rights statements like those provided by RightsStatements.org to communicate to the public the copyright status of content digitized through the program, and information about its re-use. In addition, the intellectual property agreement does require that all metadata created through this program be explicitly dedicated to the public domain. Links to resources related to copyright and intellectual property may be found on the Digitizing Special Formats wiki.
Collaboration can take many forms. One collaborative project might seek to bring together large quantities of related material; another might enable a larger institution to share its technical expertise and infrastructure with a smaller organization that possesses important content they would not be able to digitize, preserve, and share widely without assistance. In light of this, the final determination of whether a multi-institution project qualifies will be made by the review panelists on the basis of a holistic reading of the proposal. The following are the prerequisites for being considered a collaborative project:
The following are contributing factors reviewers will also consider:
Yes. CLIR encourages applications from consortia, or partnerships of two or more collaborating organizations, including U.S.-Canadian partnerships. The submitted budget should aggregate the total funds requested; all funds will be disbursed to the lead applicant organization. CLIR will not disburse funds for one award to several organizations
Any division of funds and responsibilities should be addressed in the application. Applicants submitting a joint or consortial project must include a detailed list of collections to be digitized in their final applications.
Applicants should seek authentic partnerships that should also advance the missions and meet the priorities of all partner organizations . The partnership should also enhance the capacity of each organization to sustainably create and disseminate digitized collections and archives as a public good. Collaborating partners should identify benefits of the project that would not be possible if the partners worked individually.
CLIR also encourages applicants to consider working together on a less formal basis, even when submitting separate proposals. In the initial application stage, applicants may note in their proposals that they are interested in collaborating with other applicants holding similar collections or engaging in similar activities. The review panel will consider the potential benefits of these informal partnerships when recommending proposals for funding.
Because guidance is still changing and many organizations do not yet have policies in place for all the activities related to a digitization project, we are not asking that you include social distancing or other considerations related to the pandemic in the proposal.
Reviewers will be given guidance about evaluating applications along those lines, and if it does turn out that such information would be useful, a question will be added to the supplemental material required for the final round of the process.
Funded projects are also being granted flexibility as they encounter the need to adapt their projects, so there will be many chances to think about this at later points.
The decision to require initial applications prior to accepting final applications was made in response to feedback from CLIR’s applicants and reviewers. The purpose of the initial application is to give reviewers a way to assist applicants in improving the quality of their proposals. Digitizing Hidden Collections: Amplifying Unheard Voices uses a much shorter initial application format than previous iterations of the program to encourage applications from as diverse a pool of organizations as possible.
Organizations may submit more than one proposal, but each proposal must have a unique principal investigator. An individual may not act as a principal investigator on more than one Digitizing Hidden Collections project at any time, and may not be named as a principal investigator on more than one Digitizing Hidden Collections proposal during a single cycle.
While reviewers consider all proposals separately on their own merits, applicants from organizations submitting multiple proposals should consult with one another as they craft their applications and demonstrate an awareness of other planned projects in their proposal narratives, where relevant.
No. The final application stage is only open to organizations who are selected from the initial application stage.
No. Unfortunately CLIR’s grants team only has the capacity to support applicants who will be invited to advance in the competition. However, CLIR is endeavoring to secure funding to continue offering the program in 2022 and beyond, so applicants who are initially unsuccessful may have opportunities to resubmit at a later date.
No. All applications may only include a maximum of three named Principal Investigators.
Yes, all sections are required unless otherwise indicated. Incomplete applications will not be eligible for review.
CLIR’s online application system will accept documents that exceed stated page limits. When CLIR’s grants team conducts its technical review of all submissions, those including documents that exceed page limits will be flagged for revision, truncation, or removal from the pool. CLIR’s capacity to solicit and re-upload revised documents will be determined by the number of submissions in the pool, so applicants are strongly encouraged to review the Applicant Handbook before, during, and just prior to submission to ensure their work is compliant. Applicants are also strongly encouraged to confirm compliance after upload to the online application space to verify that the document was not altered in the process.
Applicants should give their best possible estimate of costs. The initial budget summary is an important factor as the reviewers decide which applications will advance to the final proposal phase, and they rely on the inclusion of evidence supporting budget figures for their assessment. Reviewers may recommend adjustments to budget figures between the initial and final application stages.
If working with outside digitization vendors, formal quotes for the project work will not be required until the final application round, at which point a minimum of two quotes must be submitted. In the initial round, applicants should provide an informed estimate of the cost of outsourced work; applicants are encouraged to reach out to potential vendors for a preliminary price point.
A limited amount of information submitted will become public, as part of the Hidden Collections Registry. All such information has been designated in the Application Handbook and within the online application system. Note that only information from complete, submitted applications will be included in the Registry. CLIR will not publicize information from in-progress applications that are not submitted by the applicant.
No. Applicants are free to choose the standards or technologies they believe will best suit their project and their users’ needs, and should justify their choices in the application.
Applicants may find information from the Digitizing Special Formats wiki, which is curated by the Digital Library Federation, helpful in planning project proposals.