Library of Congress Awarded $15 Million Grant for Multiyear Cultural Initiative
The Library of Congress has announced a new multiyear initiative called “Of the People: Widening the Path” in an effort to connect more deeply with Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and other minority communities by expanding its collections, using technology to enable storytelling and offering more internship and fellowship opportunities.
The “Of the People” initiative is being funded with a $15 million grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, making it the largest grant from a private foundation in the Library’s history and is among the largest grants that the foundation awarded in its 2020 cycle.
“The Mellon Foundation’s generous grant will enhance the Library’s efforts to develop deeper and mutually empowering relationships with those who are too often left out of the American story,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “By inviting communities of color and other underrepresented groups to partner on a wider, more inclusive path for connection to the Library of Congress, we invest in an enduring legacy of the multifaceted American story that truly is ‘Of the People.’”
“We are proud to support Carla Hayden and the ‘Of the People’ initiative as the Library of Congress envisions and implements new ways to connect all Americans with its unparalleled resources,” said Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander. “The Library of Congress is the people’s public library, and we are delighted that it will engage diverse and inclusive public participation in expanding our country’s historical and creative records.”
As part of the new four-year initiative, the Library of Congress intends to create and invest in three primary programs, which include:
- Community Documentarians with the American Folklife Center
- Internship and Fellowships for students from minority-serving institutions
- The Black, Indigenous and Minority Americans Digital Futures Program
According to the Library of Congress, the American Folklife Center will be expanding its collection by funding and supporting individuals and organizations, “in collecting and archiving contemporary community-driven cultural expressions and traditions that may otherwise be absent from the national record.”
To properly support individuals and organizations in their quest to document cultural activity, the Library will create the AFC Community Collection Fellowship program, a three-year project that will fund up to 10 fellowships each year, with awards of up to $50,000 for travel expenses, stipends and other expenses related to their fieldwork.
All ethnographic cultural documentation (i.e., audio, visual, written) under the AFC Community Collection Fellowship program will be collected, preserved and showcased by the Library of Congress.
In addition to the AFC Community Collection Fellowship program, the Library will also provide additional fellowships and internships to students who attend historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, Tribal colleges and universities and institutions that serve Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
According to the Library of Congress’ “Of the People” blog, the additional fellowships and internships will be provided to over 260 students under three programs that are overseen by the Library. These programs include:
- An expansion of the Library’s Archives, History and Heritage Advanced Internship program, a program that is modeled after a pilot program from Howard University
- A continuation of the Junior Fellows Program, a ten-week summer internship for undergraduate and graduate students
- The creation of The Library of Congress Internships program, a brand-new initiative that will work with external organizations to source qualified candidates for placement in a variety of internships throughout the Library
With the expansion of their Internships and Fellowships Programs, the Library hopes that these new opportunities will help, “develop a new generation of diverse talent for cultural heritage organizations.”
The $15 million grant from the Mellon Foundation will also help support the Library’s efforts in creating the Black, Indigenous and Minority Americans Digital Futures Program, a program that seeks to amplify undertold stories and experiences of minority communities through digital projects and partnerships.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic makes online communications more critical and the national conversation about race grows, the Library of Congress will join other efforts across the country to incubate projects that explore, re-imagine, and re-present the knowledge of the past.
“The goal is to foster creative, vibrant, and collaborative additions to the cultural record that are designed by, for, and with all of the people of the United States,” stated the Library’s blog on the Digital Futures Program.
To find out more information about the Library of Congress’ “Of the People: Widening the Path” initiative, subscribe to the initiative’s blog online.
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