Digitizing Hidden Collections: Institutional Capacity + Community
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Digitizing Hidden Collections: Institutional Capacity + Community

October 13, 2019

In twenty eleven, as the executive director for the Black Metropolis Research Consortium
at the University of Chicago, I identified and authored a grant proposal for collaborative
processing project that was a perfect candidate for the CLIR Hidden Initiatives program. Within Chicago’s African American community,
there were many uncataloged primary resource documents which were of tremendous research
value to understanding the city’s rich cultural history. A lack of adequate financial and staffing
resources were among the many roadblocks that we faced in making these collections accessible
both locally and globally. TAMAR:
When the BMRC received a CLIR hidden collections grant, it was situated to process over a hundred
and fifty collections across a number of institutions, thus transforming them from these collections
that were just sitting around in boxes to living history. Additionally, the CLIR grant afforded to be
BMRC the opportunity to employ and interns at the undergraduate and graduate level. Our vision was to use the Hidden Collections
grant not only as a vehicle of its stressing the past but also creating future archivists
and curators in the future. HANNAH:
First, what I look for is the impact in a local context as well as a broader context,
so that it actually shows the P.I. thought about how the hidden collection impacts the
people. HANNAH:
One of the issues that I regularly see is the the elevation of the collection materials
over the audience in which it’s supposed to relate. And so when we think about a hidden collection
we kind of think about the objects themselves and how digitizing these and making these
available would benefit that the collection, rather than thinking more about the audience
and how it impacts the audience. And we also think about the creators of the
of the content as being diverse individuals and that is fulfilling that kind of that question
of diversity of part of the application process. What is typically left out is how the new
collection impacts the diverse individuals if you will of today and how the collection
relates to their story or continues their story. And that kind of gets to a little bit of how
partnerships are being made or explored as part of this grant process. I always advise clients that unless you can
give a grant proposal the reflection it deserves, you should not squander time crafting it. You want funders and proposal reviewers to
be excited about your project you want them to say yes this is something that is worthy
of us funding and needs our support. HANNAH:
If you can articulate what kinds of future initiatives that you’re thinking about as
part of the digitization process or beyond, that kind of helps out the reviewer see that
you are not only invested in the process but also thinking about what you might do in the
future When you think about how these funds might
support organizational staffing, one of the things you might think about is how the funds
are being distributed I was in the store within the staff so that everyone gets paid for their
time. There should be living wages for for folks
who are contributing to the project. TAMAR:
The project should not only yield positive economic impacts on your organization but
they should also create outcomes which have rewarding social and historical impacts. Take a look at your collections and ask if
a potential project would advance historical understanding, cultural inclusion, and build
capacity for future endeavors. It’s not about the quantity of the grand award,
but rather the quality and social impact that your project will provide your stakeholders. HANNAH:
What gets me really excited about this projects is seeing folks creating and forging new alliances
that weren’t possible before, or in thinking about how these hidden collections of might
foster new and and exciting a partnership between institutions that might not have come
together before is really quite exciting arm also it by developing new workflows is really
exciting and seeing institutions think about how going through the process of making this
hidden collection available, they might also then develop new workflows that can be operationalized
within their own institution is really quite exciting.

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