Early Holiday Presents for the Archives & Special Collections

The Davidson College Archives & Special Collections has received news that definitely added to our holiday cheer – we’ve had three grant applications successfully funded!

Credit: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

We’ve received two National Endowment for the Humanities grants for this funding cycle – one under the newly launched Common Heritage program, and one under the Preservation Assistance Grant program. The first grant project, “History Homecoming Day: Digitizing the Gaps in the Diverse History of a Small College Town,” aims to address the gaps in our archival record on the local African American and other underrepresented groups. In collaboration with the Davidson town government and Davidson Historical Society, the Archives & Special Collections will plan and implement “History Homecoming Day,” a public history event designed to capture data about underrepresented groups through digitization of cultural artifacts, capturing oral histories, and educational programming (such as walking tours of community neighborhoods, an interactive online map, and presentations exploring local history). As Jan Blodgett, College Archivist & Records Management Coordinator and the project director for the “History Homecoming Day” grant, said: “One of the things I learned in writing a town history is how much more history is out there. This grant will help us fill in some important gaps and raise the level of awareness of the contributions of African-Americans in Davidson and North Mecklenburg. We’re looking forward to working with the community and finding new ways to share and celebrate history.”

The second NEH grant project is entitled “Davidson College Archives and Special Collections Comprehensive Preservation Plans.” This project will allow the Archives & Special Collections to engage a preservation consultant from the Northeast Document Conservation Center to conduct assessments of our physical and digital holdings, assisting us in creating our first formal preservation plans. Our holdings include 58 born-digital films, 3,500 digitized photographs, 20 born-digital audio files, dozens of digitized manuscript letters, diaries, and college-related documents, 8 digitized special collections, 30,000 cataloged print photographs, 950 manuscript and archival collections, 700 artifacts, a 1,000-item audiovisual media collection, and 2,000 rare book collection items. Our collections are heavily used in course-related pedagogy, special projects, by various departments across the college (in particular Sports Information, College Relations, Alumni Relations, and College Communications), and to answer reference questions from across the college and beyond. I will be serving as the project director for this grant, and as we increasingly collaborate on digital projects and collect more student works and complex digital objects, I think it’s incredibly important to have formal plans to preserve all of our diverse collections so that we can continue to share college and local history for years to come.

Two collections we know will benefit from a preservation analysis - our film collection (left) and scrapbook collections (right).
Two collections we know will benefit from a preservation analysis – our film collection (left) and scrapbook collections (right, on the shelves on the left side).

In addition to the two projects made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Archives & Special Collections also received word that another grant project we’re involved in has been funded by the Associated Colleges of the South Faculty Advancement Grant program. The “True Stories” project is a collaborative cross-institutional partnership between teams of archivists and teaching faculty at three ACS institutions: Rollins College, Southwestern University, and Davidson College. Each campus team plans to engage students in multidisciplinary, digitally-enhanced oral history methods that would results in a collection of student-conducted oral histories covering a variety of topics (including student life, town/gown relations in small college towns, student activism, and the experiences of students of color) that can be added to each institution’s archival holdings. Findings and reflections on the experiences will be shared across all three institutions, and provide a model for future cross-institutional collaborations. I am serving as principal investigator for the Davidson team, which includes faculty members Hilton Kelly (Associate Professor and Chair of Educational Studies) and Kristi Multhaup (Professor of Psychology). The “True Stories” project dovetails nicely with our two NEH grant projects, particular “History Homecoming Day.”

As you can see, 2016 and 2017 will be very busy years for the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections! We’re looking forward to the new year and all of the new initiatives that come with it – watch this space for updates on these three grant-funded projects!

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