Earlham College awarded grant to digitize extensive library and museum collections

Earlham College has been awarded nearly $403,000 in American Rescue Plan grant funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The grant will help the College purchase instructional technology for teaching in the humanities, support operation costs and training, and purchase equipment to digitize collections at Lilly Library and Joseph Moore Museum. The grant also will support three temporary positions to advance key humanities initiatives on campus.

“We are pleased that the National Endowment for the Humanities has recognized our traditional strength in the humanities and our efforts to incorporate cutting-edge technology into our classrooms, library and museum facilities,” said Earlham President Anne Houtman. “This grant will also support the critical archival needs of our library and museum, which provide valuable resources not only to our own students, but subject experts and visitors of all ages from our local community.”

With grant funding, the Joseph Moore Museum will hire a post-doctoral fellow to catalog, analyze, digitize and rehouse all of the materials in its Native American collection. This fellow will teach an undergraduate course in Native American archaeology and assist museum staff to establish a 3D scanning lab on campus.

“This funding is essential to research in our anthropological collections,” said Ann-Eliza Lewis, the collections manager at Joseph Moore Museum. “There is growing recognition of the value of applying modern analytical techniques to older archaeological collections. Hiring a specialist to work full time on our collections for a year will allow us to forge collaborative relationships with modern indigenous communities to conduct this renewed study in an inclusive way.

“Some of JMM’s extensive archaeological collections from local Native American sites were collected more than a century ago and represent thousands of years of history in this region,” she said. “We can’t wait to see what this new research reveals. When our research is complete, we will be able to improve our exhibits and better serve our local schools who come to us for information on our region’s early history.”

A second position supported by the grant will be a digital archivist who will work at Earlham’s Lilly Library on key digitization projects. This position will help provide training and supervision to student workers, especially those learning and providing digitization assistance. The work will also include scanning and metadata tagging of key collections, and modernizing the existing archives.

Key collections of focus will include the original collection records of museum founder and Earlham’s second president, Joseph Moore, and materials from the Friends United Meeting Collection.

“The Friends United Meeting Collection is a wonderfully rich collection of documents and photographs of Friends and communities in Palestine, Kenya, Egypt, Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico, the United States, and more,” said Jenny Freed, Earlham’s director of special collections and archives.

A tertiary project is to begin digitization of the College’s permanent art collection, which includes over 3,000 paintings, prints and sculptures featuring Midwestern art and crafts, East Asian and Quaker art, plus objects of material culture from Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific.

The salary for a temporary instructional designer will also be supported by the grant. This position will assist faculty with the creation of online and hybrid course content due to the COVID pandemic.

Editor’s note: This project has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this press release do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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