Subscribe to MITH's Podcast

Rice University's Fondren Library and Humanities Research Center, in partnership with the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland, was awarded a 2007 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for $979,578.

Rice University, in partnership with the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland has received a three-year National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in the amount of $979,578 for the Our Americas Archive Project (OAAP), with an additional $980,613 provided in cost share by the institutions. The project will develop an innovative approach to helping users search, browse, analyze, and share content from distributed online collections. OAAP will incorporate recent Web 2.0 technologies to help users discover and use relevant source materials in languages other than English and will improve users' ability to find relevant materials using domain-specific vocabulary searches. Two online collections of materials in English and Spanish, The Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA), and a new digital archive of materials to be developed at Rice, will provide an initial corpus for testing the tools. Rice principle investigators, Geneva Henry (Executive Director, Digital Library Initiative) and Caroline Levander (HRC Director), along with MITH co-PI Neil Fraistat are undertaking this innovative digital humanities project with a view to supporting scholarly inquiry into the Americas from a hemispheric perspective. As Geneva Henry says, "our goal is to develop new ways of doing research as well as new objects of study-to create a new, interactive community of scholarly inquiry."

Two significant online collections of materials in English and Spanish supporting the interdisciplinary field of hemispheric American Studies-Maryland's Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA) [] and a new digital archive of multilingual materials being developed at Rice []-provide an initial corpus for developing and testing these new digital tools. The two multilingual archives illustrate the complex politics and histories that characterize the American hemisphere, but they also provide unique opportunities to further digital research in the humanities. Geographic visualization as well as new social tagging and tag cloud cluster models are just some of the new interface techniques that the Our Americas Archive Partnership will develop with the goal of creating innovative research pathways. As Caroline Levander comments, "we see this as a first step in furthering scholarly dialogue and research across borders by making hemispheric material available open access worldwide. "Our goal is to further develop innovative research tools that will help generate a collaborative, transnational research community." Ralph Bauer, MITH Fellow, general editor of the Early Americas Digital Archive, and collaborator on the project adds, "the added digital materials and tools to navigate seamlessly through these two collections is enabling new forms of scholarship. Because the OAAP makes available materials that are dispersed in different geographic locations, it facilitates collaboration and intellectual exchange among an international audience. The digital medium offers rich opportunities for multicultural exchanges and is therefore uniquely suited for a hemispheric approach to history."

"Incorporating Web 2.0 techniques to enhance work with valuable scholarly content that's held in distributed repositories allows users to both discover and create new knowledge that would otherwise remain untapped," notes Neil Fraistat, Director of MITH. Currently, researchers have difficulty finding and organizing relevant electronic resources, given the multiple systems in which they reside and the heterogeneous vocabularies used to describe them. Further complexities arise when issues such as finding relevant materials in a different language and searching with domain-specific vocabularies are considered. By conforming to best practices in library and information science while incorporating recent Web 2.0 technologies, OAAP will address these important issues.

"Cultural institutions energize their communities by not just preserving culture, heritage, and knowledge, but by supporting life-long learning and engagement. National Leadership Grants harness the work of the best of these institutions. By promoting innovation and partnerships, they allow these institutions to create national models that address the challenges of the broader library and museum communities, and help strengthen their impact," stated Anne-Imelda M. Radice, PhD, Director of IMLS.

National Leadership Grants help libraries and museums collaborate, build digital resources, and conduct research and demonstration projects. The selected projects are national models that will help foster individual achievement, community responsibility, and life-long learning. This year the program had 213 applicants requesting more than $78 million. 43 awards were made, totaling $18,661,716 with an additional $24 million provided in matching funds.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is to grow and sustain a "Nation of Learners" because life-long learning is essential to a democratic society and individual success. Through its grant making, convenings, research and publications, the Institute empowers museums and libraries nationwide to provide leadership and services to enhance learning in families and communities, sustain cultural heritage, build twenty-first-century skills, and increase civic participation. To learn more about the

MITH: Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities