Periodic stock-taking is healthy for all organizations, but it is vital for private foundations. Otherwise these privileged and often sheltered organizations run the risk of becoming complacent if not stagnant. It is especially important for foundations to reassess their programs on a regular basis because they lack the external checks provided routinely by impersonal and unforgiving markets in the case of for-profit entities. They also lack the oversight provided by donors (private and public) and “consumers of services” (such as students, audiences, and fee-paying visitors) in the case of colleges, universities, performing arts organizations, and museums. Tighter spending constraints, brought about by the continuing weakness in financial markets and the attendant reductions in endowments, have provided still another impetus for disciplined internal review of program priorities.
At their September 2002 Retreat, the Trustees started out by considering whether the Foundation’s overall grantmaking budget should be reduced in line with recent reductions in the average market value of the endowment (which, at about $3.6 billion in early 2003, is roughly 25 to 30 percent below its September 2000 peak of more than $5 billion, though still roughly twice its value in 1990). (Note 1) A year earlier, in September 2001, the same question about grantmaking levels was posed, and the Trustees decided to “stay the course.” At that time they reaffirmed the Foundation’s commitment to the basic level of grantmaking already projected for 2001 (around $185 million) and, in addition, approved a special, additional, appropriation of $50 million that was to be used to assist New York cultural institutions (and parks) in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. (Note 2) Since then, the Trustees have continued to believe that when financial adversity hits the institutions that the Foundation supports, the Foundation should not add to their problems by curtailing its own grantmaking. Consistent with this view, the most basic decision reached in 2002 was to keep the overall grantmaking budget at roughly the $185 million level. Wealthy foundations can and should “stretch” in such special situations, even if this means allowing the payout rate to rise modestly above the basic IRS requirement. (Note 3)
Shifts in Program Priorities
“Staying the course” has its dangers, however. There is a natural temptation to continue doing just what the Foundation has been doing, and to halt consideration of new initiatives. We have not followed this course. Rather, we have asked ourselves, as we regularly do, a cluster of connected questions: What are our major priorities, and what is the best way to achieve them? What new initiatives are especially promising? What ongoing programs should be sustained or even built upon? Finally, are there ways to give an even sharper focus to our grantmaking and to phase out, in an orderly way, programs that have achieved their major objectives and are less central to the Foundation’s mission than other activities we might support? The rest of this report is an attempt to provide at least provisional answers to these questions. I would like to begin by explaining the rationale that emerged from this assessment for paring back and refocusing two of the Foundation’s programs.
Also, in sharp contrast to earlier days, the National Science Foundation now supports work in this field, as in other areas of basic science; in addition, we believe that other foundations, particularly the recently formed Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, are likely to be active in this area. To avoid any risk of misunderstanding, I should emphasize that the Foundation will continue to be an active grantmaker in specified areas of the Conservation and the Environment field. As Mr. Robertson’s statement of program objectives on the Foundation’s Web site indicates, we will continue to invest in major research consortia such as the Hawaii Ecosystem Study organized through Stanford University and an array of projects involving Kruger National Park in South Africa. We also expect to continue to support a series of initiatives involving liberal arts colleges, including some that promote environmental sciences programs and others that allow students at these colleges to spend time at major research sites such as the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica, and Kruger National Park. Special mention should also be made of the Foundation’s plan to increase its already extensive efforts to use advances in digital technologies to increase access to the holdings of major natural history institutions and to the collections of leading centers of botanical research.
Ongoing Program Priorities
The Mellon Foundation has long been known principally for its support of the humanities, the arts, and programs in higher education. This emphasis will, if anything, be even more pronounced in the next few years than it has been historically. Specifically, the Foundation intends to concentrate its grantmaking in the following programmatic areas: museums and art conservation; the performing arts; higher education (research universities, liberal arts colleges, and centers for advanced study); minority education (including especially the Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship Program and its offshoots); scholarly communications; and research in information technology and teaching. Support for activities outside the United States, including particularly those in South Africa, will be provided under several of these headings. The emphasis in recent years on harnessing advances in information technology to serve needs within the arts and sciences will be reinforced within a number of these programs as well as through several new initiatives. Also, in the near term at least, the Foundation will continue both to sponsor and carry out social science research in targeted areas within higher education. Except in rare cases, we do not expect to be making grants in the broad field of public and international affairs.
Museums, Art Conservation, and the Performing Arts
Our staff and Trustees feel strongly that we should maintain our current levels of grantmaking in these fields, notwithstanding a decline in our endowment. The basic reason is simply that the economy of New York City is suffering, and funding from public sources for these critically important institutions is being sharply curtailed; similar problems exist nationwide. Although we cannot repeat the special, one-time $50 million initiative that we undertook last year to assist New York–based museums, libraries, and performing arts organizations, we do plan, in 2003 and for the foreseeable future, to continue our sizable commitments to these fields, in New York and more generally.
In the museum field, the Trustees intend to continue the Foundation’s focus on curatorial scholarship through, on the one hand, the establishment of securely endowed positions, and on the other, of publication funds, while also continuing to support postdoctoral opportunities for young scholars in art history to enter the museum profession. In the conservation field, our commitment to both training and the establishment of positions in the field of photograph conservation now runs parallel with a growing investment in the scientific component of art conservation that was stimulated by the Foundation’s program officer for museums and art conservation, Angelica Rudenstine. Proposals approved during 2002 in this latter arena illustrate our current thinking: a challenge grant to the Metropolitan Museum of Art will facilitate the restructuring of its science department through the appointment of an additional senior scientist to lead the effort; grants to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum will assist in the establishment of new positions for scientists; and a grant to the Harvard University Art Museums for postdoctoral fellowships will help to meet a growing demand in the field for well-trained scientists wishing to enter conservation.
In the performing arts, the Trustees continue to follow closely the progress of the Foundation’s program for symphony orchestras (including the “orchestra forum”) that has been developed and led by the program officer for this field, Catherine (Wichterman) Maciariello. In December 2002, the Trustees also approved a series of 18 renewal grants under the national theater program, having acted earlier in the year to support new work in dance. The summary table at the end of the text of this report indicates that, in 2002, the Foundation appropriated between $15 and $16 million in support of its program in performing arts and a similar sum in support of its program in museums and art conservation. The same level of grantmaking is anticipated in 2003.
The Foundation appropriated more than $65 million in direct support of programs of higher education in 2002, excluding appropriations for minority education, scholarly communications, research on information technology, research and training programs in the fields of population and ecology, and support of college and university museums and performing arts programs. When we add up grants for all purposes made to and through institutions of higher education, including institutes for advanced study and organizations such as the American Council of Learned Societies and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the total comes to about $141 million. The customary listing of all individual grants at the end of the report illustrates the wide range of programs, projects, and institutions that together define the Foundation’s commitment to this core area of activity. In 2002, the Foundation made 372 separate grants in this area, including 73 foreign grants. (Note 4)
Research universities and the humanities. A top priority within the research universities/humanities part of the Foundation’s higher education program (which is overseen by the Foundation’s senior vice president, Harriet Zuckerman, and her associate, Joseph Meisel) is support for a wide array of fellowship programs. The number and extent of these programs has increased dramatically in the last few years, as we have decided to shift some (but by no means all) of our grants from support of graduate students to support of faculty members—and also to commit new resources. These faculty fellowship programs, which are centered in the humanities and related disciplines and cover the “academic life cycle,” were described in detail in last year’s Annual Report. In brief, they support:
In addition, the Foundation funds a wide variety of postdoctoral awards, resident fellowships based at centers of advanced study and in some special library collections, and fellowships for graduate study in the humanities.
As noted, a number of these fellowship programs are relatively new. The Ryskamp Fellowships and the Distinguished Achievement Awards were initiated in 2001, the New Directions Fellowships in 2002, and the Emeritus Fellowships are being launched in 2003. As presently conceived, these still-developing programs, taken together, involve appropriations totaling more than $40 million annually. At a time when colleges and universities are hard pressed financially, we are more persuaded than ever of the value of these targeted efforts to recognize, reward, and assist outstanding scholars in the humanities. But we also recognize that organizing and managing such programs is a demanding undertaking that requires careful administration as well as substantial monetary outlays. (Note 5) Accordingly, we are reviewing these commitments and the frequency with which certain national competitions are held. Experience may teach us that we can achieve our basic objectives (and, in fact, achieve them even more fully in some respects) without being quite as ambitious as we have been, in terms of both scale and aspects of program definition.
The Foundation needs to retain budgetary “room” to do new things and to take advantage of special opportunities when they present themselves. In 2002, for instance, we made a special grant of $1.4 million to the Courtauld Institute of Art in London to strengthen its faculty and enrich its scholarly activities at an important transitional point in its history. To provide a second example, the Foundation also made a grant of $1 million to help the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York maintain and build on its present strengths by recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty members at a time of severely constrained resources.
Liberal arts colleges. The liberal arts college component of the higher education program (overseen by the Foundation’s Vice President, Pat McPherson, and her colleague, Danielle Carr Ramdath) is also ambitious—properly so, we believe, given both the importance of these colleges as places where talented students can focus on the study of the basic arts and sciences and the limited amount of funding from foundation, corporate, and governmental sources that is available to them. The Foundation supports postdoctoral fellowships in these settings, as well as in research universities; indeed, the Foundation’s postdoctoral fellowship model originated with a grant to Bryn Mawr in 1975. More recently, emphasis has been placed on a series of collaborative/consortial programs intended to give smaller colleges the scale they require in some areas and opportunities to interact with institutions pursuing similar missions and facing similar problems. Examples include projects designed to:
Perhaps the most important of the collaborative initiatives spawned recently is the creation of a cluster of regional technology centers in 2001 through appropriations totaling about $10 million. Further Foundation funding will be required in future years as we seek, working with the relevant associations of liberal arts colleges, to have these centers evolve into institutionalized entities that will address common issues in the application of information technology in cost-effective ways. At the same time, the participating colleges will also need to testify directly to the value of these centers on their campuses by committing more of their own funds. Otherwise, the centers will not be able to sustain themselves over the long run.
In 2002, the Foundation’s liberal arts college program supported another, very different, kind of consortial undertaking: the College Retirement Project, designed to permit pre-funding and joint purchasing of supplemental medical insurance for (in the first instance) retiring faculty and staff at national liberal arts colleges. The co-directors, Linda and Kenneth Cool, have worked energetically and imaginatively to test the feasibility of this concept and have now received non-binding expressions of strong interest from 100 colleges. This is such an important initiative because it is concerned not only with an evident national problem experienced by people in many sectors (how to pay for medical care after retirement) but also because the failure to find viable solutions at liberal arts colleges can have severe implications for faculty staffing. Senior faculty who may have been planning to retire could now pull back in the face of rising medical costs and no assured way of protecting themselves and their families. The Foundation’s role, as we envision it at this juncture, is to cover the costs of designing a plan and convening meetings to discuss it; if the plan is to succeed, it will have to make economic sense and be self-sustaining. Giving effect to such an ambitious undertaking is obviously complicated and difficult, but we believe there are grounds for at least guarded optimism. (Note 6)
At both colleges and universities, the Foundation continues to support programs designed to increase educational opportunities for talented minority students. The Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship Program (MMUF), created 14 years ago under the leadership of Henry Drewry and now directed by Lydia English, is the major programmatic vehicle for these efforts, which have never been more important than they are today. The great success of MMUF has been gratifying. Almost 2,000 undergraduates have participated in it since its inception, and the flow of students into and through PhD programs is accelerating. (Note 7) To date, the Foundation has appropriated $54 million to MMUF and its “extensions” (which include special programs that provide a limited amount of support for MMUF students in graduate school and for minority and women faculty beginning their academic careers).
Still, the need to attract more minority students to graduate study and academic careers remains overwhelming, and in all likelihood the Foundation will elect to commit even more resources to support the growing number of MMUF students enrolled in PhD programs, earning their doctorates, and entering the professoriate. We realize, however, that the particular mechanisms used to support some activities (such as annual conferences, which have been very effective in creating an esprit de corps and stimulating valuable interactions) will need to be re-examined in light of the continuing growth in the numbers of participants. It is important that available resources be spent as effectively as possible and that convening and administrative costs not divert funds from direct student support.
Under the leadership of Danielle Carr Ramdath, the Foundation also supports programs intended to assist historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). These have included library programs, efforts to assist HBCUs to take full advantage of scholarly resources such as JSTOR, and, most recently, a highly targeted set of “institution building” grants. The HBCUs face distinctive problems, and we expect this program, as well as companion work with Appalachian colleges, to continue. (Note 8) Of course, the leading HBCUs also compete effectively with other nationally regarded liberal arts colleges for support through the Foundation’s broader liberal arts college program.
Research in Higher Education
Another continuing activity of the Foundation in higher education is the support of research projects, some carried out by Mellon staff and many conducted elsewhere by leading scholars. The Foundation is pleased that research it has supported over several years has led to important contributions to scholarship and to publications that have been cited extensively in the opinion pieces and briefs prepared in conjunction with the University of Michigan affirmative action cases that are soon to be argued before the United States Supreme Court. Whatever the Court decides, in one of the most significant cases to come before it in decades, a clear understanding of policy choices and their implications will continue to matter greatly—to higher education, of course, but also to the country at large. A principal objective of both our own research and the work we have sponsored by scholars such as Charles Hirschman, John Kain, Thomas Kane, Glenn Loury, Douglas Massey, and Marta Tienda, has been to provide empirical evidence that can answer, at least in part, some of the basic questions in this contentious debate and also to frame the open issues. The essay that is appended to the Annual Report this year is a paper that Neil Rudenstine and I published recently in an effort to pull together much of this work, to relate it to what are fundamentally questions of values, and to explain why the two of us continue to believe so strongly in race-sensitive admission policies. (Note 9)
Other research projects directly related to higher education include the studies of college sports and educational values that James Shulman and I began in 2001 with the publication of The Game of Life and that Sarah Levin and I have continued with the completion, in 2002, of a more detailed exploration of the continued widening of what we term the academic-athletic divide. The new book is titled Reclaiming the Game, and it is to be published by the Princeton University Press in the fall of 2003. In 2002, the Foundation also appropriated the funds needed to conduct a large-scale survey of graduate students who participated in the Foundation’s now-concluded program of institutional support for graduate study in carefully selected departments at ten universities—and of a control group of departments at other major universities. These data will be combined with institutional records as part of an ambitious effort to study the effects of the Foundation’s major commitment to enhancing the effectiveness of doctoral education in the humanities and related fields. This study (tentatively titled “The Mellon Graduate Education Initiative: A Review after a Decade”) is being carried out under the leadership of Harriet Zuckerman at the Foundation and Ronald Ehrenberg at Cornell University.
The Foundation’s Scholarly Communications program, under the leadership of Donald Waters and his associate, Suzanne Lodato, has finished another extremely active year and has an equally ambitious agenda for the future. This is one of the Foundation’s major areas of emphasis looking ahead. As in the case of the Conservation and Environment program, some pruning of the tree has been accomplished, in this instance through a decision to conclude what had been a modest program of support for Latin American libraries. Projects supported in 2002 included traditional book and manuscript conservation and cataloging efforts (represented by grants of $1 million to the University of Oxford and $1 million to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign); two major initiatives intended to address the unsolved problem of how to archive “born digital content” in scholarly journals; a series of projects aimed at finding new ways to create, harvest, and use metadata, especially cataloging information related to art images; the support of digitization of content in fields as diverse as inscriptions of ancient Near Eastern texts, moving images in the field of ethnomusicology, and records of dance performance. Support was also provided for a pilot project designed by the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation and three research universities to explore the scholarly uses of video-taped interviews with Holocaust survivors. In addition, substantial start-up funding was also provided for ARTstor and a new organization called Ithaka. An update on ARTstor and a detailed description of Ithaka are provided later in this report.
Space constraints permit only brief mention of a few of these projects. Columbia University received a grant of $542,000 to develop computational linguistic techniques for identifying and extracting metadata from text sources that can be used to describe works of art. This project is potentially of great significance for large image-based collections of the kind that will appear in ARTstor and other digital repositories since the time and expense required to provide robust descriptive information generally far exceeds that required for digitizing and storing images. A second grant was made to the University of California at San Diego ($750,000) to support the creation of a prototype union catalog for art images that would link various “home built” databases so that the best cataloging information can be associated with the best images. A third grant was made to the Rochester Institute of Technology ($874,000) to develop and implement a spectral digital imaging system that has the potential to improve dramatically the quality of color values associated with images and simultaneously to reduce costs by eliminating the need for manual “color corrections.”
Indiana University and the University of Michigan have outstanding musicology programs, and in 2002 the Foundation made a grant of $875,000 to support the joint development of a digital archive of annotated field recordings of moving images made by leading figures in ethnomusicology. A smaller grant ($166,000) was made to the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York to support the planning of an online archive of moving images that document dance history and performance. In both of these instances, complex issues of intellectual property rights have to be resolved, along with administrative and financial issues, before we can be confident that something of lasting value can be created. But these fields are so important, and so central to the Foundation’s interests in art and culture, that the provision of start-up funding has seemed justified. A third, very different, digitization project is located at the University of Southern California, where a grant of $750,000 will support the further development of a photographic archive of ancient Near Eastern inscriptions (taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls; Hebrew, Aramaic, and Canaanite texts from the Biblical period and earlier; Mesopotamian documents; and medieval Jewish manuscripts).
As the dollar figures cited above illustrate, path-breaking work in this area is expensive. Nonetheless, the Foundation expects to continue to invest substantial resources in new ideas that offer the promise of lasting improvements in the ability of students and scholars, worldwide, to have access to resources that otherwise would not exist at all or be available only on a very limited basis. The advantages of scale are obvious, as are the close connections of these projects to core commitments of the Foundation in the humanities and the arts.
Basic Research in Information Technology
At a still more fundamental level, the Foundation’s Vice President for Research in Information Technology, Ira Fuchs, continues to look for unusually promising opportunities to strengthen the basic infrastructure in information technology that is especially relevant to higher education. In the last two years, special efforts have been made to encourage the development of software and technological tools that will be based on the specifications and standards developed through the Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI) that originated at MIT. OKI is a technical framework, including a set of standard application programming interfaces, that is intended to facilitate the collaborative development of software components and modules for storing, preserving, and disseminating a wide range of research and educational materials.
One such OKI-compliant tool is the Assignment and Assessment Manager to support classroom teaching (which was built at Stanford and received a grant of $560,000 in 2002).Tufts University received a grant of $470,000 to develop a “concept-mapping” tool called the Visual Understanding Environment that would allow users to select, organize, and integrate electronic resources within and among collections. Because the Tufts project and other OKI tools depend on easy access to a variety of online collections, the Foundation is also supporting the development and deployment of OKI-compatible digital repositories. Tufts is planning to add OKI interfaces to FEDORA, an open-source repository that is being developed with Foundation support ($1,000,000 in 2001) at the University of Virginia. MIT has also developed open-source repository software, which it calls DSpace. Both FEDORA and DSpace allow institutions to store online course materials as well as a variety of research and other online scholarly materials. In 2002, the Foundation appropriated $300,000 to allow MIT to create the appropriate OKI interfaces for DSpace, and to assist in its deployment at five other institutions (Columbia University, University of Toronto, University of Rochester, University of Washington, and Ohio State University). Our hope is that the experience gained through these various grants will demonstrate that collaborative development of open-source software within the broader OKI framework is promising and deserves the active support of the scholarly community—which is an absolute requirement for its success.
Within the Foundation, we are now combining support of research of this kind with support of particular research projects designed to test the utility of applications of technology to teaching in specific settings. Another program officer, Saul Fisher, is working with Ira Fuchs in this area. Initial projects are based at locations ranging from the Associated Colleges of the South (where scholars are evaluating the work of a Virtual Classics Department), to a joint Stanford-Russian study of ways of teaching international relations, to an imaginative project at Claremont Graduate University designed to assess the benefits of using technology in the teaching of the humanities and social sciences at the graduate level.
More generally, the Foundation has continued to support broad-based research on the application of information technology to scholarship, learning, and teaching. Mr. Fisher is at work on a study of the lessons learned from Foundation-sponsored projects on the cost-effective uses of technology in teaching (in collaboration with David Stern, Professor at the University of California at Berkeley). Roger Schonfeld has finished a major study of the development of JSTOR, which will be published in the spring of 2003 by the Princeton University Press (JSTOR: A History). Mr. Schonfeld’s in-depth analysis of the evolution of JSTOR, including mistakes made as well as lessons learned, should be of interest to others contemplating new initiatives in this area. The next part of this report, dealing with new digital initiatives, is in many ways an outgrowth of JSTOR.
New Digital Initiatives
Perhaps the most important programmatic development in 2002 was the decision to provide substantial start-up funding for two digital initiatives that are expected to become independent not-for-profit entities in 2003: ARTstor and Ithaka. The William and Flora Hewlett and Stavros S. Niarchos Foundations have joined with Mellon to provide start-up funding to launch Ithaka; Mellon is the sole foundation funder of ARTstor. We have received a number of inquires about both of these undertakings, and I hope that the following discussion will be useful in explaining our objectives and providing some context.
The JSTOR Background
When the Foundation launched JSTOR in 1995, the goal was to solve a specific problem faced by libraries, scholars, and publishers of journal literature in the humanities and social sciences; namely, how to gain greatly improved access to the back issues of important scholarly journals while at the same time creating an enduring electronic archive that would save shelf space, reduce operating costs, and address preservation concerns. The result was the creation of a searchable electronic archive. As an independent not-for-profit entity, JSTOR subsequently earned classification by the IRS as a “public charity” and by now has proven its value many times over. Under Kevin Guthrie’s leadership, it has delivered on its original objectives at a level that has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.
As of the end of December 2002, the JSTOR archive contained the full-runs, back to inception, of 322 journals from 26 disciplines and 168 publishers. This archive of more than 11 million pages continues to grow as new journals in a variety of fields are added (along with new issues of journals already represented). More than 1,500 institutions from 71 countries around the world participate in JSTOR and have access to one or more of its collections. In 2002, users conducted 16 million searches and printed more than 10 million articles. The cumulative average annual growth rate in JSTOR usage has been more than 50 percent at participating sites with access since the beginning of 1998. (Note 10)
JSTOR has also met its financial targets and is now financially self-sufficient, although it still depends upon support from various foundations to build new collections and to subsidize access to some users and in some regions of the world where affordability is a serious issue. (Note 11) Revenue from annual access charges covers annual operating costs, and JSTOR is building a restricted Archive Capital Fund to be used to cover the future costs associated with software and data migration and other long-term archiving expenses. It is also now able to distribute revenues from a modest pool back to the publishers of the growing body of content that it digitizes and makes available (including a large number of scholarly societies). At the same time, JSTOR remains committed to value-based pricing: fees for participating institutions depend on a variety of factors that match the amount institutions pay to the potential value they are expected to derive from participation. Fees are also adjusted using national GDP data to address disparities in wealth in various parts of the world. This approach to pricing supports JSTOR’s mission of extending access to a broad array of institutions. Finally, it is worth noting that the price per page of content in JSTOR has actually fallen every year for all participants. (Note 12)
JSTOR has reached these milestones by pursuing a system-wide approach that has allowed it to deliver benefits to libraries, publishers, and users—and, in the process, to develop effective working relationships with all of these important stakeholders. This history, which is instructive in its own right (see the earlier mention of Roger Schonfeld’s forthcoming book), has encouraged the Foundation to explore additional ways in which it could serve its core mission by stimulating the creation of other sustainable scholarly initiatives, especially in the arts and humanities. No one any longer questions the usefulness of digital technologies, disputes their growing importance worldwide, or believes that the institutions we seek to serve could ignore or avoid them even if they had any such inclination.
The widespread desire in the community for even faster progress in these areas has resulted in increasing requests for JSTOR and its staff to become involved in initiatives and projects that extend beyond JSTOR’s core set of activities. In many cases, JSTOR’s experience is highly relevant and potentially useful to other projects serving higher education, and JSTOR’s Board has deliberated on ways that it can best serve its broad mission to assist the scholarly community without losing the focus on its core activities, a focus that we believe has been—and remains—critical to its success.
The conclusion reached was that JSTOR should work with Mellon in encouraging both ARTstor and Ithaka to become independent not-for-profit entities that could function as “supporting organizations” to JSTOR (with each supporting the mission of JSTOR, which is the “supported” organization in the terminology of the law). The basic idea is that by working closely and collaboratively with these new entities, JSTOR can advance its broad mission without departing from its own primary role as a trusted digital archive of scholarly journals.
From the Foundation’s perspective, the case for investing heavily in this domain rests on a combination of assets that we believe we are in an unusually good position to marshal. These include the considerable knowledge and skills of staff members associated with previous and ongoing projects, including their practical experience in working through legal and business issues; institutional relationships that are already in place; the financial and organizational resources needed to launch any large-scale initiative that requires a reliable infrastructure and economies of scale to succeed; the credibility associated with the success of JSTOR; and, above all, a reasonably clear sense of the underlying values intrinsic to the humanities and higher education.
ARTstor has a modestly longer history than Ithaka. As readers of recent Annual Reports will know, the Foundation decided in April 2001 to encourage the development of a digital repository that would complement JSTOR’s work with the texts of scholarly journals by focusing on art images and associated scholarly materials. Early experience in digitizing the Design Collection at the Museum of Modern Art and Buddhist cave art at Dunhuang in China (as well as related paintings, manuscripts, and sculptures that are now widely dispersed) had demonstrated the potential value to scholars of work of this kind. It was evident from the start that rapidly improving digital technologies were ideally suited not only to capture art images at high quality, but also to combine and manipulate images, and catalog other data, texts, and related scholarly materials assembled from sources all over the world. Finally, the Foundation’s longstanding interest in art, museums, the humanities, and the field of art history within the humanities, made support of this particular undertaking a “natural” for Mellon. In brief, ARTstor’s not-for-profit mission is:
In the time since this initiative was first announced, much progress has been made in clarifying concepts, acquiring content, recruiting a core staff, working through complex legal and organizational issues, building a technological infrastructure, and enlisting the advice and support of a wide variety of scholars, curators, and librarians. Neil Rudenstine, as Chairman of the ARTstor Advisory Board, and James Shulman, as Executive Director, have provided strong leadership and (I am glad to report) appear to remain undaunted by the complexity of the tasks that they continue to address. ARTstor’s elegant Web site can now be visited on the Internet (http://www.artstor.org), and ARTstor expects to test a sample of its collections at a limited group of institutions in the fall of 2003. The initial digitized content that ARTstor expects to have available for user testing includes: (Note 13)
Production processes, including quality control protocols, continue to be developed, and there is no substitute for proceeding carefully. Considerable work also remains to be done on the architecture of the database and on a number of features of the software that will be available to users. One important decision has been made: ARTstor will enable users to access its database by means of both a relatively easy-to-use browser interface designed in conjunction with colleagues at James Madison University (where a team of faculty and staff have developed and distributed at no charge a presentation software known as the Madison Digital Image Database or MDID) and the sophisticated Insight software designed by Luna Imaging (which has an exceptional range of additional functionality developed explicitly for scholarly uses in art and related fields).
ARTstor staff are working hard to incorporate into the database content that is currently being digitized, and to build an initial Internet offering that will provide a basis for assessing both the kinds of images and associated metadata being provided and the software available to use the content. At the same time, they are also exploring new collections that may be incorporated within ARTstor in the future. Consideration is being given to several possible new collections, including: The Image of the Black in Western Art, which is housed at The W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard, and a large assemblage of architectural photographs that is the work of Alec Hartill. These and other ideas for new collections are being explored as ARTstor looks for projects that will both add important content to the digital repository and provide an opportunity to learn about the benefits of various types of collections to different segments of the user community.
In addition, ARTstor may include various collections being created with somewhat other objectives in mind through separate grants from the Mellon Foundation. Examples include a large set of photographs of rock art in Africa (along with associated scholarly materials) and the “First Fleet” collection of drawings and art depicting Australia at the time the British arrived (held at the Museum of Natural History in London). The basic point is that the content in ARTstor will never be static. If ARTstor is as successful as we hope it will be, increasing numbers of holders of content may want to contribute their images, or their knowledge about collections in the database, to the ever growing repository.
Over the course of the last six months, ARTstor representatives have met with museum directors, curators, and staff at a number of leading museums. These visits have been valuable in providing reactions to proposed ARTstor collections and plans, discussing what other collections (including museum-based efforts) might be explored, and, finally, thinking together about how to vet and improve images and cataloging data. The entire ARTstor initiative has to be conceived as a collaborative effort of foundations (Mellon initially), the ARTstor Board and staff, and a wide array of scholars, museums, colleges, universities, libraries, and other institutions that together define the community that believes in the importance of disseminating art images and data for noncommercial educational use. ARTstor’s general counsel (Gretchen Wagner) along with outside counsel and representatives of the community will work on a continuing basis to understand and explain ARTstor’s attempts to balance the interests of all involved in this complex territory, so as to allow the widest reasonable use of digital images and cataloging data for these not-for-profit scholarly purposes. Obtaining community-wide support for ARTstor’s approach to the underlying legal issues would by itself represent a major accomplishment.
ARTstor had made sufficient progress by the end of 2002 to justify four organizational steps: first, obtaining standing as a separately incorporated entity (now accomplished); second, applying for start-up funding from the Mellon Foundation (also accomplished); third, applying for IRS approval as a separate 501(c)(3) public charity that, as noted earlier, would be linked to JSTOR as a “supporting organization” (in process); and, fourth, selecting the initial members of a Board of Trustees. At present, the members of the ARTstor Board consist of: Neil Rudenstine, former president of Harvard University, chairman; James Shulman, ex officio; Kevin Guthrie, now chairman of JSTOR and president of Ithaka; James Cuno, Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London; and Peter Wendell, a highly experienced investor in startup entities who is General Partner of Sierra Ventures. In time, other Trustees will be added.
At their December meeting, the Trustees of the Foundation approved a start-up grant of $5 million for ARTstor, with the funds to be disbursed when IRS approval is obtained; meanwhile, ARTstor is continuing to be incubated as a Mellon-sponsored project. Although ARTstor will continue to work closely with the Foundation, it is important that it become a separate not-for-profit entity, linked to JSTOR, as it begins the more “public” phase of its operations. Independence from the Foundation will send an important signal to the community about ARTstor’s viability and permit the Foundation to switch from funding its operations through internal expenditures to the more normal grant mode of support.
As an independent not-for-profit public charity, ARTstor will also be able to collect user fees—as a grantmaking foundation such as Mellon does not. A recurring stream of revenue provided by those institutions that benefit most directly from access to ARTstor’s digital collections is important both as a test of the value of the enterprise and as an essential component of the business model needed to sustain ARTstor indefinitely. It seems unlikely, however, that ARTstor will achieve the financial results of JSTOR, at least in the near to medium term. As ARTstor seeks to become an established, respected organization that connects content owners and educational users of art images, continued philanthropic support, at some still undefined level, will be required. The exact blend of philanthropic support and participation fees will almost certainly evolve over time, but at a pace and in ways that no one can forecast with any precision. It is useful to remember that almost all well-established not-for-profit museums, libraries, colleges, and universities rely on some mix of earned income and contributions, including returns on endowment. JSTOR relies much more heavily on its form of earned income (participation fees) to cover operating expenses than do almost all of these other not-for-profits; in short, it is JSTOR, not ARTstor, that is the outlier in this regard.
Perhaps the most telling compliment that JSTOR has received is that it shows signs of becoming a verb. The representative of a national library initiative in one European country told Kevin Guthrie, the founding president of JSTOR, that his minister of culture wanted him to learn how to “JSTOR” various cultural and scholarly materials that his country was eager to preserve electronically. As noted earlier, both JSTOR and Mellon staff have been asked by many others whether—and how—it might be possible to leverage the lessons learned through the development of JSTOR. In 2002, the decision was reached to encourage the creation of a new not-for-profit entity that would have the following broad mission: To accelerate the adoption of productive and efficient uses of information technology for the benefit of the worldwide scholarly community.
The new organization has been named “Ithaka” (or, more formally, “Ithaka Harbors, Inc.”) after the title of the poem by C. P. Cavafy that describes a voyage in the classical world marked by high purpose, visits to many “harbors seen for the first time,” and a purposeful commitment to reach its destination (Ithaka), however long the journey takes, combined with a recognition that it is the wisdom and experience gained along the way that are most valuable. (Note 14)
As presently envisioned, Ithaka will have four interconnected functions:
Funding and Leadership. As noted earlier, initial funding for Ithaka is being provided by the Mellon Foundation (which authorized a start-up grant of $5 million at its December 2002 Trustees’ meeting) and The William and Flora Hewlett and Stavros S. Niarchos Foundations (each of which has committed $2.5 million). Over time, we hope that Ithaka and its various affiliates and projects will attract funding from other sources. As in the case of JSTOR, fees paid by beneficiaries of Ithaka’s activities could also be important in both calibrating the value of services being offered and obtaining the wherewithal needed to sustain ongoing operations.
Leadership, as always, will be critical. Kevin Guthrie has agreed to be the first president of Ithaka, and it is his experience, standing in the community, and unusual blend of talents and skills that, more than anything else, has given those involved in recommending the creation of Ithaka the confidence that this new venture can succeed. Mr. Guthrie and the Board of JSTOR have been fortunate in recruiting Michael Spinella, formerly of Science Magazine and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to become the new executive director of JSTOR, thereby allowing Mr. Guthrie to concentrate on his new responsibilities. At the same time, Mr. Guthrie has now been elected chairman of JSTOR (to succeed me in that role), so that he can continue his active involvement with the work of that thriving organization that he has built from scratch. Eileen Fenton, who has been in charge of production at JSTOR, has agreed to serve as the first executive director of E-Archive, and Thomas Nygren, who has directed both the Foundation’s program of grantmaking in South Africa and its internal IT operations, has agreed to be the first executive director of NIDR.
Our ambitions for Ithaka are also reflected in the initial membership of its Board of Trustees. Mr. Guthrie will serve as a Trustee ex officio, and I will chair the board. We have been fortunate to enlist four outstanding individuals, with complementary backgrounds, to join us as founding Trustees. They are: Paul Brest, president of the Hewlett Foundation and former Dean of the Stanford Law School; Charles E. Exley, Jr., former chairman and CEO of the NCR Corporation; Mamphela Ramphele, Managing Director of the World Bank and formerly Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town in South Africa; and Charles Vest, the distinguished president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition, Andreas Dracopoulos, a member of the board of the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation, has agreed to serve as an advisor.
Staff and Board Leadership at the Foundation
The year just past, and the early months of 2003, have been a period of transition in leadership, at both staff and board levels. The list of officers shown at the front of the report includes, for the first time, John Hull, our recently elected (and very capable) Financial Vice President. The other new officer shown on that page, Glenda Burkhart, Vice President for Operations and Planning, has made invaluable contributions on many fronts in helping the Foundation achieve a smooth transition to a new organizational structure; in the early part of 2003, having concluded that she had accomplished what she had promised us she would do, she led the search for a longer-term successor that culminated in the appointment of Patricia L. Irvin. Ms. Irvin has been a partner in major law firms in New York and Washington as well as having been a ranking official in charge of humanitarian programs at the Defense Department. She will serve both as Vice President for Operations and Planning at the Foundation and in a senior role at Ithaka. Fortunately for us, Ms. Burkhart has agreed to continue to assist the Foundation and Ithaka with special projects.
At the Board level, Timothy Mellon elected to resign as a Trustee in the fall of 2002, following 21 years of dedicated service. Mr. Mellon was a faithful and highly effective Trustee, and his presence among us will be missed greatly. Among his many other contributions, Mr. Mellon was an early proponent of moving aggressively to take advantage of the possibilities offered by the new digital technologies. The emergence of JSTOR and then of the other new digital initiatives described in this report (including especially the Dunhuang part of ARTstor) are one part of his legacy of service on the Board of the Foundation.
A major change in Board leadership was anticipated in 2002 and then given effect at the March 2003 Annual Meeting of the Foundation. At that meeting, Hanna H. Gray completed 24 years of service as a Trustee, including the last six as chairman. This is an instance in which words and descriptive phrases, however carefully chosen, are hopelessly inadequate in conveying the spirit as well as the substance of one person’s inspired leadership. Mrs. Gray has been a simply exemplary chairman of the board: always thoroughly informed, thoughtfully independent, ready to ask the probing question as well as to make (and support) difficult decisions, creative in her ideas, constantly aware of the difference between overseeing an organization and managing one, and ever mindful of the need to adhere to the Foundation’s core mission. Those of us who have been her colleagues at Mellon, and who have seen her in action at Board dinners as well as Board meetings, will always treasure the wisdom, wit, and friendship that she has bestowed so generously on the Foundation, and on each of us. Speaking for myself, I could never have asked for a better partner.
“Partner” is, I think, the right word. In not-for-profit organizations of all kinds, a highly productive working relationship between the chairman of the board and the president is widely regarded as essential to good governance. This is, in my experience, absolutely right—indeed, I would elevate this innocent sounding proposition to the status of a cardinal principle. Since coming to the Mellon Foundation, I have been privileged to work with three outstanding (albeit very different) chairmen: William O. Baker, John C. Whitehead, and Hanna H. Gray. And it is now my good fortune to work with a fourth chairman who will, the Trustees are confident, carry on this strong tradition of Board leadership.
In March 2003, the Trustees elected Anne M. Tatlock as Mrs. Gray’s successor in this key leadership position. Mrs. Tatlock knows the Mellon Foundation well, having served as a loyal and highly effective Trustee for the last eight years. Professionally, she is distinguished in the worlds of investment and finance. As chairman and CEO of the Fiduciary Trust Company, she led that organization through the most difficult period in its history, following the loss on 9/11 of nearly 90 staff members who worked on the top floors of the World Trade Center. Mrs. Tatlock is also conversant with the worlds of the arts, higher education, and research—serving as a trustee of the American Ballet Theater, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Mayo Foundation, and Vassar College.
In reflecting on these changes at both staff and Trustee levels, I am reminded again of how fortunate all of us at the Foundation are to have such extraordinary colleagues.
William G. Bowen
March 21, 2003