|It is difficult|
|to get the news from poems|
|yet men die miserably every day|
|of what is found there.|
|William Carlos Willams|
In these lines, the word “poems” could reasonably be thought to stand for all of the arts and humanities. And interpreted in this way, Williams’ lines capture what, at its core, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation stands for. In a world ravaged by war, disease, poverty, and hunger, the arts and the humanities still tell us what it means to be a human being, why one might want to be a human being, and how one might be a better human being. And men and women who die without a meaningful experience of the humanities and the arts do indeed die miserably.
If the news, or novelty for its own sake, which seems to drive much about the world we inhabit, is taken to be less important ultimately than what one finds in the humanities and the arts, other pursuits may also be called into question. In the foundation world, impact, evaluation, and assessment are much spoken about. Yet these, in the end, often come down to the pursuit of novelty—how to bring about admirable things that have not been brought about before. The discussion these days is particularly intense in the wake of the creation of a good many new foundations, some of them extraordinarily rich. The question widely posed is how to have impact in this new environment.
Impact is of course a function of the definition of the size of the pond as well as the size of the frog, and small ponds also deserve their day. One might well decide, furthermore, that affecting a number of small ponds was better than affecting one big one. Similarly, evaluation and assessment depend on the criteria to be applied, and one would be bound to admit that there are no very good criteria for evaluating or assessing some of the most important things in human life. If a strategic plan were required that guaranteed impact and criteria for evaluation and assessment, no one would ever fall in love. How would one evaluate or assess the effects of reading The Nicomachean Ethics and having a good discussion of it? That this book has been read by thousands of people before over thousands of years hardly constitutes a reason not to urge and support that activity in the future. Some things are inherently worth doing, and they do not necessarily change much over time. Similarly some things are inherently worth thinking about. Human beings have thought about them for a long time, and human beings, against certain odds, ought to be encouraged to continue to think about those same things. That kind of thinking ought also to find expression in works of scholarship and in the arts of all kinds.
It is a sad fact that the United States is a country with a profound anti-intellectual streak. The origins of this streak constitute an interesting subject of study that has been explored by distinguished scholars, and its manifestations in popular culture and politics powerfully affect our daily lives. Could the Mellon Foundation, or any other, transform the national culture? Not likely. Does that mean that there is no impact to be had in this domain and that it is therefore not worth supporting resistance to that culture in small ways? Surely not. Many small institutions struggle daily with this relentless anti-intellectual force. Even if we cannot globally overcome this force, we ought to want as many of these institutions as possible to survive the struggle, which has no single fixed goal but is undertaken for the sake of the struggle itself. This is the instinct of the teacher or the parent. Minds—or souls—are saved and enriched one at a time, and every one is worth the effort. The more the better, to be sure. But the first and most powerful impact is on the individual life. May the sum of these lives affect the quality of life in society generally! Absent small impacts, however, there will certainly be no larger one.
Where does the Mellon Foundation stand in all of this? Its commitment is to the continuing support of the humanities and the arts because of their enduring value to the human condition. This will entail supporting activities that do not readily make good newspaper copy. The truly big news on every college and university campus ought daily to be that thousands of young people had their minds stretched by an idea that they had not previously encountered, whether new or old. Investing in that activity, in a wide variety of ways, is as important as any investment could be. Yet it will be hard to claim that the investment is novel or that its consequences can be readily evaluated and assessed. We should not be deterred by the fact that the contribution to the gross domestic product, though real, will be rather indirect and hard to quantify.
Although the impact of the humanities and the arts on the quality of individual human lives is truly profound in ways that are not easily measurable, there are a few comparisons that might provide a context for judging the Mellon Foundation’s role at least in relative terms. Here we might better speak simply of contribution rather than impact, since impact is not to be judged only in financial terms. In the calendar year 2007 the Foundation’s grantmaking budget will be $230 million. This exceeds the grantmaking budgets of the National Endowment for the Humanities ($116 million) and the National Endowment for the Arts ($100 million) combined. This is of course a stinging indictment of the country. But it suggests that the Mellon Foundation plays an important role in the country’s intellectual and cultural life, and in the life of the City of New York. For this reason Mellon will not swerve from its long-standing commitments for the sake of novelty. Its values are clear, and we must strive to make them clearer still.
How then to answer the recurring question about strategic plans? The question often seems to invite a response of the type that announces a fundamental change of direction in the corporate world. Our strategy must instead be to remain focused on what we know best, what we do best, and what matters most as an embodiment of our values.
There is another crucial point about values. Ours must be expressed not only in terms of the particular kinds of grants that we make. They must also be expressed in the way we carry on our activities both as colleagues within the Mellon Foundation and in our relation to the people and organizations with which we interact. The world of foundations is now the subject of greater and greater scrutiny, which is in principle perfectly appropriate. We are fortunate to live in a country with a tradition of philanthropy not to be found anywhere else in the world. This tradition is in the first instance the product of individual generosity. But the tradition has also been steadily reinforced by a legal framework. Both individuals and foundations thus enjoy a public trust that must not be violated. We must remain free to contribute to the public good according to our own lights and without political constraints, but we must forever remember that we are answerable for that freedom. In the case of the Mellon Foundation and most others like it, those of us who do this work must remember that it is not our money. We have merely been entrusted with the use of it by generous people who came before us and by the public, which might well have taxed it away for other purposes.
There is much talk of the need for greater transparency in the world of foundations. The term hints at but does not capture what is fundamental. It certainly cannot mean that everything about the grantmaking process will become public and that a private foundation will have an obligation to explain why it has made a grant to one institution and not to another. But it does mean that every grant we make ought to be capable of withstanding public scrutiny. We should be able to claim with absolute certainty that every grant derives from our values rather than from personal intrigue or self-interest in whatever form, let alone from the pursuit of personal gain, whether or not strictly monetary, by anyone at any level. On this point I return to what can be found in poems. Richard Wilbur’s poem “Clearness” begins with the following lines:
|There is a poignancy in all things clear,|
|In the stare of the deer, in the ring of a hammer|
|in the morning.|
|Seeing a bucket of perfectly lucid water|
|We fall to imagining prodigious honesties.|
Let us be guided always by prodigious honesties—in our work with one another and in our work with those we hope to help with the resources over which we have temporary stewardship.
All of that said, will absolutely nothing change at the Mellon Foundation? Of course there will be change. For one thing, to support the humanities and the arts is not merely to seek to canonize them as they have long been known. We will certainly support new ways of finding and creating meaning in the humanities and the arts as well as work that helps to preserve and give greater access to the legacy of the humanities and the arts in a range of cultural contexts. But the impulse behind that question these days inevitably reflects a curiosity about how things might change simply as a function of my having succeeded my distinguished predecessor, William G. Bowen.
Clearly our interests and abilities differ in important ways. We both have quite wide-ranging interests. He is of course a very distinguished economist who continues to produce an important body of research that has been closely associated with the Foundation. I am a music historian whose scholarly work has engaged foreign languages and cultures, literature, history, and other humanistic fields. Inevitably, then, even though the Foundation will continue to support studies of the kind that Mr. Bowen has done and continues to do, as for example on access to higher education, these inquiries will not be as close to the center of the Foundation’s activities as they were during his presidency.
Similarly, Mr. Bowen, with enormous imagination and energy, created a number of entities such as JSTOR, ARTstor, and Ithaka Harbors that have now achieved legal independence from the Foundation, though they will continue to benefit from the Foundation’s support. As these entities have become more independent and continue to gain in strength, the substantial resources flowing to them in recent years will naturally decline. I expect that the resources thus released will be reinvested in the Foundation’s long-standing programs as they continue to evolve.
Other transitions in the Foundation’s leadership are taking place as well. After an extraordinary period as vice president leading the Foundation’s efforts in relation to liberal arts colleges and overseeing a range of other programs as well, Mary Patterson McPherson retires to take on yet another responsibility in her very distinguished career, that of executive officer of the American Philosophical Society. Foundation colleagues and grantees alike owe her enormous gratitude for her service. She is succeeded by Philip E. Lewis, a leading scholar of French literature educated at Davidson College and Yale University, a long-time member of the Cornell University faculty, and a former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell.
With the arrival of 2007, Susan Feder assumed the position of program officer in the performing arts. Trained in music at Princeton and Berkeley, she brings valuable experience to the Foundation from her work at the San Francisco Symphony, the Grove dictionaries of music, and the music publisher G. Schirmer.Our ability to change, in the context of a continuity of programs, gains much from the small size of our staff. We have the good fortune to be able readily to talk with one another and be stimulated by one another. We are well known for our support of research universities and scholarship in the humanities as well as for the support of liberal arts undergraduate colleges. These efforts may very well come to interact with one another more closely, since after all, the people trained in the graduate institutions become the faculty of the undergraduate institutions. Similarly, the liberal education that we support in undergraduate institutions ought certainly to form part of the core of the graduate research institutions as well. Specifically, the two program areas are giving thought to a joint program of postdoctoral teaching opportunities that would aid undergraduate colleges in developing cross-departmental programs and opportunities for undergraduate research that undergraduate institutions might not otherwise be able to pursue. Undergraduate institutions might also benefit from participation in Foundation-sponsored efforts in research universities to rethink the current state of academic disciplines and their relationship to one another.
We support symphony orchestras, opera companies, dance companies, theaters, museums, libraries, and institutions of higher education. The potential for greater interaction among all of these kinds of institutions remains enormous. The peril to be insured against here is that cultural institutions become divorced from one another and thus divorced from the experience of life itself, which does not respect the boundaries that often define institutions, and thus become intellectually irrelevant. The several arts and the humanities cannot be allowed to be the separate pastimes of the well-to-do, after the real work of the day is done. If they matter, as they do, it is because they are parts of the whole of life and engage in their different ways one and the same human experience. In that sense, the arts have everything to say to one another, and the institutions that promote them could be more meaningfully engaged with one another. For example, concert halls and museums might consider a broader range of concrete implications of the fact that many of the works that they now house in almost complete isolation from one another were not created or originally experienced in that kind of isolation.
Other initiatives or changes in emphasis that may occur largely within the framework of the Foundation’s existing programs include the following:
- Scholarly publishing is widely thought to be in a crisis intimately bound up with the means by which younger scholars establish their careers. The programs in higher education and scholarship and in scholarly communications are collaborating to explore remedies.
- The nation’s symphony orchestras continue to face economic challenges that bear on their ability to fulfill their artistic aspirations. The Foundation has had a long-standing program in support of developing institutional strength in orchestras throughout the country. The program in performing arts will look to support more directly the creation of the artistic work itself, making these institutions more intellectually engaging and relevant. Similarly, opera companies will be supported to produce work that engages a broader audience interested in the arts more generally.
- The Foundation’s support for dance has concentrated on the work of single-choreographer dance companies. Increased attention will be given to repertory companies that both create new work and preserve significant works of the past.
- The Foundation has in recent years been closely associated with projects in information technology. These have ranged from specific scholarly undertakings within the program on scholarly communications to broader efforts to support access to advanced information technology for administrative as well as scholarly and instructional applications in both small colleges and large research universities. Although robust and economical administrative systems contribute at least indirectly to the strength of the humanities and the arts in both small and large institutions, increasing focus will be given to those technology projects that more directly support the humanities and the arts. Continuing emphasis will be placed on the needs of libraries as well as on the digitization of appropriate materials. New opportunities will be sought to harness the much advanced power of computing, which only now begins to enable its application to the study of important and subtle topics in the humanities and the arts.
- The program in museums and art conservation has greatly advanced the efforts of leading museums to conserve the works in their care, in part by advancing the basic science that must underlie conservation. While this effort continues, increasing emphasis will be given to strengthening the scholarly aspect of the work of curators. This will necessarily entail collaboration with the Foundation’s work in scholarly publishing and in support for graduate education.
- The program in conservation and the environment remains the one program at the Foundation engaged in science per se, principally botany with special attention to field botany and its place in ecology. In addition to its support for training scientists in the early stages of their careers, it has led a very successful international collaboration to document the plants of Africa and to make available that documentation on the Web. It has now embarked on a similar effort in relation to the plants of Latin America. The Foundation expects to continue its work in this domain.
- Historically black colleges and universities and Appalachian colleges have long received support from the Foundation. This effort has a clear relationship to the Foundation’s concern for broader access to higher education throughout American society. As an ever greater concern for the nation at large, it will remain central to our efforts, as will the education of a more diverse faculty for institutions of higher education generally.
Focusing as I have on possibilities for the Foundation’s future work in no way implies that our current programs have been static. Rather, innovation and renewal are regular occurrences within the general outlines of each program’s mandate. These are often though not always responses to changing circumstances, new opportunities in the fields with which we are concerned, and ongoing conversations with grantees, as the following brief review of the Foundation’s most noteworthy activities in 2006 attests.
* * * *
Higher Education: Research Universities and the Humanities
While continuing an array of initiatives that aim to support outstanding research by scholars in the humanities and the institutions that sustain it, the program in research universities and the humanities was reconfigured in two major areas last year: first, in how we provide financial assistance for graduate students and second, in electing to give large grants to selected research universities that seek to make significant improvements in the humanities. As last year’s Annual Report indicated, Harriet Zuckerman and Joseph S. Meisel, who oversee this program, have been taking stock of our programs for graduate study in the humanities and humanistic social sciences in light of the major systemic changes in recruitment of graduate students and the provision of financial aid that have taken place over the last decade. These included reductions in admissions by the leading graduate schools and their decision to fund nearly all of their students in the humanities during the early years of their doctoral programs. At the same time, support for the later stages of doctoral work—when students are doing intensive research and writing—remains both insufficient and uneven.
As a result of such changes, the Foundation decided to discontinue The Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships in Humanistic Studies, a long-running program of portable awards for the first year of graduate study that was administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Our Trustees emphasized that going forward, the Mellon Foundation’s commitment to assisting graduate students must remain undiminished and that these resources should be redirected to meet current needs, which are abundant.
Under this mandate, two new large-scale initiatives were launched in 2006, and an existing one revised and expanded.(Note 1) With the Foundation’s help, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) instituted a program of two closely linked awards, one for students writing their dissertations and the other for those who have just earned their doctoral degrees.(Note 2) In the former, 65 advanced graduate students are selected annually through open competition to receive dissertation completion fellowships. Subsequently, these fellows as well as the alternates selected in the competition, and recipients of similar assistance through other programs, would be eligible to apply for 25 postdoctoral fellowships that are also available.
The second new initiative, run by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), attends to the needs of students somewhat earlier in the process of doctoral training. Each year, SSRC will award 60 summer fellowships for preliminary research or additional specialized training. Fellows will be selected in five broad fields of research (which may span disciplines and geographical areas) and, apart from winning research support, will also participate in intensive workshops aimed at helping them develop their nascent ideas for dissertation topics into a set of well-formulated research questions and a feasible project design.(Note 3) SSRC and the Foundation also agreed to rethink the focus and organization of the International Dissertation Research Fellowship program, established in 1996. Going forward, SSRC will extend the reach and impact of these much sought-after fellowships by creating a set of distinctive tracks in the competition it runs based in the main on different categories of source materials (such as archives, ethnographies, and visual media) that the fellows would use in their research, and by increasing the number of awards from 50 to 75.(Note 4)
Program staff also keep close track of the needs of research universities and the environment in which they function. Here, disparities in wealth and resources have increased in the last decade or so between the richest four or five American universities and other excellent institutions which have been among the strongest academically for a century but do not have the level of resources of some of their wealthier counterparts. Such disparities distort beneficial competition among universities of exceptional quality, while also making it difficult for many to pursue their distinctive missions and preserve their structures, traditions, and regional leanings. In 2006, we commenced a series of grants, likely to be awarded over the next several years, to assist a limited number of universities undertaking programs they deem central and likely to increase their contributions to the humanities. The first recipients, each of which received $2.5 million, were Duke University, which will reconfigure and enhance research and teaching in “visual studies”; the University of California at Los Angeles, to grapple with intellectual and generational changes in its large and important departments of history, English, and comparative literature; and the University of Pennsylvania, for drawing together and building upon its multiple strengths relating the study of citizenship, constitutionalism, and democracy.
In addition to putting these new initiatives in place, the universities and humanities program continued to support higher learning through existing initiatives such as the following. Four new Distinguished Achievement Award recipients were selected: T. J. Clark, an art historian at Berkeley; Thomas Nagel, a philosopher at New York University; Stephen Owen, an expert on Chinese literature at Harvard; and Joseph Roach, who works on the history of theater and performance at Yale. The selection of additional cohorts of New Directions Fellows (scholars whose research requires them to gain systematic training in a new field) and of Emeritus Fellows (retired scholars who have active research programs in train) continues to address the needs of outstanding humanists in a wide range of pursuits at different stages of the academic career.(Note 5) Another round of the Foundation’s periodic competitions for John E. Sawyer Seminars on the Comparative Study of Cultures funded a diverse set of projects for collective scholarly investigation of the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments.(Note 6) And we continued to support the production of superb scholarly editions and similar resources with grants for the I Tatti Renaissance Library series, the Dictionary of Old English, and the Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum.
Liberal Arts Colleges, Appalachian Colleges, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities
The liberal arts colleges program, led by Mary Patterson McPherson with Eugene M.Tobin and Danielle Carr Ramdath, continued to offer broad-ranging support to the many institutions it serves. Recent Annual Reports have chronicled the evolution of the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE) from a loosely organized association of grant-funded regional technology centers into a participant-based, fee-supported, national organization. NITLE currently provides faculty and staff at more than 100 liberal arts colleges with professional development and training in the uses of instructional technologies. For the long term, its aim is to assist these institutions with the selection and management of emerging technologies in areas such as repository and digital assets management, learning or course management, and multipoint video, enabling them to make optimal choices and to benefit from economies of scale. Another program, Emeriti Retirement Health Solutions (“Emeriti”), grew out of a Foundation study of faculty attitudes about retirement prospects and the ability of colleges and universities to sustain postretirement health care benefits.(Note 7) An independent, not-for-profit organization, Emeriti provides such retiree medical coverage to more than 40 colleges. It ended 2006 strongly, having exceeded its goal of 10,000 active and retired participants and received from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation a commitment of $1 million over the next three years to support its educational and operating costs.
Continuing its efforts to strengthen individual institutions, the liberal arts colleges program invited 16 excellent but “underendowed” colleges to compete for matching grants to address major educational and financial priorities. Following a review of grant requests by an independent panel, seven awards were recommended. In December 2006, Sarah Lawrence and Trinity Colleges were each granted $3 million, to be matched on a three-to-one basis. Sarah Lawrence will use the grant and matching funds to create a restricted endowment fund whose growth will periodically endow existing faculty positions, thereby providing significant budget support for years to come. Trinity will integrate urban and global studies into a coherent curriculum including its Community Learning Initiative and its Global Learning Sites.
In the programs to support Appalachian colleges and historically black colleges and universities, for which Ms. Carr Ramdath has responsibility, the Foundation has continued funding for individual and interinstitutional programs in the areas of faculty career enhancement, libraries, and curriculum development.
Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowships and Diversity Initiatives
The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program (MMUF) seeks to foster the diversification of the faculty at American colleges and universities by supporting talented underrepresented students and others with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and the goals of MMUF in the pursuit of doctoral degrees. Directed by Lydia L. English and renewed through the 2009-10 academic year, the program is active in more than 70 institutions, including 39 historically black colleges and universities. The 200th PhD earned by MMUF fellows was awarded in 2006; of these degree-holders, 17 have already been awarded tenure, and the current count of PhDs in progress exceeds 500. Other important initiatives to promote academic diversity include a collaborative program with the American Indian College Fund designed to increase the number of faculty members with PhDs in the Tribal College system and programs for graduate students and junior faculty administered by, respectively, the United Negro College Fund, SSRC, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.(Note 8)
Libraries and Scholarly Communication
Donald J.Waters and Suzanne M. Lodato continue to staff the Foundation’s program in libraries and scholarly communications. As part of the program’s ongoing special collections initiative, the University of Chicago received funds for an innovative effort in which graduate students, in consultation with faculty members and librarians, help to process and catalog primary source materials from special collections and archives held by the University and by institutions elsewhere in the city. The grant will preserve unique materials whose future is otherwise uncertain while also increasing students’ archival skills. In addition, under an initiative to support growing scholarly interest in audio and moving image materials, two institutions received grants to add content to significant electronic repositories and begin making these databases available to subscribers: the Anthology of Recorded Music (formerly the Recorded Anthology of American Music) for its Database of Recorded American Music, and Indiana University for the Ethnomusicological Video for Instruction and Analysis Digital Archive.
Through the scholarly communications program in 2006, the Foundation also awarded support to ARTstor Inc. to add nearly 370,000 images to its database and to assist in its efforts to raise funds from other philanthropic sources. In related grants, the Foundation awarded funds to: the Rochester Institute of Technology for a research project that would improve the accurate representation of color in digital images; the Canadian Centre for Architecture to process archival collections of several important 20th-century architects; and the Frick Collection for a collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Museum to implement a shared, integrated library system. It also provided funds to the Society of Architectural Historians for developing an electronic version of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians and the new Visual Resources Network, and to New York University for planning a consortium of scholarly societies with the aim of sharing a common platform for their publications in the fields of art and architectural history.
Museums and Art Conservation
The program for museums and art conservation, under Angelica Z. Rudenstine’s leadership, has continued its various historical areas of support while focusing especially on two directions: first, in intensive efforts to strengthen the science within art conservation (through training and through the creation of new positions); second, in fostering interdisciplinary collaboration among art historian/curators, conservators, and scientists to develop deeper understanding and new methodologies to preserve works of art for future generations. Notable activities in 2006 have included a convening of museum directors, curators, conservators, and scientists from 12 leading UK and US institutions to discuss the ways in which digital conservation records should be created, managed, and disseminated; the issues surrounding professional and public access to such records; and the advantages of digital management as a preservation strategy. (Note 9) The Foundation has funded an initial set of pilot projects at the British Museum, The National Gallery, London, and the Metropolitan Museum, with the aim of advancing the agenda that emerged from this meeting, and expects to support additional pilots along the same lines in 2007.
Following a 25-year campaign of restoration, two years of funding was awarded to support the preparation of an international workshop on Ghiberti’s Porta del Paradiso in Florence, as well as the ensuing publication of its scholarly findings. A grant to The Tate Gallery, London, will support a two-year multidisciplinary research program on material changes in 20th-century sculpture in plastic, to be undertaken by an international group of art historians, conservators, scientists, and others. Building on the Foundation’s decade of investment in developing the relatively new field of photograph conservation, the program is, for the first time, extending this work overseas by helping to establish a department at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg dedicated to preservation of the Museum’s large and important photography collection as well as Russia’s rich photographic heritage more generally.
The Barnes Foundation received another in a series of grants made over the last five years to create and sustain a professional staff with the requisite expertise to undertake fundamental management, curatorial, and conservation tasks required by a collection of its extraordinary quality.This has laid a strong foundation for serious scholarly work, and the task of documenting and protecting the Barnes collections and associated archival materials is far advanced. The Foundation awarded a $5 million challenge grant in 2006 to assist the Barnes in its ambitious goal of raising $20 million in endowment to sustain such curatorial and conservation activities at the highest level.
The Performing Arts
The Foundation’s efforts in the performing arts in 2006 were led by Diane Ragsdale and Catherine Maciariello (who served as a senior advisor). We partnered with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to launch a pilot program for funding long-recognized leaders of the American ensemble theater movement (companies that work with a common core of artistic personnel over an extended period of time to create productions in a collaborative fashion).(Note 10) Substantial one-time grants for important initiatives in dance were awarded to Ballet Theatre Foundation, Inc. (American Ballet Theatre/ABT) to support its transformation from a touring company to working in residence in four regions of the country, and to New York City Center, Inc. to support the Fall for Dance Festival, which through ambitious programming and low ticket prices has broadened and diversified City Center’s audiences and created a cadre of new dance enthusiasts. An award to the Dance Notation Bureau will support the preservation of dances created by legendary choreographer Martha Graham as well as planning for an online searchable catalog of the Bureau’s 750 scores and 10,000 other items.
A significant grant to the Metropolitan Opera Association, Inc. is supporting a series of initiatives under the Opera’s new leadership designed to build on the company’s historic strengths while connecting it in new ways to a broader public. An award to the Santa Fe Opera will help it launch a new project to commission operas by US composers who have not yet written major works for the stage.
The Foundation’s assistance to symphony orchestras over the last decade has been concentrated on the Orchestra Forum, a longterm project involving a group of orchestras.(Note 11) It has sought to help the participating orchestras become more distinctive and more artistically vital; to develop collaborative leadership among trustees, musicians, and management; and to improve professional and organizational practices, thereby setting examples for others in the field. As the Forum winds down and final grants are made to its member orchestras, we will shift our focus to supporting new artistic initiatives, leadership training, and other kinds of targeted support to a larger spectrum of orchestras, including those leading orchestras that regularly set high artistic standards for the field.
Conservation and the Environment
The Foundation’s conservation and the environment program, directed by William Robertson IV, continued its efforts begun in 2003 to help a consortium of 60 herbaria from 23 countries develop a coordinated digital database of information and images on the plants of the African continent. The core of the African Plants Initiative is the high-quality digital images of Type Specimens (the original specimens used to identify species). The Type images are augmented by reference works, photographs, and botanical art. The database was made public at a meeting of African botanists held in Cameroon in February 2007 and is available for a test period through JSTOR (www.jstor.org) and Aluka (www.aluka.org). The Foundation is completing its work on the African database and has begun to support a similar effort for the plants of Latin America. The program also continues to assist universities in launching research groups working toward basic understandings of plant ecosystems led by junior scientists in their first tenure-track positions and to expand the collaborative work between research groups at US and South African universities, particularly those that strengthen research in South African National Parks.
Research in Information Technology
The research in information technology program, overseen by Ira H. Fuchs with Christopher J. Mackie, initiated the Mellon Awards for Technology Collaboration (MATC) to honor not-for-profit institutions that have furthered the development of open-source software that benefits Mellon’s traditional constituencies. Three awards of $100,000 each and seven of $50,000 each were given to outstanding institutions in the US, Canada, UK, and Spain, selected from more than 300 nominations from around the globe.(Note 12) The first version of the open-source Kuali Financial System was released in 2006 and adopted more quickly than expected by institutions in the US and in the developing world, while support continued for the Kuali Research Administration system for grants management. The Foundation also supported a joint project between George Mason University and Utah State University to build tools (Zotero and Didily) that enhance scholarly productivity in Web-based research, and it supported an initiative by the Institute for the Future of the Book to develop a multimedia authoring environment (Sophie) designed for use by the large majority of faculty and students who have no specialized training in creating the kind of multimedia projects that are of increasing interest in pedagogy and scholarship.
Special International Emphases: South Africa
The Foundation’s principal work (though not its only work) abroad is in South Africa, where it has in the main supported institutions and programs of the kind it supports in the US. Under Stuart Saunders’ guidance, the Foundation’s South Africa program has continued to support institutions of higher education in South Africa and activities designed to build much-needed social capacity in the region. Ongoing support for graduate studies and postdoctoral fellowships at several universities promotes scholarship and research and is intended to build the intellectual life of the new democracy. Support was also renewed for the Public Policy Partnership, which will enable the 107 students from disadvantaged backgrounds currently in the program to complete their training and obtain their master’s degrees in public policy. Thus far, 40 graduates are already working full time in the public sector, and it is anticipated that the government will fund the scheme in the future. To strengthen networks of scholars in Africa, the African Mathematics Millennium Science Initiative encourages exchanges among African mathematicians, and the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional Public, Human Rights, and International Law Trust allows legal scholars from South Africa and from the rest of the continent to do research at the Constitutional Court. A new program of Senior Research Scholars is assisting the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand with recruiting recently retired academics—many from outside South Africa but having some past connection to the country—to spend a period in residence mentoring younger scholars and helping to strengthen and diversify the universities’ research culture more generally.
Finally, it should be noted that the Foundation continued its support of institutions powerfully affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Flowing through several of the Foundation’s programs, these grants in 2006 totaled $921,000.
The pages that follow summarize the Foundation’s grants in the calendar year 2006. They may serve as a guide to many of the Foundation’s interests. These interests will gradually evolve but, for the most part, entail variations on well-established themes. I am deeply grateful to play a role in this important work and look forward to continuing collaborations with my remarkable colleagues at the Foundation and with the institutions to whose success we hope to contribute.
Don M. Randel