Library of Congress Enriches America’s Story by Connecting with Minority Communities, Funded by $15M Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant

None Photo by Shawn Miller, Library of Congress.

Multiyear Initiative to Share and Preserve Diverse Contemporary Culture and Provide Opportunities to the Next Generation of Knowledge Workers

The Library of Congress today announced a new, multiyear initiative to connect more deeply with Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and other minority communities by expanding its collections, using technology to enable storytelling and offering more internship and fellowship opportunities, supported by a $15 million investment from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The new initiative, Of the People: Widening the Path, creates new opportunities for more Americans to engage with the Library and add their perspectives to the Library’s collections, allowing the national library to share a more inclusive American story. This work will expand the Library’s efforts to ensure that a diversity of experiences is reflected in our historical record and inform how we use those materials to understand our past. 

The initiative will be accomplished through three programs: investing in community-based documentarians who will expand the Library’s collections with new perspectives; funding paid internships and fellowships to benefit from the wisdom of students and engage the next generation of diverse librarians, archivists and knowledge workers; and creating a range of digital engagements with Library collections with underserved communities and institutions.  

“The Mellon Foundation’s generous grant will enhance the Library’s efforts to develop deeper and mutually empowering relationships with those who are too often left out of the American story,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “By inviting communities of color and other underrepresented groups to partner on a wider, more inclusive path for connection to the Library of Congress, we invest in an enduring legacy of the multifaceted American story that truly is ‘Of the People.’”

The new initiative is part of a larger vision at the Library to connect with all Americans by inviting new generations to participate in creating, preserving and sharing the nation’s cultural treasures and building on the Library’s commitment to collect and preserve more underrepresented perspectives and experiences.

The $15 million invested by the Mellon Foundation in the Of the People initiative represents the largest grant from a private foundation in the Library’s history and is among the largest grants that the foundation awarded in its 2020 cycle.

“We are proud to support Carla Hayden and the Of the People initiative as the Library of Congress envisions and implements new ways to connect all Americans with its unparalleled resources,” said Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander. “The Library of Congress is the people’s public library, and we are delighted that it will engage diverse and inclusive public participation in expanding our country’s historical and creative records.” 

News, stories and opportunities related to the initiative will be shared on a new blog related to this new initiative in the months and years ahead. Subscribe for updates at blogs.loc.gov/OfThePeople

The Of the People initiative accomplishes these objectives through three programs: community documentarians working with the American Folklife Center; internships and fellowships for students from minority-serving institutions; and a digital futures program that combines the power of technology with the Library’s digital collections to help communities engage with the Library in ways that have never before been possible.

Community Documentarians with the American Folklife Center
The American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress will expand its collection by funding and supporting individuals and organizations in collecting and archiving contemporary community-driven cultural expressions and traditions that may otherwise be absent from the national record. The Library will offer fellowships to individuals to work within their communities to produce ethnographic cultural documentation, such as oral history interviews and audio-visual recordings of cultural activity, from the community perspective. The center will archive the collections from this fieldwork to preserve and showcase this rich and valuable cultural documentation.

Internship and Fellowships for Students from Minority-Serving Institutions
The Library will expand internship opportunities and enhance outreach to students attending historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, Tribal colleges and universities and institutions that serve Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The internship and fellowship programs offered will provide experiential learning opportunities to develop a new generation of diverse talent for cultural heritage organizations. The Library has begun work in this area by creating new training opportunities through a pilot program with Howard University in Washington, D.C.

The Black, Indigenous and Minority Americans Digital Futures Program
A  digital strategy program will encourage creators in minority communities to combine Library materials with technology to connect Americans with a more expansive understanding of our past and future. Grants to cultural heritage institutions, community colleges and minority serving institutions will support engagement with the Library’s collections in communities exploring their own histories. Through the program, creative people making content like videos, photo collages, new music and digital exhibits will bring to the foreground the experiences of Black, Indigenous and Americans from other racial and ethnic minority communities in the documents that comprise the story of our national identity. A scholar-in-residence program will connect experts with the richness of the collection and Library expertise and bring their research and experience to the Library. Projects funded through this program will serve as inspiration to all Americans who want to use the Library’s collections to tell their own story. Together, these and other elements of the program will work to strengthen the Library’s connection to communities of color and help the Library engage with all Americans.

About the Library
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.  Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

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PR 21-002
01/27/2021
ISSN 0731-3527