Mahn Center at Ohio University Libraries Receives National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

Ohio University Libraries is pleased to announce that Miriam Nelson, Director of the Mahn Center, Preservation and Digital Initiativesreceived a scholarship from National Foundation for the Humanities. The $50,000 grant will be used for a preservation assessment to create a roadmap for the digitization of over 2,000 audiovisual records from Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis Dance Collection. The project also aims to create additional access points to a growing digital collection of non-audiovisual materials by working with the Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance to collect expert metadata.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) was established as an independent federal agency in 1965 to “preserve America’s rich history and cultural heritage, and encourage and support scholarship and innovation in the fields of history, archaeology, philosophy, literature and other disciplines of the human sciences”.

Nelson requested and received the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Foundation Grantwhich makes it possible to identify and evaluate the humanities collections to be digitized, such as the Nikolais/Louis Collection.

“Moving images and sound recordings are extremely important forms of documentation for a performing arts collection,” Nelson said. “We need to understand what [audio-visual] format is the most stable, and will provide us with the best image and sound quality when scanned.

The Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis Dance Collection, which contains material from 1936 to 2001, was donated to libraries beginning in 1999 by Louis. The collection chronicles the careers of two leaders of American modern dance.

As one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States, NEH generally provides grants to cultural institutions such as museums, colleges, public television and radio stations, as well as libraries. NEH grants are highly competitive, with only 36 projects out of 205 eligible applications in this application round funded.

“Grants like this allow libraries to engage with experts to delve into very specific aspects of a single collection,” Nelson said. “It’s something we might not be able to do otherwise without having to divert resources from other priorities, such as connecting with students and faculty in the classroom.”

Highlighting the importance of collaborative partnerships in libraries, the grant project team of Greta Suiter, Laura Smith, Erin Wilson and Janet Carleton will work with Scene Savers for the Preservation Assessment, as well as subject matter experts Lynn Rico, Alberto del Salz, and Natasha Simon from The Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance. The Libraries app also received a letter of support from Sara and Ben Brumfield, founders of the crowdsourced transcription platform, Of the pagewho will be used to collect metadata.

Continuing to process and preserve these collections is important to preserving an important era in dance history while emphasizing the collections’ connection to Ohio University. The NEH grant helps ensure that researchers in the OHIO community and around the world can continue to use the collections for years to come.

“We hope this will be the first step towards the digitization and wide dissemination of part of the collection that has been hidden away in outdated formats,” Nelson said.

For more information please contact Miriam Nelson [email protected].

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