Volume 29, Number 4, Winter 2007


IMLS Awards Digital Innovation Grants

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) have announced the first three grant recipients under Advancing Knowledge: The IMLS/NEH Digital Partnership, a funding opportunity that brings together museum, library, archive, and IT professionals with humanities scholars to spur innovative digital projects. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Tufts University, Medford; and the University of California, Berkeley will receive a combined total of $1,047,455 for their work.

Through the grants, IMLS and NEH are joining together to support collaborations among libraries, museums, archives, universities, and other cultural organizations to develop digital tools that will assist in the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge about our past and our culture. The partnership encourages projects that explore new ways to share, examine, and interpret humanities collections in a digital environment and to develop new uses and audiences for existing digital resources.

The grants announced today are:

  • $347,520 to Historical Society of Pennsylvania for its project: PhilaPlace: A Neighborhood History and Culture Project. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in collaboration with the Philadelphia Department of Records and the University of Pennsylvania's School of Design will develop PhilaPlace, an interactive Web resource chronicling the history, culture, and architecture of Philadelphia's neighborhoods. Complete with maps, historical records, photographs, and digital models of select neighborhoods, PhilaPlace will serve as a prototype Web site for communities wishing to digitize their cultural heritage.
  • $349,939 to Tufts University, Medford, for its project: Scalable Named Entity Identification in Classical Studies. The Perseus Project and the Collections and Archives of Tufts University will construct a testing database of scholarly and cultural documents about the ancient world. In the second part of the project, Tufts will develop a digital reference tool allowing researchers and librarians to conduct context-based smart searches of un-indexed words from existing databases in the Tufts Digital Library. By developing this database, and allowing for much shorter and complete context-based searches, Tufts hopes to lead scholars and students to the next generation of digital tools.
  • $349,996 to University of California, Berkeley, for its project: Context and Relationships: Ireland and Irish Studies. The University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with the Queen's University, Belfast, will develop a digital database of Irish studies materials to test three open source digital tools. The Context Finder, Context Builder, and Context Provider tools will be aimed at establishing scholarly context. Using a common word search feature in digital collections, these tools will allow users to access the ideas that are associated with the words, thereby creating context through maps, primary texts and secondary works.


"We are pleased to award the first three Advancing Knowledge grants to pioneers of the digital frontier," said Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Ph.D., IMLS director. "These projects will foster new relationships among museums, libraries, archives, IT professionals, and humanities scholars to advance digital scholarship, education, and preservation. This program will create a foundation for professional collaborations needed to support the digital humanities."

"The mission of the endowment has always been to advance excellence in the humanities, and today that must mean maximizing the use of advanced technology," stated Bruce Cole, NEH chair. "These first three awardees provide a great example of how humanities organizations not only can leverage digital tools to advance their area of study, but how the humanities can play a more active role in creating new digital tools and resources. I'm so pleased that our partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services is helping to make this possible."

The Advancing Knowledge program is a key component of IMLS's Digital Connections Initiative (DCI). This comprehensive program has made possible the digitization of millions of artifacts and documents; the annual WebWise Conference, a convening of representatives of museums, libraries, archives, systems science, education, and other fields interested in the future of high-quality online content for inquiry and learning; statewide digitization efforts; and research on the public use of information technology, such as social tagging, blogs, podcasts, and text messaging.

The Advancing Knowledge program is a key component of the NEH's Digital Humanities Initiative (DHI), which supports projects that utilize or study the impact of digital technology. The DHI program supports grants and sponsors conferences, workshops, and other educational events to offer humanists new methods of conducting research, conceptualizing relationships, and presenting scholarship using digital technology.

NEH grants are awarded on a competitive basis. Throughout the year, humanities experts outside of the endowment and members of the National Council on the Humanities consider all applications and advise NEH on the quality and significance of each proposed project.