Excellence in research, education, and public programming in the humanities depends heavily upon the ongoing availability of source materials. For instance, the discoveries and revelations of historians, archaeologists, linguists, musicologists, and others are credible and meaningful only to the extent that they are drawn from the raw materials and foundational building blocks of humanities knowledge.
To address this need, NEH’s program Humanities Collections and Reference Resources (HCRR) provides critical support to the nation’s libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions to help enable long-term public access to significant collections of books, manuscripts, photographs, art and artifacts, sound recordings, moving images, and more. HCRR, whose antecedents can be traced to the early years of the agency, also supports the production of essential reference tools, such as encyclopedias, historical dictionaries, and atlases.
While HCRR is widely known in many sectors of the academic and cultural heritage communities, the scope and depth of its impact have not been analyzed—until now. Beginning in 2011, NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access conducted a formal evaluation of the program, focusing on grants made in the years 2000 through 2010. Staff surveyed 177 past awardees, providing them with a concise set of questions intended to elicit both quantitative and qualitative evidence of project outcomes, including outcomes extending beyond the term of the grant itself. In addition, consulting humanities specialists conducted follow-up interviews with a representative subset of the respondents. The resulting study provides a valuable portrait of the full array of contributions to the humanities made possible by HCRR grants.
[Our emphasis] Recipients of HCRR awards range from the largest research universities, independent research libraries, and museums to small public libraries, and local government archives and historical societies. With ten distinct areas of activity eligible for support through HCRR, there is enormous range in the nature of the work performed. Outcomes of HCRR grants during the report period are readily measured: the reformatting of approximately 80,000 hours of recorded sound and video collections; the processing or digitization of almost 40,000 linear feet of archival documents; the processing or digitization of more than 2.3 million books, manuscripts, photos, maps, drawings, and other non-print materials; the preservation microfilming of nearly 150,000 “brittle books”; and the continuing preparation of major dictionaries, atlases, encyclopedias, and text bases central to knowledge and understanding of the humanities.
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