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Mellon Foundation to Fund Diversity Programs at Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is launching an initiative to expand its collection, encourage diversity among future librarians and archivists, and facilitate the exploration of the library’s digital archives by members of minority groups.

The program will be instituted over the next four years and is funded by a $ 15 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as part of a change from the foundation to providing grants for the arts and humanities through what she called “a social justice lens.” “

The library also described the movement, titled ‘From the People: Widening the Path’, as part of a larger plan to help the institution by building on a commitment to collect and preserve more ‘perspectives and under-represented experiences ”, according to a press release and inviting new generations to participate in the creation and sharing of vital cultural materials.

In doing so, “we are investing in a lasting legacy of multi-faceted American history that is truly ‘of the people’,” Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, said in a statement.

The initiative will be carried out in three ways: through the library’s American Folklife Center, through outreach to university and college students, and through grants to cultural heritage institutions.

The Folklife Center will have grants to produce ethnographic documentation of contemporary cultural activities among people whose experiences might not otherwise be included in the national register. (The center includes decades of written materials, oral histories and video segments and was designed to document, among other things, “the songs, stories and other creative expressions of people from diverse communities.”)

In addition, the library will increase its reach to students at tribal and historically black colleges and universities and participate in institutions and programs that serve Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and offer develop a new generation of diverse talent for cultural heritage organizations, ”the statement said.

The library will also provide grants to cultural heritage institutions which will encourage people to incorporate material from its digital collections into works like photo collages, new music and digital exhibits that explore the experiences of people of color.

“The Library of Congress is the public library of the people, and we are delighted that it will engage in diverse and inclusive public participation in the expansion of our country’s historical and creative archives,” said Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander, in a statement.

Last summer, the foundation, the largest humanities philanthropy in the United States, said it was placing greater emphasis in its grants on programs that promote social justice.

One of these programs plans to spend $ 5.3 million on what Alexander called “liberty libraries.” These are collections of 500 books of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and other writings that will be sent to 1,000 prisons across the country.

Then, in October, the foundation announced its $ 250 million Monuments project, intended to help rethink the country’s approach to monuments and memorials, with the goal of better reflecting the country’s diversity.

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