grant

Mellon Foundation Awards $505,000 Grant to Extend Funding for the Boston Research Center

Boston Research Center logo

The Northeastern University Library has received a $505,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to support the final developmental phase of the Boston Research Center. This grant builds upon two previous grants from the Mellon Foundation — which helped Northeastern launch the BRC with a $200,000 planning grant in 2017, and a $650,000 implementation grant in 2019.

“We deeply appreciate the Mellon Foundation’s ongoing support of the Boston Research Center and our library’s efforts to work with the communities that surround Northeastern’s campuses,” said Dan Cohen, Dean of the Northeastern University Library. “Along with our partners in the Boston area, we have learned a great deal about how to express our neighbors’ stories, culture, and history.”

The BRC is dedicated to bringing Boston’s neighborhood and community histories to light through the creation and use of new technologies, allowing Boston residents to share underrepresented stories from city’s past. In its most recent phase, the BRC has focused on specific community projects to help share the stories of these neighborhoods and organizations. The Mellon Foundation’s grant will help develop tools and workflows to curate and disseminate these collections, making them accessible to the community and easy to build upon in future work.

By gathering documents, images, and personal narratives, and creating metadata for community resources, the BRC ensures that everything from public art and oral histories to important neighborhood sights are recorded to help disseminate area history and culture. Recent projects include:

  • The Harriet Tubman Memory House Project, which contains photographs, oral histories, flyers, architectural plans, and other digitized materials that tell the interwoven stories of Boston’s South End neighborhood, the United South End Settlements and Harriet Tubman House, gentrification, community action, and resilience.
  • The East Boston Memoir Project, which contains photographs, oral histories, newspapers, and other digitized materials that make available the history of East Boston.
  • The Neighborhood Public Art Project, which contains an interactive map documenting Boston’s rich and diverse history of public art.
  • The Chinatown Collections Project, which contains historical records documenting the people, organizations, and historical collections of Boston’s Chinatown in a bilingual database.

Located in Northeastern University Library, the BRC is managed by the Archives and Special Collections and the Digital Scholarship Group. It works in collaboration with the Boston Public Library along with many community organizations and individuals.

Northeastern University Library awarded Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant to study collaboration among decentralized research teams

The Northeastern University Library was recently awarded a $892,936 grant by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to study and develop effective practices for collaboration and communication by researchers distributed across multiple locations, as is increasingly the case in Northeastern’s expanding global campus network.

The grant will focus on Northeastern University’s “impact engines,” interdisciplinary teams that span two or more of Northeastern’s campuses and research locations throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It will fund two new library staff positions who will onboard and assist these research groups as they attempt to surmount the challenges associated with working together while physically distant.

The grant will also fund an independent project analyst who will collect data and survey information about the performance of the groups to determine which types of communication technologies and collaborative behaviors improved their work.

“Despite many researchers having to collaborate virtually over the past two years, we’re still figuring out hybrid and remote work on an ad hoc basis,” says Joshua Greenberg, director of the Sloan Foundation’s technology program. “We are excited to see what this focused investment in collaboration support for impact engines can reveal about the tools and best practices that best foster collaboration between staff on different campuses, and how those findings can be used to enable great research.”

The project will eventually produce:

  • A website containing detailed analysis on different communication techniques and collaborative models
  • Recommendations for setting up and supporting decentralized researchers
  • A formal peer-reviewed paper that provides details on the collected data and methodology
  • Multiple presentations of results at major conferences

“The Northeastern University Library is thrilled by how this grant will help us to synthesize research across our campuses, and grateful to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for its generous support of this endeavor,” said Dan Cohen, Vice Provost for Information Collaboration and Dean of the Library. “We also expect this project to provide helpful advice to other research teams and universities who seek to support similar distributed work using new technology and staff roles.”

The importance of this project was made evident in recent years, when the COVID-19 pandemic created the need for colleagues to work collaboratively in a highly distributed state. By studying the best ways to navigate these hurdles using technology and library support staff, decentralized research teams will ideally become more cohesive and productively collaborative.

Sourcery partnership receives $805,000 Andrew W. Mellon Grant

A partnership of various libraries and archives, led by Greenhouse Studios at the University of Connecticut and including the Northeastern University Library, has recently been awarded a $805,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The two-year grant will support the continued development and outreach of Sourcery, “a mobile application that streamlines the scanning of remote of archival materials, provides better connections between researchers and archivists, and offers new and more equitable pathways for archival research.”

According to Greenhouse Studios: “Sourcery is an open-source web application that expands access to non-digitized archival sources. The app, developed by Greenhouse Studios and supported by the non-profit Corporation for Digital Scholarship (CDS), is accessible on any device connected to the Internet. Sourcery provides archivists with a streamlined reference scanning workflow, payment processing services, and analytics on document requests. It provides researchers with a single interface for placing document requests across multiple remote repositories–a practice that has taken on new urgency during this time of limited in-person access to collections.”

Northeastern University Library is one of three partner repositories from which researchers can request documents. The others are Hartford Public Library and the University of Connecticut Archives and Special Collections. A fourth repository—Folger Shakespeare Library—will join the partnership upon completion of a renovation in 2023.

The grant is the second awarded to the group for the Sourcery project, after an initial Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant in 2020.

Library Digital Scholarship Group and NULab receive $500,000 NEH grant

The Northeastern University Library’s Digital Scholarship Group and the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks received a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the NEH’s American Rescue Plan program.

The American Rescue Plan aims to provide funding to organizations conducting humanities projects that were adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The grant awarded to the DSG and NULab is specifically focused on supporting humanities organizations.

This grant will help fund a series of digital projects currently underway through the DSG and NULab, but that were delayed or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will support efforts to conduct collaborative research, digitize and process archival materials, create metadata, increase web accessibility, and more, while creating many graduate and undergraduate student research positions to conduct this work.

The projects that will benefit from this grant all involve collaborative engagement with communities outside of Northeastern, with many of them focused on resources related to underrepresented groups and social justice efforts. These include:

The grant also includes funding for additional projects organized through the NULab.

Julia Flanders, the director of the Digital Scholarship Group, is excited to get started: “We are honored and energized by this award. It creates wonderful research opportunities for students and will help the entire digital humanities ecology at Northeastern.”

Boston Research Center Receives $650,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Library is pleased to announce that it has received a $650,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to implement the next phase of the Boston Research Center (BRC). The Boston Research Center is based in the Northeastern University Library and is dedicated to the study of Boston, enabling researchers from around the world to shed light on the city’s past, present, and future. The BRC serves as a place for students and scholars, Boston residents, and anyone interested in the history and culture of Boston to work together to combine special collections and contemporary data in an effort to better understand the past and envision the future.

This next phase of the BRC’s growth will, through partnerships with Boston community organizations, focus on the development of new digital collections and technological systems to empower these organizations to tell the story of their work and their neighborhoods. This builds on the strengths of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, a frequent partner with organizations in Boston and a trusted steward of local community archives, and will allow the BRC to serve as a digital community history lab where the creation of new collections and technology is driven by the needs of the people whose histories are represented in those collections. It also serves as a further iteration of the Library’s work to build inclusive information systems for cultural heritage.

The BRC is also now entering into a new partnership with the Boston Public Library. The Boston Public Library will play a key role in community outreach and technology development by drawing upon its extensive history of technological innovation and active partnerships with neighborhood communities served by its library branches. David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library, said, “We are thrilled to take our relationship with Northeastern to a whole new level and collaborate on preserving and extending the reach of local neighborhood history and culture across Boston.”

“We deeply appreciate The Mellon Foundation’s generous support for this critical next phase of the Boston Research Center and how it forges strong connections with communities around Boston and with the Boston Public Library,” said Dan Cohen, the Dean of the Library at Northeastern. “And we look forward to helping to reveal new insights about our city through the BRC’s network of individuals and institutions.”