2009 Annual Report: President's Report



The Annual Report for 2008 described a precipitous decline in the Foundation's total assets resulting from the turmoil that engulfed the economy as a whole, including especially the kinds of educational and cultural institutions that the Foundation serves.  Fortunately, this Annual Report for 2009 can describe a substantial rebounding of net assets from $4.1 billion at December 31, 2008, to $4.7 billion at December 31, 2009, after grantmaking of over $215 million in the course of the year.

The extent of both the decline and the rebound was somewhat unexpected by most observers and proved the wisdom of taking a long view despite the short-term challenges.  Because the Foundation has very low fixed expenses and almost no future commitments in its grantmaking, there was no need to withdraw from any commitments to grantees.  The grantmaking budget returned more or less to what it had been in 2006, which seemed high at the time, and we will hope as we proceed through 2010 to begin to increase it again.  Even now the Foundation's assets slightly exceed the real value of its original corpus.  Our goal will be to maintain or exceed the real value of the grantmaking budget in coming years, to the extent that the legal requirements for expenditures allow.

What was anomalous, then, was not so much the decline in assets at the end of 2008 and the first part of 2009 as the remarkable spike that preceded it.  This spike enabled the Foundation to increase its grantmaking substantially for a year or two but did not cause us to depart from a tradition of funding even most multiyear grants in their entirety from the start and thus did not cause us to become reliant on a continuation of the kinds of investment returns that had produced the spike.  The precipitous nature of the decline did, however, present challenges to the management of liquidity for purposes of both grantmaking and commitments of capital to certain kinds of investments, since the Foundation held substantial assets that were either illiquid or substantially undervalued from a longer-term perspective.  Therefore, in order not to interrupt the flow of funds to our grantees, the Foundation sold $230 million of taxable bonds, which it was able to do at quite favorable rates deriving from market conditions generally and from the fact that the Foundation has very limited fixed obligations.  Simultaneously, the Foundation increased somewhat the allocation in its portfolio to highly liquid assets.  All of this reflects a long-term and disciplined philosophy with respect to both grantmaking and investing.

Unfortunately, many institutions saw this spike as the wave of the future and undertook long-term commitments that became difficult or impossible to sustain.  Some of these commitments, especially among private institutions of higher education, were undertaken with the best of motives, as for example in the case of undergraduate financial aid.  A few of the very wealthiest institutions substantially enhanced their financial aid programs, in some cases eliminating the requirement that loans form a part of most or all financial aid packages.  A number of much less wealthy institutions felt the need to compete in these terms and believed that their own increasing wealth and that of their alumni and other donors would enable them to keep up in this competition.  What was not really affordable at the time announcements of new financial aid policies were made forced painful decisions when the downturn came.  At first no one wished to retreat from the more generous financial aid policies, and difficult cuts were imposed on other categories of expense to pay for them.  Finally, a few institutions took the unpleasant step of admitting that they could no longer afford what had been promised.  It is quite likely that more institutions will be forced to follow suit.

Another type of commitment undertaken in what were after all relatively few years of remarkable prosperity following the last major downturn in 2001-200 was to capital projects, perhaps chief among them to major new facilities for the sciences.  The doubling of the budget of the National Institutes of Health and the hoped for increases of a similar kind for the National Science Foundation as well as in the Department of Energy's budget for research in the physical sciences all encouraged this.  Unfortunately, the federal government has never paid the full cost of the research that it sponsors in universities, especially not its capital costs.  A bad matter, largely unacknowledged by either the federal government or the general public, was made substantially worse by the declining possibilities of the federal budget and the downturn in private assets that the federal expenditure had long leveraged.  Important among those private assets, though not often recognized as such, is undergraduate tuition, which faces serious problems of its own.  Undergraduate tuition remains for the overwhelming number of private institutions, including some with multibillion-dollar endowments, the single largest source of unrestricted funds.  Thus, when the federal government underfunds research in the basic sciences, undergraduates' parents make up a certain part of the difference.

If the consequences of the downturn in the economy in all of its forms have been difficult for private institutions, for public institutions they have been disastrous almost everywhere.  Shortfalls in the revenues of the states have been passed on in abundance to their institutions of higher education.  Recent studies have shown that other developed countries have protected higher education as they coped with shrinking resources, whereas the United States has not.  This is in part because this country for the most part has no national policy on higher education, a matter left principally to the states.  And the states have significantly less flexibility in dealing with revenue shortfalls and in some cases little wish to support what is in their own long-term interest, to say nothing of the long-term interest of the nation.  The State of California has enjoyed what is surely the greatest system of public higher education that the world has ever known, and yet that system is being steadily dismantled.

What is The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to do in the face of this?  In the end, we can only continue to do what we have long done—help a rather small fraction of the 4,000 institutions of higher education in the country maintain a commitment to activities that we have always cared about, namely the humanities and the arts.  Many observers believe, furthermore, that these are the activities likely to suffer most in the retrenchment that higher education is undergoing.  In times like these, practical arguments for supporting science and technology, because they are thought to lead to economic growth, become ever more powerful.  And students and their parents will rush to whatever fields they believe most likely to lead to a good job.  These fields are not always thought to include English and philosophy.

Yet this Foundation believes that the humanities and the arts do indeed contribute to the material prosperity of individuals as well as of society at large.  And they are absolutely crucial to creating the kind of life that thoughtful people and a humane society will want to live.  There is no doubt that a strong education in the humanities and the arts contributes to the intellectual armament that most enables success in thinking imaginatively about the unexpected as well as the familiar and that contributes most powerfully to the invention of the future.  It also contributes most effectively to a successful engagement with the people of other cultures in a world in which engagement of this kind is obligatory.  Whatever one's job, an education that includes the humanities and the arts will enable one to do it better.  Institutions of higher education in other parts of the world often remark that liberal arts education of the type practiced in the United States is what they lack in creating an imaginative and entrepreneurial citizenry.

Because this kind of higher education is crucial to the national life, it is crucial that it take full account of the nation's diversity.  The Foundation's diversity initiatives have a long history and will remain a priority.  A central part of our effort is to bring greater diversity to the professoriate by supporting in a variety of ways students from underrepresented groups and others with a demonstrated commitment to diversity who wish to pursue advanced degrees for the sake of becoming college and university faculty members.  Support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities will also continue to play a role.  The range of our diversity initiatives is described later in this report.

Personal and national prosperity are not the only or the deepest reasons for a strong presence of the humanities and the arts in national life.  We often speak of businesses in terms of their value proposition.  We sometimes speak of higher education in terms of its value proposition—the financial return over a lifetime of an investment in higher education.  It is essential, however, that we also think about the values proposition of higher education and of the humanities and the arts more broadly.

The nation has very far to go before it can be content that the needs of all of its citizens for some of the most basic material comforts are being met.  Access to adequate health care and adequate education, especially but not only higher education, is denied to too many.  This argues for building a strong economy that meaningfully reduces unemployment and generates the resources necessary to attend to society's needs.  But the character of a society will ultimately reflect its values more than its wealth.  Values will determine how wealth is created and the uses to which it is put.  And it is the humanities and the arts that explore such values and confront each of us with the need to choose the values by which we will live.  In a period in which the nation is quite properly concerned with the creation of jobs for the appallingly high number of unemployed, we must also concern ourselves with the values that will shape the lives of those who do have jobs, perhaps even extremely lucrative jobs, as well as those who do not.  These values will determine how—indeed if—our democracy is to function.

Whether for rich or poor, a job is not something to be pursued simply for its own sake with no thought of what greater purpose life might embody.  And an education that prepares only for a job without attention to greater purposes is not an education in the fullest sense.  Great works of art and literature explore these matters and present them powerfully as nothing else can, which is the deepest reason for making the humanities and the arts a part of every education and of every life thereafter.

In Silas Marner George Eliot writes, "Every man's work, pursued steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life."  Of Silas's life and the lesson that might be drawn from it she writes:

His life had reduced itself to the functions of weaving and hoarding, without any contemplation of an end towards which the functions tended.  The same sort of process has perhaps been undergone by wiser men, when they have been cut off from faith and love—only, instead of a loom and a heap of guineas, they have had some erudite research, some ingenious project, or some well-knit theory.

We might wish that these words had been taken to heart by more of the millions of people who were obliged to read Silas Marner as sophomores in high school.  This is only to say that great works of art and literature will often require the help of thoughtful teachers and parents who must prepare fertile terrain for them.  But making and preserving the space for them in modern life is essential to a society of which we can be proud.  That is an important part of the work of this Foundation.

The staff of the Foundation continues to think about how it can carry on this work ever more effectively, even when the goals of that work remain largely constant.  It is important that we use our resources responsibly and that we maintain a sharp focus on those goals and the values that support them.  This requires that we listen attentively to our grantees and their expressions of the nature of their needs.  And it requires that as a staff we listen attentively to one another.  Even with a rather small staff (a total of about 70 people) in relation to the extent of our resources, we must guard against a kind of atomization in which busy people develop programs that continue along their way without interacting fruitfully.

With a view to the closer integration of some of our efforts, at the end of 2009 the program on Research in Information Technology was merged with the program on Scholarly Communications, now renamed Scholarly Communications and Information Technology.  The Foundation has had a long and deep commitment to bringing to bear the power of new information technologies on the work of the humanities and the arts.  This commitment will continue.  The merger of the two programs, however, will further concentrate efforts in information technology on direct support for the work of the humanities and the arts.  The Foundation is pleased to have stimulated a number of large, community-based, open source software projects and to have seen their viability clearly demonstrated.  These have included enterprise systems for use in the administration of major universities as well as smaller institutions.  With the humanities and the arts under increasing threat in the world of higher education and in society at large, however, some greater focus on their particular needs has seemed necessary and appropriate.  And it is clear, for example, that the rate of change in the ways in which humanistic scholars gather and use information has greatly accelerated and calls for the development and application of new and more powerful tools.

The year 2009 also saw the announcement of two other major changes taking place in 2010 and that will occasion deep reflection on how the Foundation does its work.  That work is of course carried on by talented people.  And two of the Foundation's most talented and widely admired program officers retire in March of 2010.

Harriet Zuckerman has been the senior vice president of the Foundation for 19 years, principally overseeing the Foundation's single largest program, which is in support of research universities.  She has long been the face of the Foundation in the world of research universities and is certainly the nation's leading authority on support for graduate education and scholarship in the humanities.  Her programs have also supported centers for advanced study, independent research libraries, and other specialized institutes.  She has personally been responsible for the Foundation's research activities, and has overseen a portfolio of studies in the area of higher education, some of which she has herself written.  Her incisive and stylish presence has made an indelible imprint, and to say that she will be missed by the Foundation and grantees alike is to engage in major understatement.

Angelica Z. Rudenstine has been the Foundation's program officer for the program on Museums and Art Conservation.  Her impact in the world of museums on scholarship and conservation has been singular, and she established almost single-handedly the field of basic science in support of art conservation.  The world of museums has been forever transformed, as leaders in that field have amply testified.

Both of these retirements command the Foundation to look to its future and ensure that it continues to meet the high standards that these colleagues have set.  This entails reflection and consultation.  The Foundation has begun a process of convening representatives of the fields in which we work in order to learn from them what is most needed at the present time.  In this context we expect that a number of opportunities for our programs to collaborate more closely will emerge.  Among those likely to emerge will be an effort to bring together our concern for undergraduate education as expressed in our support of liberal arts colleges and our concern for graduate education in the humanities, which produces the faculty members who ultimately teach undergraduates in both large universities and smaller liberal arts institutions.  We wish to help ensure that undergraduate education of the kind we believe in, that is, a liberal arts education properly so called, flourishes in institutions of all types and that graduate students receive the training necessary to strengthen undergraduate education wherever they may spend their careers.  Similarly, we wish to understand the continuing and in many ways growing need of museums for support in art conservation while exploring further ways in which museums might collaborate with one another and with other kinds of cultural institutions and ways in which our support of graduate education and research in art history might better serve both museums and higher education.

All of this requires attracting new talent of the highest order to the Foundation.  In this we have been extremely fortunate to be able to appoint Mariët Westermann as a vice president of the Foundation to lead the program in Museums and Art Conservation and to assume major responsibilities for programs in support of higher education.  She will assume her position in June of 2010 and brings to that position the experience of a distinguished scholar of art history and university administrator.  The program that has supported the humanities and the arts in research universities and the program supporting liberal arts colleges will now be more closely coordinated, and in this effort Vice President Westermann and Vice President Philip E. Lewis will share responsibilities across the entire spectrum of higher education.

One can easily become discouraged about the state of our national intellectual, cultural, and political life.  The character of our national discourse does not encourage a belief in the health of our democracy.  The debate about health care causes one to fear for the character of the debate about higher education that will surely follow before long and that will pose similar issues.  If there is any hope for a more civil and civilized environment in which to rise to the challenges that confront us, both domestic and foreign, it lies in a lifelong education that develops and encourages in everyone the thoughtful qualities of mind that are explored and strengthened by engagement with the humanities and the arts.  No single foundation could possibly guarantee the realization of this hope.  The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, however, will contribute as mightily as it can to that end.

In the pages that follow, the Foundation's program staff offer summary accounts of their activities in 2009.  The remainder of the report consists of a compilation of the Foundation's grants for 2009 and its annual financial statements.

Don M. Randel
March 2010


Research Universities and Humanistic Scholarship

Research Universities and Humanistic Scholarship

Overseen by Harriet Zuckerman and Joseph S. Meisel, the Research Universities and Humanistic Scholarship (RUHS) program has three main objectives: (1) supporting research by individual scholars at different career stages, beginning with graduate fellowships and ending with awards for emeritus professors; (2) assisting institutions where humanists work, including research universities, centers for advanced study, independent research libraries, and specialized research institutes, while also facilitating institutional collaborations; and (3) encouraging promising lines of humanistic inquiry, often involving multiple scholars.  Projects supported by RUHS often focus on two, or even all three, of these objectives.

Consistent with the Foundation's overall commitments during the financial downturn, RUHS maintained its central programmatic activities in 2009.  Four outstanding senior humanists received Distinguished Achievement Awards: the philosopher and theorist Judith Butler; Thomas Gunning, a historian of early cinema; Barbara Newman, a scholar of medieval religion; and the Sanskritist Sheldon Pollock.  Once again, ten scholars received New Directions fellowships for systematic training in fields other than their own, and 20 Emeritus Fellows were awarded funds for their continuing scholarly contributions.  In addition, nine new John E. Sawyer Seminars in the Comparative Study of Cultures were approved. [1]

While continuing these and other ongoing initiatives, RUHS also responded to changed circumstances institutions were confronting.  Rapid budgetary retrenchment at colleges and universities drastically curtailed faculty hiring, creating what is known now as the "jobless market" in the humanities and calling for a broad intervention to increase postdoctoral opportunities for new recipients of the PhD.  Accordingly, the Foundation funded an experimental program of "New Faculty Fellows" developed in partnership with, and overseen by, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).

More flexible and affordable than creating new assistant professorships, postdoctoral fellowships give recent PhDs in the humanities opportunities to learn from seasoned faculty colleagues, gain classroom experience, and advance their own scholarship.  Data collected for the Foundation's Graduate Education Initiative (GEI) of the 1990s (also a period of significant, if more gradual, contraction in available jobs) indicate that more than 40 percent of PhD recipients at the time were initially employed in temporary posts, while the proportion of those who obtained full-time jobs shortly after graduation declined.  Postdoctoral fellows were far more likely to find tenure-track positions within three years of graduation than those employed in more tenuous and contingent academic posts (although this finding may reflect the quality of the fellows chosen as much as their postdoctoral experiences). [2]  Multiyear postdoctoral positions, adequately compensated and well-integrated into departmental life, not only benefit the fellows, but also help to meet important institutional needs (e.g., fulfilling departmental teaching obligations, allowing for the expansion of departmental expertise and course offerings, and building intellectual and programmatic connections across fields) even when hiring additional permanent faculty is impossible.

The New Faculty Fellows program was launched in fall of 2009 as a national competition for 50 new PhDs in the humanities without full-time academic employment.  Fellows would receive a $50,000 stipend and $5,000 research fund annually, plus a one-time moving allowance of $1,500.  The 60 US-based members of the Association of American Universities (AAU), which produce the overwhelming majority of doctorates in the humanities, were invited to nominate highly qualified PhDs who had received their degrees in the two prior years and did not hold tenure-track jobs.  Each university could nominate approximately 30 percent of the annual number of humanities PhDs it awarded.  Ultimately, 58 universities nominated 826 individuals, 764 of whom applied for fellowships.  A two-stage review process involving senior scholars and experienced administrators (typically deans and associate deans) selected 120 finalists and then 60 fellowship recipients. These 60 represent 30 institutions, both public and private.  Reviewers commented on the high quality of the applicant pool and particularly of the finalists.  In a process governed by strict guidelines and timetables, fellows were hired for two-year terms in a "mini-market" established by ACLS, consisting of the participating AAU members and a selected group of liberal arts colleges.  Ultimately, 14 of those elected chose to accept job offers outside the program (indicating that the process had identified highly eligible candidates).  The 46 New Faculty Fellows that remain will take up posts at 20 universities and six colleges.

Foundation funds allow institutions to hire fellows at a substantial discount: universities pay only one-third, and colleges only one-quarter of their total cost (in addition to providing health coverage).  The program was designed as a time-limited response to the poor job prospects facing recent PhDs who entered graduate school anticipating that academic employment would be reasonably available.  The demand evidenced by the number of applications, the high quality of the finalists, and the eagerness of colleges and universities to hire them, along with continuing budgetary restrictions, indicate that funding for a second round should be considered.

Recent annual reports have noted the problematic consequences of increasing economic disparities among leading research universities and the difficulties that excellent institutions confront in trying to keep pace academically with the small number of peers that command the greatest resources.  These problems continue despite the significant losses sustained by universities with large endowments.  Marked differences remain in the ability of institutions to achieve their intellectual aspirations.  At one time, the Foundation's funding for universities concentrated almost entirely on the private sector, a policy based on the continuing support public universities received from their state governments.  Since this support has shrunk drastically and affected the humanities especially, the Foundation's grantmaking now includes a larger number of public institutions, and several received major grants in 2009.  The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was awarded $4.5 million to strengthen its graduate programs in the humanities.  Two other "publics" also received grants exceeding $2 million for significant new initiatives in the humanities: the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York, which will strengthen critical fields by appointing visiting faculty from other CUNY campuses and providing enhanced graduate support, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which will establish or restore 12 faculty lines focused particularly on cross-regional historical developments and cultural connections.  In addition, two out of three university-based postdoctoral fellowship programs established last year (bringing the total number of such programs funded since 1998 to 32) are at public institutions: the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Liberal Arts Colleges

Liberal Arts Colleges

The Liberal Arts Colleges program, led by Philip Lewis and Eugene Tobin, provides multiyear grants to liberal arts colleges.  A majority of these grants supports innovative academic work in the humanities and humanistic social sciences in a select group of approximately 70 colleges.  In 2009, the program continued to expand its efforts to encourage collaboration among groups of colleges that form regionally based consortia.  Prominent among these is the Appalachian College Association (ACA), a consortium of 37 colleges that was previously the province of a program officer who was also responsible for grants made to private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  During 2009, the Foundation merged its work with HBCUs, its grantmaking under the heading Diversity Initiatives, and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowships program into a single unit.  Pursuant to this reorganization, the Liberal Arts Colleges program is responsible for grants to the ACA.

Along with the ACA, seven consortia—the American International Consortium of Academic Libraries, the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, the Associated Colleges of the South, the Claremont University Consortium, the Five Colleges of Ohio, the Great Lakes Colleges Association, and Five Colleges, Incorporated, of Western Massachusetts—have ongoing affiliations with the program.  Grants to these seven consortia in 2009 totaled approximately $4 million.  This unusually small amount resulted directly from the economic downturn of 2008, which caused a significant reduction in the program's annual grantmaking budget and also delayed projected grants to support operating endowments for some consortia.  In some cases, staff provided direct grants for operating expenses to compensate for these delays.  The program agreed to support another consortium of six colleges in upstate New York (Colgate, Hamilton, Hobart and William Smith, Skidmore, St. Lawrence, and Union) and granted start-up funds to this group in 2009; it also opened discussion with five colleges in Oregon and Washington about the development of a consortium in the Northwest.  Grants enabling collaboration by smaller groupings of institutions—such as Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall, and Gettysburg in central Pennsylvania; Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore in Philadelphia; Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby in Maine; and Connecticut College, Trinity, and Wesleyan in Connecticut—also reflect the program's interest in encouraging cooperative projects that may be either academic or administrative in nature.

Historically, four durable rubrics—faculty career enhancement, libraries and information technology, curricular development and educational effectiveness, and presidential support—have covered much of the grantmaking in the Liberal Arts Colleges program.  In 2009, approximately one-fourth of the program's $30-million budget supported curricular projects, while another one-fourth was devoted to grants for faculty development and institutional revitalization.  In this latter category, grants ranged from the funding of teaching postdoctoral fellowships and mentoring programs linking junior and retiring faculty, to support for individual scholarly projects and research leaves that enable faculty members to acquire interdisciplinary competencies.   A third prominent sphere of grantmaking was the growing interdisciplinary field of environmental studies.

As the year progressed and concerns about the bleak job market for new PhD's in the arts and humanities intensified, staff issued a letter to college presidents underscoring the program's receptiveness to proposals for support of postdoctoral fellowships and artistic residencies.  This letter also noted the growth of what scholars now term the "digital humanities" and expressed interest in pilot projects that would integrate this field into academic programs.

2009 was a pivotal year for the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), which has pursued efforts initiated by the Foundation in the mid-1990s to enable liberal arts colleges to deploy the resources of information technology in their academic activities.  In the summer of 2009, the NITLE headquarters were moved to Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.  Under the leadership of its new executive director, W. Joseph King, NITLE has begun to develop a streamlined organization that focuses on the pedagogical applications of technology in liberal education and on linking the institutional members of the NITLE network through a high-definition "telepresence" technology that will greatly facilitate the collaborative delivery of instruction.

Diversity Initiatives

Diversity Initiatives

The Diversity Initiatives program was a site of transition and consolidation in 2009.  The pivotal event was the retirement of Lydia English, who had served since 1999 as the program officer for Diversity Initiatives and director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program.  MMUF supports two groups of qualified students who wish to seek doctoral degrees and pursue careers in higher education: those from underrepresented minority groups and other students with demonstrated commitments to diversity.  Carlotta M. Arthur, program officer for the Foundation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Appalachian Colleges program, became program officer for the newly expanded Diversity Initiatives program which now encompasses MMUF, Diversity Initiatives, and HBCUs.  The Foundation also welcomed Armanda Lewis, the program's new associate director.

MMUF is active at 42 institutions, including three South African universities and the UNCF Consortium of 39 HBCUs.  In 2009, support for MMUF was renewed through 2013 at 34 of the 42 institutions and the UNCF consortium, with a ten percent increase in the program budget being awarded to each institution as well.  The 300th PhD earned by an MMUF Fellow was awarded in 2009, and, of these degree holders, 37 have been awarded tenure.  The number of PhDs in progress was 539.  The Diversity Initiatives program continued its support for academic diversity by underwriting a collaborative program with the American Indian College Fund designed to increase the number of faculty members with PhDs in the Tribal College system and for programs for graduate students and junior faculty administered by the United Negro College Fund, the Social Science Research Council, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Support to HBCUs has primarily been grouped into three broad categories: institution building, collaborations among HBCUs and research universities, and libraries.  Institution building grants, awarded to support academic and administrative programs that are of strategic importance to HBCU presidents, increased in 2009, and approximately 65 percent of the HBCU budget supported such programs.  This included grants for internationalization programs, undergraduate and faculty research, curricular development, and student recruitment and retention programs.  Collaborations between research universities and HBCUs have sought to facilitate exchanges of knowledge and expertise among these institutions, and the Foundation renewed support for several collaborative programs in 2009.  With respect to libraries, several grants were awarded to individual HBCUs to increase their electronic resources, develop information literacy programs, and provide staff training.  Grants were also made in support of consortial arrangements such as the HBCU Library Alliance.

Scholarly Communications

Scholarly Communications

The Foundation's Scholarly Communications program was led in 2009 by Donald J. Waters and Helen Cullyer.  The program's three primary objectives are to: (1) support the efforts of libraries and archives to preserve and provide access to materials of broad cultural and scholarly significance; (2) assist scholars in developing specialized resources that promise to open or advance fields of study in the humanities and humanistic social sciences; and (3) strengthen the publication of humanistic scholarship and its dissemination to the widest possible audience.

Among the year's most significant highlights was a series of grants made in the wake of the severe economic downturn that resulted in budget cuts, on average, of ten percent for the current fiscal year at major research libraries.  The grants were designed to foster cost-saving collaboration among institutions, accelerate infrastructure development so that multiple institutions could benefit, and develop critical new initiatives, particularly in the area of digital collections, on which future scholarship depends.  Columbia University, in collaboration with Cornell University, received a grant to plan the development of an independent service entity that would support the libraries of both universities and provide a 30 percent integration of operations within three years over a variety of departments including technical services and information technology.  The Foundation also made awards to both the University of California and the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to study how libraries could generate savings by making effective use of shared regional repositories of print and digital materials.  In addition, several institutions began to develop, with Foundation funding in 2009, the infrastructure, workflows, and staff expertise necessary to deal with their growing number of born-digital collections.  The University of Virginia, in collaboration with Yale University, Stanford University, and the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, was awarded funds to develop software to process and preserve born-digital archival "papers" and to process 13 digital collections, including the archives of Stephen Jay Gould and of Pelli Clark Pelli architects.  Columbia and Stanford Universities are implementing systems to archive and catalog Web sites, and digital files available via Web sites, that are of scholarly importance, while the University of Michigan is implementing a prototype software system for collecting faculty and staff email of institutional significance for preservation in the university's archives.

During 2009, Scholarly Communications also continued to support the basic and critically important activities of collection assessment and cataloging.  In close association with the Performing Arts program, Scholarly Communications awarded funds to six major symphony orchestras, the Kronos Performing Arts Association, and the American Symphony Orchestra League, for assessment of their archival collections including original scores and unique audio recordings.  CLIR received funds to administer a second year of the Cataloging Hidden Collections program, a national, competitive, peer-reviewed granting program for the cataloging of unprocessed and uncataloged special collections in the US that are effectively "hidden" from scholars.  In the UK, the University of Cambridge was awarded funds to support the cataloging of its 4,650 European incunabula (books printed before 1501).

To ensure that collection records are available to library users, robust software applications are needed so that library staff can catalog materials with rigor and ease, and make descriptive records available online to library users.  To this end, the Foundation awarded funds to the University of California at San Diego, which, in collaboration with New York University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will plan and design a new software tool for the management and description of archives.  This tool will be based on and enhance the best features of the existing tools Archon and the Archivists' Toolkit.

In 2009, the program's support for scholars to build broad and comprehensive resources for research focused on the fields of medieval studies, classics, and archaeology.  St. John's University received funds to catalog digitized eastern Christian medieval manuscripts held in a variety of institutions across the globe and in a variety of languages.  The program also helped the Université de Fribourg in Switzerland to continue its e-codices project, which makes digitized medieval manuscripts in Switzerland accessible to scholars online.  In the field of classics, the Foundation awarded funds to the University of Oxford to support the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, which maintains an archival collection of materials related to contemporary performances of ancient drama and encourages research by convening international conferences and seminars on the topic.  In the field of archaeology, Scholarly Communications made grants for the further development of the Chaco Canyon digital archive at the University of Virginia and an online bibliography of scholarship in the field of East Asian archaeology at Boston University.

To support scholarly publishing, Scholarly Communications provided funds to the University of Southern California to develop new methods of electronic publication in the field of visual studies so that scholars can more easily integrate text, images, and moving images.  Grants were also awarded to the University of Pittsburgh and University of California as part of the Universities and their Presses program, which encourages the close alignment of the output of presses with the academic priorities of their sponsoring universities.

Museums and Art Conservation

Museums and Art Conservation

The Museums and Art Conservation program, under the direction of Angelica Z. Rudenstine with Alison H. Gilchrest, has continued its efforts to enable outstanding art museums to build and sustain their capacity to undertake serious scholarship on their permanent collections, preserve these collections, and appropriately disseminate the results of their work to the scholarly community and other audiences.

At a time when the need for science within the field of art conservation was beginning to be recognized but the demand had not yet materialized, Foundation Trustees endorsed a proposal in 2000 to commit significant resources over a ten-year period to address this situation.  As that decade comes to a close, the Foundation has invested approximately $46 million at 21 museums and universities in support of science within art conservation.  These grants have resulted in the establishment of new positions (several through endowment challenges), the establishment of postdoctoral fellowships for scientists, and the planning and equipping of laboratories.  In addition, this support has encouraged research partnerships between scientists in museums and those in universities and industry, as well as the integration of museum collections and conservation resources into the curriculum of at least three universities (Rice, Emory, and Northwestern).  Through carefully structured, advanced-level chemistry and physics courses or research opportunities, new models for science education, especially for undergraduates, have been developed.

Over the past six years, a significant effort has been made to enlist the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the field of science in the cultural heritage sphere.  The NSF had not been able to give the research needs of the field serious attention until this year when the leadership of its division of chemistry invited the Foundation to co-sponsor a workshop intended to generate NSF interest in launching a broad plan of support for the field.  The goals of the workshop were to explore the basic scientific questions relating to cultural heritage materials, define priorities for research, and enhance cross-disciplinary collaborations among scientists in cultural heritage institutions and their peers in academic, national, and industrial laboratories.  In the wake of this very successful workshop attended by 42 scientists, NSF has posted a call for proposals, perhaps representing a turning point in funding sources for this scientific field.  Meanwhile, the Foundation continues to recognize that postdoctoral fellowships for scientists in exceptional museum environments are essential elements in the strengthening of the pipeline of scientists: such fellowships at the British Museum have recently been extended for the next 16 years, and two senior scientific positions have been endowed at the Harvard Art Museum and the Walters Art Museum.

A continuing effort during the past year to strengthen the scholarly capacity of major art museums has resulted in the establishment of midlevel curatorships at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Cleveland Museum of Art, as well as senior curatorial or conservation positions at Cleveland, the Phillips Collection, and the Frick Collection.  At the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), a new focus on scholarly research and publication of the permanent collections stimulated the award of a four-year grant in support of an interdisciplinary study and in-depth analysis of a major portion of the museum's photograph collection (the Thomas Walther Collection).  The thorough documentation of these holdings and the eventual comprehensive publication of the results are seen by the museum as models for comparable study and dissemination of other areas of MoMA's collections.  This will contribute to the shaping of MoMA's scholarly agenda for the future.

Following the initiation of a second cycle of grants under the College and University Art Museum program in 2008, an experimental model was launched by the Yale University Art Gallery in which it would lend important examples from its unusually comprehensive collections to help sister institutions in the liberal arts community strengthen their curricular offerings.  Yale identified six institutions (Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Mount Holyoke, Oberlin, Smith, and Williams) that have significant art collections but lack the Gallery's encyclopedic range.  In partnership with faculty and curators from the colleges, Yale colleagues selected works that would particularly enrich the academic potential of the more limited holdings of the liberal arts college museums, enhancing what the faculty could accomplish in teaching with original works of art.

Lastly, at a time when many Foundation endowments at museums and training institutions had lost their historic dollar value, and when income to support the core scholarly activities was therefore unavailable, 13 grants totaling approximately $3.7 million were made to institutions that faced critical challenges in their effort to maintain essential curatorial, conservation, and training activities.

Performing Arts

Performing Arts

The Foundation's Performing Arts program, led by Susan Feder and Diane Ragsdale, works with leading orchestras, opera and single choreographer dance companies, regional and New York-based theaters and playwriting centers, presenting organizations, and the service organizations that assist these institutions.  Several regranting programs, administered by partner institutions, extend Foundation support more widely.  While the economic downturn weighed heavily on grantmaking considerations in 2009, the program's objectives remained stable.  Grants to enable strong institutions to further their artistic and organizational development were made in the following broad categories: the creation and presentation of ambitious or rarely done artistic work; strengthening infrastructure to support the development and production of new works by artist-led companies; initiatives aimed at helping organizations adapt their practices, structures, or programming to a changing environment; documentation and preservation; legacy planning; international exchange activities; technological innovations that have the capacity to serve the broader field; and professional development and leadership training for administrators and artists.

In 2009, US orchestras confronted significant financial challenges deriving largely from their high fixed costs as well as broad systemic challenges that preceded the 2008 downturn.  The longstanding national trend of declining attendance has forced orchestra leaders to ask whether they are producing too many musical events and providing sufficient civic and cultural value for their communities.  Accordingly, the Performing Arts program supported orchestras testing new models of programming, technology, management, and community engagement that are designed to address long-term issues of sustainability and also serve as models to help other orchestras adapt to changed circumstances.  Grants were made to support Hispanic programming and marketing initiatives at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, ambitious multimedia projects at the Chicago Symphony and San Francisco Symphony, experimental concert formats at the New World Symphony, and the formation of amateur adult ensembles to be coached by San Francisco and Baltimore Symphony musicians.

Opera companies face many of the same challenges as orchestras do.  However, because most have short mainstage seasons and opportunities to co-produce or adjust the number, length, and size of their productions, they have somewhat more flexibility in controlling expenses, despite the enormous costs of producing opera.  Finding support to present new productions remains a pressing need; even more money is required for the performance of new operas or the revival of those rarely heard (including commission fees, workshops, extra rehearsals, and additional marketing).  Although the Foundation's grants are not sufficient to cover such incremental expenses in full, program staff continued to focus on this area in order to encourage the revitalization of the art form at a particularly challenging moment and help companies leverage other support.  Grants also went to exemplary organizations that have a deep and longstanding commitment to the presentation of new and unusual repertoire, and those at the forefront of creating collaborative partnerships to strengthen the development and dissemination of these works.

In response to the particular financial challenges of presenting large-scale classical music events on campuses, the Foundation made an initial grant to a consortium of three university presenters: University Musical Society (University of Michigan), Krannert Center (University of Illinois), and Cal Performances (University of California, Berkeley).  This grant is designed to support their individual presenting activities, encourage greater student and faculty participation, and enable a joint commission and collaborative work.

The Foundation's multiyear inquiry into new play development and production continued to inform grantmaking efforts.  As in 2008, when the Foundation began making larger grants to a smaller number of theaters—distinguished by their sustained commitment to artists, distinctive artistic vision, and history of producing new or artistically ambitious works—grants went to the American Repertory Theatre, Washington Drama Society (Arena Stage), Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles, and the English Stage Company (Royal Court Theatre, in recognition of its longstanding support of American playwrights) among others.  Recognizing that many now successful midcareer playwrights were first produced at small theaters dedicated to new work and early-career writers (whereas most funding for new work has traditionally gone to large resident theaters), the Foundation awarded support to a cohort of eight New York City-based theaters with budgets under $750,000.  Their artistic directors are widely recognized as leading professionals who have collectively nurtured the careers of many of the most talented writers and artists currently active in the field.  The multiyear grants are intended to help them continue to take artistic risks, support playwrights and other artists, and produce high-quality, ambitious new works during the current economic downturn.

Last year, the Foundation moved its support for the creation and touring of dance to the National Dance Project, a peer-reviewed program managed by the New England Foundation for the Arts.  Pursuant to that shift, grants in 2009 provided direct support to single choreographer companies to assist with a variety of initiatives: planning or capacity building that would enable companies to investigate or implement new financial strategies, operating structures, or partnerships aimed at making them stronger; ambitious revivals or reconstructions of work; or documentation and preservation of the legacy of their founders.  A noteworthy example was the grant to the Cunningham Dance Foundation to support the legacy plan it developed with Merce Cunningham prior to his death in 2009.  The plan covers documentation, preservation and licensing efforts, a farewell tour, and the closing of the company.  Additionally, following a multiyear analysis of the finances of the dance program's grantees, the Foundation awarded several grants to establish or strengthen cash reserves.  Finally, in response to ongoing concerns that artist-led performance companies (particularly dance companies) lack adequate resources to develop and produce their work, the Foundation awarded grants to the National Performance Network and the Alliance of Artist Communities to encourage and support the expansion and coordination of resources that presenters and others could make available for residencies of performing artists, and to the Joyce Theater Foundation to operate a fully outfitted dance facility that will provide critically needed subsidized rehearsal space in Manhattan.

In response to the economic crisis, the Foundation provided a program-related investment to the Nonprofit Finance Fund to establish a zero-interest loan pool for its New York-based small and midsized performing arts grantees.  The 18-month program provides both bridge funds to cover delayed payments from specific contracted and contributed sources and assistance in dealing with the unexpected loss of funding.

Program staff also worked closely with the Research in Information Technology program in the Foundation's ongoing effort to enhance the efficiency and operating strategies of performing arts organizations.  Grants were made to Fractured Atlas Productions for the development of an open source ticketing software application, as well as for the planning phase of a broad-based initiative, "Project Audience," aimed at helping arts organizations develop collaborative strategies for promoting participation in the arts in their communities.

Conservation and the Environment

Conservation and the Environment

The Foundation's Conservation and the Environment program, directed by William Robertson IV with Doreen N. Tinajero, continued efforts begun in 2003 to help a consortium of over 153 herbaria from more than 57 countries to develop a coordinated database of high-quality digital images (600dpi) of plant Type specimens (the original specimens used to identify species).  These Type images are augmented by reference works, photographs, and botanical art.  The participating herbaria are contributing images for all of the Types they hold and their estimates indicate that the total will be in excess of 2 million, with approximately 1.4 million already submitted.  The database is available online at JSTOR (http://plants.jstor.org).  Staff welcome communications from any institutions holding Type specimens that have yet to be included in the database.

The Conservation and Environment Program is closing when the Plants Initiative is completed, as the Foundation hones its focus on its core areas of interest in the humanities and arts, as presented in the other program areas.  Proposals will continue to be accepted through 2013 in the Plants Initiative and to conclude extant research programs within Research Bridges to South Africa.

Research in Information Technology

Research in Information Technology

The Research in Information Technology (RIT) program was led in 2009 by Ira Fuchs and Christopher Mackie.  Highlights of the year's grantmaking included a number of awards to support projects to develop sustainable open source software and standards which meet the technological needs of researchers and libraries.

Electronic scholarly resources, such as the medieval manuscript projects supported by Scholarly Communications, are greatly enhanced when scholars are able to annotate texts, images, and audiovisual clips electronically.  Many different methods of and systems for digital annotation are now available.  However, existing tools do not make it easy for individual scholars either to keep their own annotations together or to share their annotations with other scholars.  In addition, different tools and standards must be used for annotation of different types of media, making research using multimedia sources cumbersome.  To address these problems, the RIT program funded the OpenAnnotation project led by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to develop a set of interoperability standards and an annotation standard to support more effective interactions between annotation tools and digital collections. [3]  The annotation standard will encompass all types of media and allow for annotation of content located on a local computer or remote server.  The project will include pilot implementations of the annotation standard using JSTOR's collections and Zotero, the Web-based research tool, as the annotation client.

Although the OpenAnnotation project serves a direct and obvious need on the part of scholars, much of the technological infrastructure required for humanistic scholarship is invisible from scholars and students.  For example, the basic library services needed by the academic community—online library catalogs, the ability to request online an interlibrary loan, and even librarians' acquisition of books and journals—rely on a core Integrated Library Systems (ILS).  Most ILS applications were developed decades ago, and have been expanded on an ad hoc basis to facilitate the acquisition of electronic library materials and the integration of the ILS with other computer systems within the library and in other units across campuses.  In 2008, a Foundation-funded planning process, led by Duke University, sought to define the requirements of a 21st-century open source ILS.  With the planning phase successfully completed in 2009, a group of universities, led by Indiana University, received funds to develop such a system, named Kuali Open Library Environment, which would be developed, maintained, and governed by project partners under the umbrella of the Kuali Foundation. [4]

Special International Emphases: South Africa

Special International Emphases: South Africa

The South Africa program seeks to strengthen the country's democracy through its specific intervention of supporting the humanities in higher education.  Under the guidance of Stuart Saunders, the Foundation subsidizes the programs that key South African universities have developed in order to train the next generation of scholars and teachers.  In addition, it supports programs that encourage innovative research and teaching in order to increase knowledge production and make it widely available to the scholarly community.

The Foundation continues its active program of fellowships in the humanities.  In 2009, fellowships for students pursuing honors degrees (the honors year precedes entry into masters programs) in the humanities at the University of Cape Town were instituted.  These fellowships are designed to encourage qualified students who possess their first degrees to undertake further study and thus to create an essential pipeline for future masters and doctoral students.  A grant to the University of the Western Cape also combined support for honors and masters students.  At the University of the Witwatersrand, financial assistance for masters and doctoral students has been funneled through the postgraduate mentoring program.  In addition to recurring fellowship funds, students gain valuable academic mentoring and advice on professional development.  The aim is to increase the likelihood that they will pursue an academic career.

The program also supports scholarly research in university research centers.  A grant to the University of Cape Town helped establish its humanities center and a grant to the University of the Witwatersrand established a Chair of Indian Studies at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa.  While different in scope, these centers seek to: 1) contribute to the production of the next generation of humanities scholars through doctoral and postdoctoral support and enrichment; 2) promote intellectual linkages between scholars in the region, the nation, and the world; 3) create lively hubs of scholarly exchange and collaboration between university departments; and 4) invigorate the national public debate in support of democratic values.

In an effort to make primary source materials more available to the scholarly community, funds were given to the University of Cape Town for the continued conservation, documentation, and interpretation of archival materials related to the San people of Southern Africa.



[1] More information on the objectives of these programs, as well as the names of the people and titles of projects funded under them, is available via the Foundation's website at the RUHS program page.  Return to text.

[2] Ronald G. Ehrenberg,Harriet Zuckerman, Jeffrey A. Groen, and Sharon M. Brucker, Educating Scholars: Doctoral Education in the Humanities (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), pp. 187-92.  Return to text.

[3] Other project partners are University of Maryland, University of Queensland, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Ithaka Harbors, Inc, and George Mason University.  Return to text.

[4] The project partners, in addition to Indiana, are Lehigh University, the Universities of Chicago, Maryland, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, the Florida Consortium, and the Triangle Research Libraries Network.  Return to text.