Public Knowledge

a gathering of individuals workshopping ideas with posters and post-it notes

Mellon’s Public Knowledge program supports the creation and preservation of the cultural and scholarly record—vast and ever-expanding—that documents society’s complex, intertwined humanity. The program works with archives, presses, and a range of university, public, and other local, national, and global libraries that are foundational to knowledge production and distribution in culture and the humanities.

The program’s goal is to increase equitable access to deep knowledge that helps to build an informed, heterogeneous, and civically engaged society. Through this work, we aspire to cultivate networks and maintainable infrastructure, expand digital inclusion, and ensure that more authentic, reflective, and nuanced stories are revealed, preserved, and told.


How We Do This

Three interconnected strategies guide Mellon’s Public Knowledge grantmaking:

Strategy one: Preserving original source materials in all formats, including web-based content, with focus on materials from historically underrepresented cultures and populations. 
Building on the historic work of the Public Knowledge program, we prioritize the preservation and use of primary sources, which are akin to laboratory materials for the humanities. In all our work, we honor the commitment of leaders and organizations who challenge dominant narratives and structures to promote the histories and stories of people unjustly pushed to the periphery of society. To this end, we elevate materials from cultures and populations that have had limited opportunities to share their intricate and rich multivocal heritage.

Strategy two: Supporting the innovative maintenance and sustainability of technology, tools, and infrastructure for content related to the Foundation’s social justice orientation.
In today’s technology landscape and work environment, there is an increased need for digital access, digitization of original sources, and digital inclusion. To help close these gaps, we fund efforts that foster equity in access to the cultural and scholarly record and ensure continuity for research and learning. We believe in building financial resilience and digital strategy planning for the long-term sustainability of infrastructure—tools, platforms, leaders, and organizations—that is critical to libraries, archives, and presses.

Strategy three: Creating and strengthening networks for the interdependent sharing of resources, services, and collections.
Even when libraries, archives, and presses are successful in preserving source material and producing new information, progress is only as impactful as the information is accessible. A systems-level, partnership-building approach is often needed. From creating opportunities for knowledge sharing about the ethical documentation of student activism to connecting digital repositories for the remediation of digitized texts for the print disabled—our aim is to bolster the networks that bring resources, services, and collections to the communities and institutions that seek access to them.

Top photo: Colorado College