Scholarly Communications

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Knowledge for All in a Digital World

Digital technologies have transformed how knowledge is embodied, organized, disseminated, and preserved. The Scholarly Communications program seeks to apply these technologies to further our collective understanding of societies and cultures around the world.

Mission and Goals

The Scholarly Communications program assists research libraries, archives, museums, universities, presses, and arts organizations to realize the potential of digital technologies in furthering the collective understanding of societies and cultures around the world. The program promotes the common good by supporting the creation, dissemination, use, and preservation of original sources, interpretive scholarship in the humanities, and other scholarly and artistic materials. The program also aims to develop the sustainable tools, organizations, and networks of scholars and other professionals needed for these purposes.

Since its inception, the Mellon Foundation has had a long and steady interest in preserving, distributing, and providing access to the scholarly and cultural record. Among the first awards of the Mellon Foundation in 1969 was a grant to the Associated College of the Midwest to support the role of libraries in scholarship by establishing a seminar in the humanities at the Newberry Library. With the rise and promise of the digital age, the Foundation established a standing program in support of scholarly communications in 1999.

Funding Priorities

The Scholarly Communications program’s funding priorities reflect the system of three broad enduring functional activities in the humanities and arts: the publication of the scholarly and cultural record, its preservation over time, and the services for its use.  The sites for these activities are often libraries, archives, and presses.

  • Preservation
    Audiovisual preservation, software preservation, web archiving, shared print collections
  • Access Services
    Data curation, community-based archives, hidden collections, linked open data

Across these funding priorities, the program expects and encourages institutional collaborations as well as diversity among staff in academic publishers, archives, and libraries.

For a better understanding of Scholarly Communications grantmaking, please review the Foundation’s  Annual Reports or the Grants Database.

Program Staff

All program staff in Scholarly Communications participate in both grantmaking and grant management. The program officers are primarily responsible for identifying areas of need, inviting and reviewing proposals, and recommending them to the Board of Trustees. The program associate and program assistant primarily monitor grant-funded activities by reviewing and evaluating grant reports and modification requests. The administrative assistant provides logistical support to the entire department by facilitating travel and meetings, tracking proposals and reports, and maintaining grant-related and program records.

Capturing History, 280 Characters at a Time 

After Ferguson, archivists Bergis Jules and Edward Summers created DocNow to preserve social media posts, enabling activists to document the world’s most important social and political movements.

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Preserving Social Media and Internet Art, Before Platforms Become Obsolete 

Rhizome’s Webrecorder software is used to archive complex, interactive websites and new media art for future use and scholarship.

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Correspondence Archives in the Age of Email 

Senior Program Associate Kristen C. Ratanatharathorn on the US-UK task force currently developing a framework to address the challenges of preserving email correspondence.

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Working Against the Clock to Preserve Time-Based Media 

Audiovisual content, the fastest growing segment within archives and special collections, presents distinct conservation challenges. These initiatives aim to ensure that materials remain available for future generations.

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Monograph Publishing in the Digital Age 

Donald J. Waters, senior program officer for Scholarly Communications, on incorporating modern digital practices into monograph publication of scholarship in the humanities.

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Shining New Light on Hidden Collections 

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative is improving access to collections in small repositories

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An Interview with Donald J. Waters 

“There’s a revolution taking place,” says Donald J. Waters. Digital technologies are dramatically expanding and equalizing access to resources in the humanities, he notes, with vast implications for the entire field. As the Mellon Foundation’s Senior Program Officer for Scholarly Communications, Waters has been helping to support the people in the forefront of this revolution.

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How is Digital Humanities Saving the Past for Our Future? 

Perhaps one of the most refined traditions of data curation in the humanities is the publication of evidence in the form of scholarly editions. In the last decade, the digital environment has been enabling scholars to extend the form and function of this essential tool. Mellon’s grantmaking seeks to assist in accelerating some of these changes.

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