Call for Proposals to Community-based Archives

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation invites community-based archives in the United States and its territories to submit proposals to fund one or more of the following areas of need:

  • Operational support for the organization, including general support for staff, space, and utilities.
  • Collections care, including storage, cataloging, description, and preservation.
  • Programming and outreach activities, including collecting new materials, and exhibitions, publications, or other uses of the collections.

Since 2013, the Foundation's Scholarly Communications program has been making a series of grants to help diversify the body of primary source evidence available to, for example, activists, artists, researchers in humanities fields, community historians, genealogists, teachers, and students.  These grants were designed to support and strengthen a body of archival practice, called community-based archiving.  Archival studies scholars Andrew Flinn, Mary Stevens, and Elizabeth Shepherd define community as "any manner of people who come together and present themselves as such," and a community archive as "the product of their attempts to document the history of their commonality."1  They further describe community archives as "collections of material gathered primarily by members of a given community and over whose use community members exercise some level of control."2

The Foundation plans to offer a total of $1 million in support of community-based archives in two annual calls for proposals, one in 2019 and the second in 2020.  The 2019 Call for Proposals (CFP) is now open and directed towards community-based archives that represent and serve communities marginalized due to oppression based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, class, sexuality, religion, ability, and/or geographic location.  For the purposes of this CFP, community-based archives must demonstrate that community members actively participate in their archival processes, making key decisions about what to collect and how.

Awards would range from $25,000 to $100,000, for grants of up to two years in length.  Grant terms would begin on January 1, 2020 and would need to be completed by December 31, 2021.  In the first round, up to $500,000 would be awarded.  The Foundation would then convene the awardees in person and online over the course of the grant term to build a cohort of archives that would help and learn from each other.

Proposals will be evaluated by Foundation staff and outside reviewers.  They will be judged on coherence, the evidence of need, and the likely benefits that would accrue for these archives and their communities from the proposed grant.

Eligibility details and application instructions are below.  The deadline for submissions is July 1, 2019.

Eligibility

Organizations that respond to this CFP must:

  • Be located within the United States or its territories.
  • Have 501(c)(3) public charity status, or have an organization with 501(c)(3) public charity status serving as a fiscal sponsor.
  • Be able to demonstrate autonomy as well as participation from the community being served and represented.
  • Have an archive with an annual operating expense budget of over $50,000 and no more than $1 million.
  • Be able to provide a recent Form 990 and documentation about the organization’s annual operating budget for the previous two years.

Organizations can request grant funding for up to 50% of their annual budget per annum, for up to two years, with a total proposed budget of no less than $25,000 and no more than $100,000.  The amount of the request should not compromise the organization's ability to satisfy the public support test.

Application Process

Proposals should be approximately 1500 words in length and should be submitted in a Word document.  Each proposal should include the following information:

Organization Details

  • Legal name and location of the community-based archive, and, if applicable, the legal name and location of the fiscal sponsor.
  • A brief description of the mission of the organization, its community, and its collections.
  • A description of how the community served and represented by the organization participates in the archive and maintains autonomy over its materials.
  • Names of the project lead(s) and project staff.

Project Activities

  • How much funding is being requested.
  • A description of what the community-based archive would do with the requested funds:
      • What would be the rationale for the focus of the grant?
      • What needs would the grant serve?
      • How would the grant funds be spent?
  • Who would be responsible for carrying out the plan of work?
  • The expected length of the grant, including the reason for this duration (note: grant periods cannot exceed two years).

Outcomes and Benefits

  • A description of the outcomes and benefits of the funded work:
      • How would the work further the mission of the organization?
      • How would the work benefit the community?
  • A reflection on how the archive would define success for the project.

In addition to the Word document, proposals should include annual operating budget statements for the previous two years, and biographical sketch(es) for the project lead(s).  These materials are due by July 1, 2019, and should be submitted in an email to communityarchives@mellon.org.  The Foundation will notify applicants of the status of their submissions by July 31, 2019.  If selected by reviewers, additional information and materials may be requested.  Pending approval of the proposal by Mellon's Board of Trustees, the grant would start on January 1, 2020.

Visit our applicant resources for more information and resources related to eligibility and the application process.  If you would like to sign up for email alerts, or if you have any questions about this CFP, please write to us at communityarchives@mellon.org.


1 Andrew Flinn, Mary Stevens, and Elizabeth Shepard, "Whose Memory, Whose Archives? Independent Community Archives, Autonomy, and the Mainstream," Archival Science 9 (2009): 71–86.
2 Ibid.