Backstage Library Works

$15M Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant from the Library of Congress Announced for Minority Communities

The Library of Congress has announced a new, multiyear initiative, called Of The People, in support of Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and other minority communities to enable storytelling through technology, internships, and fellowship opportunities, and supported by a $15 million investment from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This initiative represents the largest grant from a private foundation in the Library’s history. News, stories, and opportunities related to the initiative will be shared on a new blog, which you can subscribe to for updates at:

The Of the People initiative aims to accomplish its objectives through three programs:

  • Community documentarians working with the American Folklife Center
  • Internships and fellowships for students from minority-serving institutions
  • A digital futures program that combines the power of technology with the Library’s digital collections to help communities engage with the Library in new ways

Community Documentarians with the American Folklife Center

The American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress will expand its collection by funding and supporting individuals and organizations in collecting and archiving contemporary community-driven cultural expressions and traditions that may otherwise be absent from the national record. The Library will offer fellowships to individuals to work within their communities to produce ethnographic cultural documentation, such as oral history interviews and audio-visual recordings of cultural activity, from the community perspective. The center will archive the collections from this fieldwork to preserve and showcase this rich and valuable cultural documentation.

Internship and Fellowships for Students from Minority-Serving Institutions

The Library will expand internship opportunities and enhance outreach to students attending historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, Tribal colleges and universities and institutions that serve Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The internship and fellowship programs offered will provide experiential learning opportunities to develop a new generation of diverse talent for cultural heritage organizations. The Library has begun work in this area by creating new training opportunities through a pilot program with Howard University in Washington, D.C.

The Black, Indigenous and Minority Americans Digital Futures Program

A digital strategy program will encourage creators in minority communities to combine Library materials with technology to connect Americans with a more expansive understanding of our past and future. Grants to cultural heritage institutions, community colleges and minority serving institutions will support engagement with the Library’s collections in communities exploring their own histories.

Through the program, creative people making content like videos, photo collages, new music and digital exhibits will bring to the foreground the experiences of Black, Indigenous and Americans from other racial and ethnic minority communities in the documents that comprise the story of our national identity. A scholar-in-residence program will connect experts with the richness of the collection and Library expertise and bring their research and experience to the Library.

Projects funded through this program will serve as inspiration to all Americans who want to use the Library’s collections to tell their own story. Together, these and other elements of the program will work to strengthen the Library’s connection to communities of color and help the Library engage with all Americans.

If you are interested in applying for these grants, details can be found on the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation website:

If you need a partner organization to assist with digitization, metadata, identities management, preservation microfilm, or on-site services for any of this work, please contact us.

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