Introducing the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative

Several people at a painting class at a South Side community art center in 1942.

Chicago, Illinois. Painting class at the South Side community art center. Jack Delano, photographer. 1942.

You may have seen the news about the Library’s exciting new program Of the People, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which will allow us to do more to connect our collections, staff, and services to the experiences of underserved Americans. I’m excited to share more details about the portion that my team, the Digital Strategy Directorate, will lead aimed at supporting projects that use technological innovation to amplify the histories of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States.

The Connecting Communities Digital Initiative will sponsor digital projects and partnerships aimed at amplifying the stories of Black Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans and other people of color whose stories have too often been undertold in our nation’s history. As the COVID-19 pandemic makes online communications more critical and the national conversation about race grows, the Library of Congress will join other efforts across the country to incubate projects that explore, re-imagine, and re-present the knowledge of the past. The goal is to foster a creative, vibrant, and collaborative additions to the cultural record that are designed by, for, and with all of the people of the United States.

Guided by a paid advisory board, the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative will offer grants to libraries, museums, scholars, teachers, and young people working to create ways of sharing stories that spotlight the perspectives of communities of color. Funded through this program, community college students might create new collections by assembling the stories of Black people currently hidden in the papers of white enslavers. Scholars might leverage augmented reality to share contemporaneous speeches and discussions of neighborhood activists with visitors at historical sites. Or community groups might create a program to help integrate their own stories, photographs, and memories with Library of Congress content to enrich and inform history.

The program will also fund two-year artist or scholar residencies for individuals whose work focuses on the intersection of technology and the histories of racial and ethnic minority communities in America. Three overlapping artists or scholars in residence over four years will bring their perspectives and expertise to the Library for deep explorations that will broaden our understanding of our nation’s history as it is expressed and shaped by technology.

To lead and support these efforts, the Digital Strategy Directorate will hire several staff for four-year terms. These incoming staff will be embedded in the Digital Strategy Directorate at the Library, where, through LC Labs, we have been building a collaborative program to inspire users and staff to imagine new ways of accomplishing their goals using technology. We are proud, too, to be able to offer short-term assignments for Library staff who have their own wisdom to share.

Together, this team will work to help create community-created digital tools that connect the Library’s historic collections and services with communities.

We’re working on job postings now. We’ll have more to share in the coming weeks and months, including calls for residency applications, internships, and grant proposals. Please share about this widely, and keep an eye on this space by signing up for email alerts.

Note: The name of the digital strategy aspect of the Of the People program has been changed to the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative. This page has been updated to reflect the change.

3 Comments

  1. Adrena Ifill
    February 2, 2021 at 9:22 pm

    I look forward to participating in this program. Thank you!

  2. Felicia Walker
    February 8, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    I look forward to participating in this program and bringing the voices of my community to the table. Thank you.

  3. Hollis Gentry
    February 23, 2021 at 12:21 pm

    I have used African American and Native American resources at the Library of Congress since 1980 when I first began visiting as a high school student. I am now a professional genealogist at a cultural institution. I find that the resources at LOC have been an integral part of my research, and the source of my many successes with genealogical and historical research. I applaud you for creating this initiative and look forward to participating in the forthcoming programs.

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