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Introducing the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative

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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.

Comments (6)

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

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

  3. 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.

  4. Thank you for starting this initiative. I’ve used historic Black American newspapers with LOC – Chronicling America’s Newspapers and Newspapers. I became a Data Archaeologist. Two examples:

    We have used LOC newspaper articles in creating posts for the Langston Hughes Cultural Society Facebook page. On Google, type in Langston Hughes Cultural Society and your there. We documented more than 500 Historic Black American newspaper articles about Langston Hughes. Just click on photos and then scroll down to any newspaper article and right click to print or read the story.

    We did the same research through the LOC for the Eva Jessye Facebook page as well. She is a famous African American musical director who was a radio pioneer and movie director, and toured with her own Eva Jessye Choir in America and around the world.

    Olivia Dorsey, Innovation Specialist at the LOC, said “For so long, Black people have been told that their history is nonexistent, so I’m trying to reverse that narrative by amplifying and elevating that history.”

    We hope Olivia will like our Facebook pages in telling her people’s stories.

  5. If I can just get the grant application, I will apply. I have been navigating for hours to no avail. This is so difficult and much user unfriendly. Reasons many will not apply. I have a degree in Computer operations and this is challenging for me with perseverance so I can imagine that is overwhelming for many.

    • This is a new program and we are taking your feedback to improve our content. Please subscribe to the blog to receive timely notifications about news from the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative. You can learn more about CCDI here.

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