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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The University of Minnesota Libraries plans to digitize about a half-million pages of print documents on the experience of African-Americans.
The university will use a $225,000 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources for the two-year project, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1mOOtD3 ) reported. The grant also will allow the university to make audio, video and image resources available online.
"We're trying to call attention to the importance of everyday activity of African-Americans, their culture and their values and their contributions, which haven't always been noticed," said Cecily Marcus, curator of the university's Givens Collection of African-American Literature.
The materials, some dating to the 16th century, will come from 70 collections within the library system's Archives and Special Collections Department. The core of the documents the project will focus on will come from the Givens Collection, which the university bought in 1985 with help from 10 prominent black Twin Cities families.
Marcus said the materials are all in collections that have been organized and arranged and are publicly available, "but many of these materials were never described as having anything to do with African-American life or culture or history, so you would be dependent on luck or the curator or happenstance to find them."
"Many of them were hidden otherwise — they were there, but it wasn't easy to know what you were even looking for," she said.
A theme of the materials is how they represent race and community in the American experience. The materials touch on subjects such as the 16th- and 17th-century African slave trade, the role of black soldiers during World War I and the formation of historically black YMCA centers. The project also will digitize the papers of black luminaries such as painter Jacob Lawrence, author Andrea Davis Pinkney and St. Paul architect Clarence "Cap" Wigington.
The two-year initiative will be led by a project manager and a team of six to eight university students. All of the digitizing must be done by hand because many of the documents are delicate.
"Every single piece of paper will be touched by these students," Marcus said.
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com
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