$1 million Mellon grant to help humanities scholars explore digital publishing options

Adapted from a press release courtesy of the Illinois News Bureau:

A four-year, $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will help University of Illinois humanities scholars identify digital publishing options and produce new publications that will best disseminate their research.

The collaborative project involves the University Library, the School of Information Science (ISchool), the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH), and the Department of African American Studies (DAAS). It aims to help scholars understand the digital publishing options available to them and identify those that will best meet their publication goals, whether it's gaining tenure, providing the broadest possible access to their research, or using multimedia formats to present their work.

John Wilkin
University Librarian
Ronald W. Bailey
Head, African American Studies
Antoinette Burton
Director, IPRH
Allen Renear
Dean, The ISchool


One focus will be on projects in the Global Midwest series funded through Humanities Without Walls (HWW), a Mellon-funded consortium managed by IPRH that links research centers at fifteen universities, including the University of Illinois.

Through the AFRO Publishing Without Walls series, iSchool researchers also will work with scholars in the DAAS and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Library Alliance who are involved in projects looking at access to information technology and how to address the "digital divide."

The Mellon project will provide support for related research by scholars at historically black colleges and universities, as well as research centers, libraries, museums, and professional organizations focused on black studies. UIUC DAAS head Dr. Ron Bailey said the projects in African American studies can serve as a model for what scholars in other ethnic studies areas can do with the new technology.

In addition to producing a series of publications from HWW and African American Studies, the project will develop a digital edition on the topic of scholarly publishing, which will be published using recommended tools.

Researchers will work with the University Library's Scholarly Commons, which provides research and technology support services to faculty members, and which will serve as the central location for the digital publishing initiative.

Right: Harriett Green, Librarian and PWW Projects and Publications Manager

"The Library will be involved in exploring various digital platforms and how to adapt research to all the various media an author would like to use, as well as how best to make digitally published research available," said library professor Aaron McCollough.

One of the goals of the project is to develop a model for other universities for assessing the needs of scholars and providing support for various publication options. McCollough said that will include best practices for using the various digital publishing tools, and for moving a project from initial creation to publication to the audience.

University of Illinois Library Dean John Wilkin noted that the Mellon Foundation supports the digital publishing tools Scalar (for including multiple forms of media and various representations of an argument within an author's work) and Omeka (for displaying exhibits and images), and the Illinois initiative will help bring together a number of Mellon-funded projects, including those publishing platforms and HWW.