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NEH Evaluates Impact of Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Program

image courtesy of St. Johnsbury Athenaeum

Last month the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Division of Preservation and Access released a report on Humanities Collections and Reference Resources: An Evaluation 2000–2010. Projects from a number of ARL member libraries are highlighted and discussed in the report.

The report is the first formal evaluation of NEH’s Humanities Collections and Reference Resources (HCRR) grant program, which provides support to libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions to enable long-term public access to significant collections of books, manuscripts, photographs, art and artifacts, sound recordings, moving images, and more. HCRR also supports the production of reference tools, such as encyclopedias, historical dictionaries, and atlases.

The study reports such quantitative outcomes as: the reformatting of approximately 80,000 hours of recorded sound and video collections; the processing or digitization of almost 40,000 linear feet of archival documents; the processing or digitization of more than 2.3 million books, manuscripts, photos, maps, drawings, and other non-print materials; the preservation microfilming of nearly 150,000 “brittle books”; and the continuing preparation of major dictionaries, atlases, encyclopedias, and text bases central to knowledge and understanding of the humanities.

The report also notes long-term benefits of HCRR grants. Survey respondents reported that 96% of their grant products have been used by scholars; 95% by teachers; 93% by students; and 79% by the public. One-third of the projects surveyed led to book-length print publications, 40% to published articles, and one-quarter to online publications and exhibitions. Project directors also reported instances in which preserving and creating access to collections has revealed hidden treasures. And HCRR funding has stimulated lasting improvements in the services and capacity of many awardee institutions over the years.

For more details and to view/download the report, visit the NEH Division of Preservation and Access website.