by Marilyn A. Dunn | Executive Director, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, and Librarian of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University | on June 8, 2016
Diversifying collections at Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library, one of The Harvard Library special collections, is an ongoing strategic initiative. In the past year, the library has recommitted to this goal with the creation of a senior-level staff position, the curator for race and ethnicity. Recent acquisitions that help to bring greater diversity to the collection include Ana Livia Cordero Papers, the Arab Feminist Alliance, Papers of Patricia J. Williams, and the Sister Soldier Papers. To continue this initiative, the Schlesinger has received special funding donated for the purchase of manuscript collections from underrepresented groups, including African American and Asian American women as well as Latinas.
To advance understanding of issues relating to diversity and inclusion, the library has partnered with organizations that share our goal of spreading knowledge about the accomplishments of women of color. The Radcliffe Institute joined the Anna Julia Cooper Center’s Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research, “a voluntary affiliation of institutions in the United States committed to taking meaningful action to support and improve research addressing the lives of women and girls of color.” The center is housed at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. In March of 2016, Schlesinger Library hosted a roundtable led by the center’s director, Melissa Harris-Perry, to discuss objectives for the collaborative with members of the Harvard University faculty.
Another partnership was forged with History Makers, an online repository of more than 2,700 video oral histories by African Americans that not only makes the videos available, but also publishes the transcripts, which are keyword searchable. In collaboration with History Makers and with support from Sarah Thomas, vice president for the Harvard Library, university librarian, and the Roy E. Larsen librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Schlesinger will hire a new professional as visiting archivist for African American collections in a term position beginning in September of 2016.