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University of Maryland joins elite partners in NEH-funded digitization project


The University of Maryland has joined an elite group of partner institutions in a collaborative effort to improve online access to historic French pamphlets.

Funded by a one-year planning grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the group will identify, describe, and improve both conventional and online access to French revolutionary pamphlet collections in the U.S. and France.

Partners include the Bibliotheque National de France, the Newberry Library, Johns Hopkins University, Brigham Young University, The University of Kansas, Emory University, the University of Alabama, Harvard University, Yale University, and Stanford University. The University of Florida and the Center for Research Libraries led the effort to apply for the grant.

The University of Maryland holds approximately 12,000 such pamphlets, many of which reveal valuable information about the French society during the upheaval of the Revolution (1788-1804). Popular at the time of their printing because they were brief and portable, the documents today can be difficult for researchers to discover if not adequately described or cataloged.

“We appreciate all the generous support our pilot project has received, and are excited to join the national initiative,” said Project Director Kelsey Corlett-Rivera. “Because of these efforts, more and more researchers around the world will be able to take advantage of improved access to these unique materials.”

A pilot project at Maryland established the university as a potential partner for the NEH grant. Professors Sarah Benharrech and Valerie Orlando, both from the Department of French and Italian, and Kelsey Corlett-Rivera, librarian for the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, sought to increase discoverability of Maryland’s collections with a $5,000 Seed Grant from the College of Arts & Humanities. 

The grant supported a project to select, analyze, and digitize pamphlets from UMD Libraries’ special collections. Joanne Archer (project manager), John Schalow (technical lead) and Doug McElrath (subject expert) joined the project team to successfully carry out the project. The team also received significant support from the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH).

Students continue to work on the project in preparation for the federally funded initiative.