16 October 2009

Making it Accessible: The Leon Levy Foundation

Since 2007, the Leon Levy Foundation has made grants to some two dozen institutions to identify, preserve and digitize their archival collections and make them accessible online to everyone.

Read about the Leon Levy Foundation in the New York Times here; there's also a Slide Show.
The foundation’s archives and catalogs program has awarded more than $10.3 million, including two grants this week: $3.5 million to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., to collect and conserve the papers of its present and former scholars, including George F. Kennan, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein; and $2.4 million to the New York Philharmonic, where archivists will digitize 1.3 million pages, including a 1909 Mahler score for his First Symphony originally marked up by the composer and further annotated 50 years later by Leonard Bernstein.
Among the finds facilitated via the grants:

National Park Service: The original 1695 deed for the Virginia homestead where George Washington was born; and copies of John Peter Zenger’s New-York Weekly Journal from 1735 reporting on the landmark trial affirming freedom of the press. Under the NPS, Federal Hall had thousands of boxes stored at Staten Island's Fort Wadsworth. Among recently unearthed documents were letters from 1785 from the Congress, which met in New York. A $60,000 grant will allow the NPS to identify what they have and digitize it.

The Center for Jewish History: Raphael Lemkin's 1944 document in which he coined the term "genocide." With more than 100 million documents, the CJH received a "life-altering" $666,000 grant, allowing it to process 1,200 linear feet of archives from 50 collections.

Some organizations and institutions never knew what they had stored away uncatalogued, while others didn't have the resources to digitize their collections. Most recipients are New York City cultural institutions, including the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Academy, the Frick’s Center for the History of Collecting, the Museum of the City of New York and others.

Founding trustee of the foundation is Shelby White. It is named after her husband, a Wall Street financier and philanthropist dedicated to making history more accessible.

According to the New York Philarmonic's archivist Barbara Haws:
“Access is one thing, but since we’re digitizing these documents, you’ll also have the ability to see details you’ve never been able to see: a score marked by Mahler in 1909 and used by Bernstein in 1959, a conductor making marks in the heat of the moment, some old and faded, can now be enlarged, which is just magical. On a single page there are multiple experiences reflected over time.”
Read the complete article and view the slide show at the links above.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:16 AM

    Would it be possible to obtain from the CJH the list of items which it anticipates will be the first to be digitized?