Major grants boost Jones Library humanities center, Five Colleges’ museum database

  • A Finegold Alexander Architects rendering shows the second-floor landing at a renovated and expanded Jones Library. The library received a $1 million National Endowment for the Humanities grant this week to help pay for an expanded humanities center at the library.

Staff Writer
Published: 4/21/2023 7:07:10 PM
Modified: 4/21/2023 7:07:00 PM

AMHERST — Renovation and construction of a humanities center at the Jones Library and a project to improve the accessibility of thousands of paintings, sculptures, manuscripts and cultural artifacts held at the region’s higher education museums and Historic Deerfield are being supported through grants provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The independent federal agency this week announced grants totaling $35.63 million, both outright and matching, that will support 258 humanities projects across the country. Of that amount, $7.1 million is going to Massachusetts projects.

Locally, the Jones Library is earning a $1 million matching grant for the humanities center that will be part of the expanded Jones Library. That money is on top of a $1.1 million federal earmark U.S. Rep. James McGovern announced last December.

The library is in the midst of a capital campaign for the $43.5 million project at the 43 Amity St. site that will renovate and restore the original L-shaped 1928 building and expand the building from 48,000 square feet to 63,000 square feet

For the Five Colleges Inc.-based museum collaboration, the $350,000 outright grant from the federal agency will support creating shared collections resources for students, researchers and the public for what is held by the Smith College Museum of Art, the Mead Museum at Amherst College, the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, the University of Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hampshire College Art Gallery, as well as Historic Deerfield, which is an independent institution.

Jessica Nicoll, chief curator at Smith’s museum and Tricia Paik, director at Mount Holyoke’s museum, are leading what is being called Enrich/Discover. The money will be used, in part, to hire a full-time cataloguing librarian to work with the museums and cultural advisory councils.

Nicoll said in a statement that the collections management project is at a critical juncture.

“A study last year of people accessing our collections showed that we need to be more accurate, equitable and transparent in how we describe objects if we want people to make the best use of these resources,” Nicoll said.

Nicoll explained that the federal grant will build on a previous grant from the Mellon Foundation that has funded the development of the collection database into a 21st-century tool, allowing for a better user experience and discovery. The work will also have descriptions for objects that are standardized and sensitive to the cultural backgrounds from which the pieces come.

The final local grant is going to provide summer stipends at Amherst College, where Elizabeth Herbin-Triant, associate professor of Black Studies and History, is writing a book on the relationship of the city of Lowell to both slavery and antislavery from the 1820s to the 1860s. The grant is $6,000 to assist these researchers.

Nationally, the grants are going toward a series of projects, including underwriting a documentary on the life and legacy of African American intellectual W.E.B. DuBois, whose name is affixed to the library at UMass; digitizing the personal papers of former members of Congress for the American Congress Digital Archives Portal; and restoring the sick bay, post office, barbershop and torpedo-handling spaces aboard the USS Intrepid, a historic aircraft carrier.

Shelly C. Lowe, who chairs the National Endowment for the Humanities, said in a statement that the newly funded projects demonstrate the vitality of the humanities nationally.

Other projects include digitizing and creating a database of 17th-century court cases relating to escape attempts by enslaved and indentured laborers in the Chesapeake Bay region; preserving and putting online four decades of photographs, news clippings and other materials from the Religious News Service documenting the response of religious communities in the United States to pivotal historical events; and supporting the development of an online archive to preserve the cultural and historical heritage of the Chickaloon Native Village of south-central Alaska.


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy