Campus News

Grant supports creation of civil rights movement digital archives

Toby Graham

Creation of a comprehensive digital library on the civil rights movement is the goal of a new cooperative initiative, which will receive support from a federal grant awarded to the university.

“The struggle for racial equality in the 1950s and 1960s is among the most far-reaching social movements in the nation’s history, and it represents a crucial step in the evolution of American democracy,” says P. Toby Graham, director of the Digital Library of Georgia at UGA’s Libraries which, along with six partners, will create the online resource. “Our purpose is to enhance understanding of the civil rights movement through a digital video archive of historical news film. We also will create learning tools to help users understand the historical context of the video segments and a Web portal to connect learners to civil rights resources on a national scale.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced recently that it will provide $761,427 in federal support for the civil rights initiative over two years through a National Leadership Grant for Libraries.

“The Civil Rights Digital Library represents the most ambitious and comprehensive effort to date to deliver educational content on the civil rights movement via the Web,” says William Gray Potter, university librarian and associate provost at UGA. “News film from our WSB and WALB collections will allow students to witness key events of the civil rights movement. By collecting collateral information on a national scale, we will create a virtual library on the movement.”

Graham said a cross-disciplinary approach will contribute to the instructional and research value of the online resource by involving digital library and information technology professionals, archivists, humanities scholars, academic publishers, and public broadcasters.

Partners include the Digital Library of Georgia and Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection at the UGA Libraries; UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; Georgia Humanities Council and the UGA Press, both through the New Georgia Encyclopedia; Georgia Public Broadcasting; and GALILEO, the state’s virtual library administered by the board of regents.

English professors Barbara ­McCaskill and Tim Powell will co-­direct the “learning objects” component, which will deliver secondary Web-based resources-such as multimedia productions, interactive timelines and maps, lesson plans and activities-to facilitate the use of the news film content in the learning process.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for the UGA Libraries to showcase its unique audio visual holdings and for UGA to solidify its position as a national leader in digital technology as well as research in ethnic American studies and the civil rights movement,” McCaskill says. “We are eager to begin creating interactive teaching tools that will offer historical and cultural contexts, facilitate critical discussions, and appeal to different methods of learning. The university’s collaboration in this ­initiative is the very kind of cross-­disciplinary partnership we are training our own graduate students to pursue during their careers.”