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Southern Folklife Collection Receives $986,000 Grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

southernfolklife25imageThe University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a grant of $986,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This grant will help the Southern Folklife Collection in the Wilson Special Collections Library advance digitization of rare audio, video and motion picture films for preservation and access.

Activities for the grant, “Extending the Reach of Southern Audiovisual Sources,” will begin in August.

Scholars, musicians, and even filmmakers such as Martin Scorcese have found inspiration in the Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) and its quarter-million sound and video recordings and millions of feet of motion picture film.

“We’ve become very good at digitizing smaller portions of the collection, but these methods do not scale up,” said Steve Weiss, Director of the SFC. “Thanks to the Mellon Foundation, we will be able to solve problems of preservation and access for thousands of valuable items in volume, and deliver them online.”

The Library will use grant funds to build an authoritative data repository to support workflow; optimize processes in order to manage the collection and digitize recordings on a large scale; produce preservation-quality master files; and deliver research-quality access copies via online streaming.

Among the materials that the SFC will digitize are thousands of hours of field recordings from the collections of folklorists Guy Carawan, William Ferris, Archie Green, and Mike Seeger, among many others.

The grant also includes funding that will allow the SFC to conduct research and share knowledge about the best methods for large-scale digitization of multimedia collections. A Southern Folklife Audiovisual Research Fellowship will engage visiting scholars with the work of the collection.

The grant builds upon a prior planning grant from the Mellon Foundation that developed recommendations for preserving the SFC’s fragile multimedia components before they begin to deteriorate.

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