KU News Release
Spencer Museum of Art, KU Libraries earn major grants for cataloging and digitization
LAWRENCE — In support of projects to thoroughly document two significant and historic collections at the University of Kansas, the National Endowment for the Humanities recently awarded grants totaling $245,939 to the Spencer Museum of Art and KU Libraries; both grants are provided through the NEH’s Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program.
The NEH will provide $175,000 to the Spencer Museum of Art for cataloging and digitizing several thousand objects of global art and culture, and $70,939 to KU Libraries for cataloging and digitizing scientific illustrations from the collection of John Gould (1804-81), a notable 19th century British publisher of illustrated bird books.
The grants represent two of only 33 in the nation awarded by NEH this year for humanities collections and reference resources projects. (A third NEH grant to KU was an award in the summer stipends category to Derrick Darby in the Department of Philosophy.)
Spencer Museum of Art
The $175,000 NEH grant will support the museum’s efforts to fully integrate 9,000 items of global art and culture — collected continuously since 1890 as ethnographic objects by the university — into its existing permanent collection. Known as the Arts and Cultures of the Americas, Africa and Oceania Collection, the works were entrusted to the museum by KU in 2007 after the Museum of Anthropology was closed for financial reasons.
With the NEH grant, the museum will continue working to assess, document, inscribe and accession each object in the collection; digitally photograph each object; and carry out limited research to further document provenance and contextual information for objects in the collection. These activities will increase the scholarly significance of the collection, enhance its research potential and broaden the museum’s ability to interpret and display, for the benefit of diverse audiences, exceptional, little-known objects that are representative of our global heritage.
Museum Director Saralyn Reece Hardy serves as project director; key staff members who will implement the project are Nancy Mahaney, curator of the Arts and Cultures of the Americas, Africa and Oceania Collection; Sofia Galarza-Liu, collections manager for the museum; and Angela Watts, associate collections manager of the Arts and Cultures of the Americas, Africa and Oceania Collection.
The Spencer Museum of Art houses an internationally known collection that is deep and diverse, currently numbering approximately 38,000 artworks and artifacts in all media. The collection spans the history of European and American art from ancient to contemporary and includes broad and significant holdings of East Asian art.
Areas of special strength include medieval panel painting and religious sculpture; the Kress Study Collection of early modern Italian painting; 19th century American art and material culture; old master prints; photography; European, East Asian and Indian textiles; American Indian pottery, beadwork and jewelry; African sculpture; Japanese Edo-period prints; and 20th century Chinese painting.
The NEH grant will help fund the costs of creating metadata and providing access to the Gould collection, as well as the related research archive of the late Gordon Sauer, leading Gould biographer and historian. Approximately 6,300 of Gould’s drawings, watercolors, lithographic stones, lithographic proofs, color trials and published prints will be digitized and made accessible online for access by scholars around the world.
The Gould manuscripts and publications form the centerpiece of the Ralph Ellis collection of 25,000 natural-history volumes, which is one of the best ornithological libraries in America for the period up to 1945, when Ellis died and the collection came by bequest to KU. In addition to the development of ornithological science and illustration, the Gould collection offers insights into the techniques of lithographic printing and watercolor painting and the natural-history publishing business during the mid-19th century.
Karen Cook, a special collections librarian at KU’s Kenneth Spencer Research Library, is the project director. Wade Garrison, digital humanities consulting librarian in the Center for Digital Scholarship, is the project manager. Participating in the project are staff from KU Libraries’ Center for Digital Scholarship and preservation and cataloging departments. Staff in ornithology at the Biodiversity Institute and in prints and drawings at the Spencer Museum of Art will form an advisory board.
The Kenneth Spencer Research Library and its staff are dedicated to the preservation of diverse collections ranging from medieval manuscripts and other rare books to Kansas historical records to national political documents.
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