Great Lakes digital collections aggregator

Associate professor of Information Paul Conway will work with recent MSI graduate Alix Keener and current MSI student Corinne Vieracker to examine the viability and potential of developing a digital aggregation service that can be adopted for use in digital library holdings across the Midwest region.

Start date: 6/1/2014
End date: 8/16/2016

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Associate Professor of Information Paul Conway received a planning grant from the Global Midwest initiative of Humanities Without Walls (HWW) for this feasibility study exploring the intellectual, collaborative, and technical potential of building a prototype digital collections aggregator service. The service would support scholarship on communities of people (native populations and immigrant settlers) who have migrated in and out of the Great Lakes region, helping to build and rebuild the area over the course of two centuries.

Conway, Keener and Vieracker will assess the broad scope of already-digitized resources that could support the study of Great Lakes population issues and identify technical partners for a potential aggregation service that could include a set of analytical tools. The researchers will seek to recruit scholars and IT experts who would be willing to participate in an add-on project through HWW.

The seed grant is part of a $3 million initiative by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a consortium of 15 humanities institutes in order to allow cross-institutional teams of faculty and graduate students to pursue research that focuses on a grand challenge: “The Global Midwest.”

The cooperative effort is intended to stimulate collaborative research that rethinks and reveals the Midwest as a key site—both now and in the past—in shaping global economies and cultures.

The HWW consortium is led by the University of Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities and is comprised of the 13 institutions that belong to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC)—Indiana University, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Penn State University, Purdue University; and the Universities of Chicago, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin-Madison—plus the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Humanities centers at each HWW member institute received $30,000 of seed money to sponsor a project, or a number of projects, that contribute to the understanding of the Midwest in a global perspective. The U-M Institute for the Humanities distributed awards ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 to support the initial work on six projects at U-M, including Conway’s.

The planning grant is the first step in putting together a successful grant in a competitive process across the 15 universities. These funds are intended to support the development of collaborative proposals for two additional competitions, each of which will draw on $750,000 in consortium funds.

To learn more about the study visit the HWW wiki entry on the project.


Aggregating Great Lakes Environmental History: Exploring the Value of Distributed Digital Archives for Research and Teaching, Humanities Without Walls consortium: $75,000


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded $3 million to the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to fund the first two years of the extensive Humanities Without Walls consortium of 15 humanities institutes in the Midwest and beyond. By leveraging the strengths of multiple campuses, HWW aims to create new avenues for collaborative research, teaching, and the production of scholarship in the humanities.