Go to m.harvard.edu for the Harvard Mobile web app.

My Account
Site Search
Schlesinger Library Awarded NEH Grant

Award will support collaborative digital project.


May 13, 2014—A collaborative project of the libraries of the Seven Sisters schools, including the Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library, received a planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support development of a digital portal that gathers letters, diaries and scrapbooks of the first generations of their students.

The History of Women’s Education Open Access Portal Project will be led by the Bryn Mawr College Library, which was awarded the grant. In addition to Schlesinger Library, participants also include the libraries of Barnard College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Vassar College and Wellesley College. 

This group of schools, once known as the Seven Sisters, educated many ambitious, socially conscious and intellectually committed women, and their graduates became prominent leaders in philanthropy, public service, education, and the arts. Attending college in the early years was an intellectually and socially awakening experience, and it also provided an occasion for extensive letter writing to family and friends, and to keep diaries and scrapbooks that preserved their impressions, ambitions and memories of these first years of independence from home. Large numbers of these student writings are now preserved in the libraries of the seven schools, and have the potential to serve as a rich collected resource for understanding a wide range of issues in women’s history and beyond. The collections include discussions of race and class, political reform and women’s rights, sexuality and body image, the experience of being Jewish or Catholic at predominantly Protestant institutions, interactions with students from Europe and Asia and the experience of living through wars, the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 and the Depression.

Public use of the collections is currently impeded by their dispersal across the seven campuses and by the limited digitization of the items. The long-term goal of this project is to develop common standards for cataloging, taxonomy, transcription and digitization of the papers so they might be accessible to the public through a single portal.

The project is directed by Eric Pumroy, associate chief information officer and Seymour Adelman head of special collections at Bryn Mawr, and developed from the work of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education at Bryn Mawr and its former director, Jennifer Redmond.

The project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor. The grant is from the National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation and Access Division, and is part of the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources “Foundations” grants. These grants support the formative stages of planning, assessment and pilot activities for initiatives to preserve and create access to humanities collections or to produce reference resources.

-Content courtesy of and adapted from Bryn Mawr College Library blog.