Mellon Grant To Advance Cross-Institutional Collaboration

Posted on January 29, 2020  by Office of Communications

The grant will enhance Dartmouth's commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a major three-year grant to the Dartmouth Library and the Hood Museum of Art to advance significant cross-institutional and community-centered collaboration grounded in Dartmouth's Native American and Indigenous Arctic collections.

The project will redefine the relationship between the Hood Museum and Dartmouth Library. Working together, they will enhance collections-based teaching, develop new search approaches for cultural heritage materials, and establish ways to connect librarians and museum professionals with faculty, students, and members of Native American and Indigenous Arctic communities from campus and beyond.

"This generous support from the Mellon Foundation will enhance Dartmouth's deep commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching through new collaborations among departments, schools, and our collecting institutions. We expect that this project will develop strategies to embed collections-based experiential learning more deeply into our work across the entire campus and serve as an example for museums and libraries nationally," says Provost Joseph Helble.

The grant, totaling $500,000, will support two shared positions between the library and the museum. Adding this capacity to Dartmouth's current environment will in turn stimulate more team-teaching opportunities, collaborative research, joint exhibitions, and collection adjacencies. In parallel, the project will explore and enhance digital strategies to better connect the library and museum systems while taking into account the needs of Indigenous communities and traditional knowledge practices.

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Dean of Libraries Sue Mehrer and John Stomberg
John Stomberg and Sue Mehrer look at a 19th-century basket from the Yokuts, a Native American tribe from central California. Items such as the basket, part of the Hood's collection, will be used in the teaching and research supported by the grant. (Photo by Eli Burakian'00)

"We are very excited about the Mellon grant," says Sue Mehrer, dean of libraries and co-principal investigator on the grant. "Connecting the Dartmouth Library and Hood Museum at the levels of shared governance, linked technological infrastructure, and the creation of innovative pedagogical tools and practices will set us on a trajectory for long-term partnership."

This project is especially timely as the museum and library have been rethinking their approaches to Native American, Arctic, and Indigenous collections, which span from the founding documents of the College to important collections of historic and modern Native American and Indigenous art. While technology can provide digital access to these collections, the information has been generated, organized, and labeled within Euro-American frameworks for understanding these materials. This project aims to address these intellectual and epistemological barriers and lay the groundwork for the creation of culturally aware stewardship practices developed in collaboration with Indigenous communities to inform better teaching and pedagogy at Dartmouth. 

"We are eager to develop new structures and methods to connect our resources, improve public and scholarly access, and develop collaborative strategies to embed collections-based experiential learning more deeply into pedagogy across the institution and globally," says John Stomberg, the Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director of the Hood Museum of Art and co-principal investigator.

"This project will bring Native and Indigenous voices into the dialogue on how museums and libraries as institutions interface with collections," adds Mehrer.

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Vilhjalmur Stefansson Arctic hunt
The manuscript collection of explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, photographed after a successful hunt in the Arctic in 1914, is among those that will be used in the Mellon research and teaching project. (Photo courtesy Dartmouth Library)

In order to accelerate these efforts over the next three years, the grant will support the development of a "Teaching with Cultural Heritage Materials Colloquium." The colloquium, which will include faculty and students, visitors from other universities and institutions, and leaders from the Indigenous Arctic and Native American communities, will be designed for participants who have interests in teaching with cultural heritage materials in culturally-relevant ways.

Ultimately, the project supported by this grant will model pathways for the library and museum to develop future plans for sharing resources, increasing collaborative research, and enabling long-term opportunities well beyond the grant period.