May 24, 2023 Librarian Awarded Grant from National Archives to Make Women’s History Materials More Accessible
Librarian Allie McCormack has been awarded a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the National Archives. This will fund a project to remediate metadata for archival collections of women’s materials, including the Aileen H. Clyde 20th Century Archive, over the course of 2 years.
The process for receiving a grant from the National Archives is very competitive. For example, in 2022, only 15 “Archival Projects” grants (like the one McCormack pursued) were approved. It’s also a very detailed application as agencies want to know that every step necessary to complete the project has been thought through critically, that the team is qualified to do the work, and that applicants have the institutional support to be successful. “It took months of envisioning, fact-finding, and soliciting coworkers’ comments to write the full application,” says McCormack. “I couldn’t have done it without the help of so many people in my department and elsewhere in the library.”
After the application was submitted, McCormack had to wait nearly a year to find out if the project was funded. The process for review involves a group of up to seven reviewers that go over each application section by section before submitting finalists to the Archivist of the United States, who makes the final call.
The next step for McCormack is to post the job for the project assistant. She hopes to have the posting available to applicants in early July, but in the meantime, she is pulling together training materials for the new hire. McCormack explains, “I’ve been compiling initial lists of archival records that will be remediated and doing other prep work so we can hit the ground running.”
When asked about the importance of projects such as these, McCormack responded, “Archival remediation projects are incredibly important. At the most basic level, if our archival collections aren’t described in a way that helps patrons find and understand them, these materials will languish unused on our shelves.”
The metadata enhancements McCormack will oversee will focus on women’s materials. She explained, “Highlighting women’s archives is especially important in a place like Utah, where women’s labor, leadership, and other social, political, and intellectual contributions were abundant throughout our history but are often absent from the historical narrative today.” McCormack cited initiatives like Better Days 2020 that have helped bring attention to important figures like Alice Kasai, Zitkála-Šá, Lucille Bankhead, and Reva Beck Bosone, but stressed that there are many other people whose stories deserve to be known. “These inspirational stories are impactful, but truth be told, it’s the quieter moments that have made the biggest impression on me. When you read a 200-year-old diary, look at silly photos of people and their cats, or watch someone else’s home movies, you realize that humans have always been more similar than we are different. We all want a safe place to live, to cultivate meaningful and supportive communities, and to have the freedom and opportunity to live up to our full potential. Archives show me the beauty and strength and hope inherent in human experience, and I hope this project allows more people to see this for themselves.”