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Centro awarded prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) award

By Centro Staff


On April 14th, The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced the awarding of $24 million in grants to 225 humanities projects across the country. Centro has been awarded a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Grant in the amount of $349,387 for its One-Hundred Years of Puerto Rican Studies initiative. The goal of Centro’s project is to provide the archival and documentary material in digitized form necessary for portrayals of a Puerto Rican experience that highlight the contributions of this population to the American polity and the U.S. cultural system.

Press Release: The Center for Puerto Rican Studies Receives Nearly $350,000 to Digitize and Make Accessible Archival Collections About the Puerto Rican Diaspora 

In the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) press release, available here https://www.neh.gov/news/neh-announces-24-million-225-humanities-projects-nationwide, they shared,

“NEH is proud to support these 225 new projects, which embody excellence, intellectual rigor, and a dedication to the pursuit of knowledge, even as our nation and the humanities community continue to face the challenges of the pandemic,” said NEH Acting Chairman Adam Wolfson. “We look forward to the contributions these projects will make to our understanding of ourselves and our society through exemplary humanities research, publications, documentary films, exhibitions, and undergraduate programs.”

Currently, The Center for Puerto Rican Studies Archives contain 300 collections, including 2,000 art and political posters, drawings, and other material. The collections document Puerto Ricans in New York City, and their migration to the Northeast, Midwest regions, Florida, Hawaii, among others. Centro’s online portal provides access to over 12,000 digital objects from across 176 collections. These digital objects represent only a small number of Centro’s archival holdings. This project will make the content of the most sought-after collections more widely accessible via digital technology.
Centro will digitize approximately 23,500 pages, from 17 archival collections, to create 6,600 new digital objects. The project will also highlight other disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches that help contextualize different forms of Puerto Rican creative arts and cultural expressions, and provide a better understanding of how migration, social and political movements, race, gender, class, sexuality, and religion shape these cultural creations.

“Centro is gratified for the recognition and validation of its work and its mission by such an esteemed institution as the National Endowment for the Humanities,” said Dr. Edwin Meléndez, Director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies and Principal Investigator of this project’s director. “This award, the second grant received from NEH this year to support our digital humanities initiative, is also a shot in the arm for the important work Centro does at a time of inordinate challenges,” added Meléndez. “Our senior staff in the library and archives Pedro Juan Hernandez, Lindsay Witter and Anibal Arocho, and the Director of Development Dr. Carlos Vargas-Ramos, deserve all the credit for launching this successful initiative. With this initiative, Centro seeks to ensure preservation, foster new scholarship, and support the design and implementation of outreach programs that rely on the use of new technologies to increase access to Centro’s vast research resources and archival collections.”

The Puerto Rican population has grown tremendously and spread far and wide in the United States over the past decades. There are 666,000 Puerto Ricans in New York City and the 1.2 million in its metropolitan area; but there are 5.7 million across the United States and 3 million in Puerto Rico. Dispersion has made access to our records more logistically difficult for people interested in Centro’s treasured holdings; and COVID-19 has only come to accentuate this evident need for greater accessibility to our records.

As part of this initiative, Centro launched an online project, “The Centro eJournal,”to provide a new resource for digital humanities. Discover its first digital exhibit, “The Puerto Rican Experience in the U.S. Military: A Century of Unheralded Service” at https://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/digital-humanities.  It explores the impact of military service for Puerto Rico and the Puerto Ricans. The exhibit looks to inspire the public and scholars to research this under-studied phenomenon.

“The funding provided by the NEH will bolster an already significant digital footprint and provide global accessibility to primary source material documenting, arts, culture, politics, law, and major social reform of Puerto Rican communities throughout the 20th century,” stated Aníbal Arocho, Centro’s library manager.

In addition to Centro, the City University of New York (CUNY) were awarded grants for projects at Hunter College’s Department of Philosophy, and City and Baruch Colleges. A complete list of grants is available here: NEH grant awards April 2021 state by state (PDF)
© Published in Centro Voices 17 April 2021