$13 Million Grant from Arcadia will Expand Library’s Global Preservation Work

Personal papers from Nnamdi Azikiwe.  Credit: Nnamdi Azikiwe PapersUCLA Library has recieved the largest grant in its 139-year history: $13 million over eight years to offer and administer grants to preserve and make accessible at-risk cultural heritage materials from the 20th and 21st centuries.

The grant from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, renews a five-year, $5.5 million commitment that launched UCLA Library’s Modern Endangered Archives Program (MEAP) in 2018. MEAP’s goal is to support archives and collections most at risk because of environmental conditions, political uncertainty, inadequate storage, climate change and other factors.

At a time when cultural heritage materials are targeted and destroyed around the world, this new grant ensures that UCLA will remain a leading force for preserving global knowledge, said Ginny Steel, Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian. “We are grateful to Arcadia for continuing to advance the Library’s work to digitize and make openly accessible primary source materials that speak to the experiences of individuals around the world who have been largely left out of historical and national narratives,” Steel said.

MEAP has already committed $2.8 million to 92 projects in 46 countries to support the work of documenting and digitizing collections that reflect the experiences and cultures of diverse communities. MEAP funds projects outside North America and Europe— focusing on expanding preservation in the non-Western world. MEAP helps local archives and communities preserve historical and cultural records across a variety of formats, including paper manuscripts.

MEAP is also having an impact at UCLA. Aparna Sharma, UCLA professor of World Arts and Cultures/ Dance, received a planning grant to survey and inventory two visual media collections that document life in Northeast India, home to many indigenous communities that have been marginalized within India’s wider socio-political milieu.

“This region has long faced neglect, resulting in historical materials not being appropriately documented, made accessible to a broader public or even just known,” Sharma said. As part of her project, “Visual Histories of Northeast India,” she organized community events on digital preservation, copyright laws and educational resources.

Sharma and UCLA Professor of History Robin Derby are also working with the Library to develop an interdisciplinary course on how narratives are constructed and operate in different media. Slated to be part of the UCLA Freshmen Cluster Program in 2023, the course will require freshmen to work with MEAP archives to understand how narratives are generated through historical materials.

To explore MEAP projects and to browse collections, please visit meap.library.ucla.edu.