Mellon grant funds U-M Press collaboration on digital scholarship


The University of Michigan Press has received a three-year $899,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the development of a new platform that will enable the publication and preservation of digitally enriched humanities monographs.

Charles Watkinson, director of the U-M Press, said the project takes on a key challenge to the publication of long-form scholarship in the digital age.

“These days faculty are working with and producing digital resources of various kinds, but our existing publishing platforms are not equipped to reflect that,” Watkinson said.

The grant will fund an effort to meet the growing needs of authors to durably connect their publications to related datasets, interactive information, video and other non-text based online content.

The ultimate goal is to create a shareable, open-source solution for born-digital complementary monograph materials as well as a working model that maximizes the publishing strengths of university presses and the preservation expertise of libraries.

The U-M Press, which is part of the U-M Library, will collaborate with the university presses at Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Penn State (each institution will receive funds from Mellon) to build workflows and infrastructure using Hydra/Fedora, a robust and flexible technical framework and repository system.

The partner presses will develop and share publications that demonstrate the new platform’s handling of a wide range of intellectual property, production, and preservation challenges.

These case studies will provide proof of concept for an extensible, hosted platform that can be offered to other publishers on a fee-for-service basis. The source code will be released under an open license so it can be used by other members of the growing Hydra/Fedora community.

Watkinson and Jeremy Morse, head of publishing technology, will jointly lead the implementation.

“By enabling humanists to link narrative text and data in their publications, the project opens the road to more innovative presentation of digital scholarship,” Watkinson said. “It also demonstrates how strategic collaboration between university presses and libraries can support the emerging needs of scholars.”


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