Harry Ransom Center receives grant to digitize records


Photo Credit: Luisa Santos | Videographer

The Harry Ransom Center received a $195,000 grant last week from the National Endowment of the Humanities to digitize some of the its archives. 

The grant will aid the Center in completing a two-year project to arrange, describe, selectively digitize and share their records of international organization PEN, which promotes literature and defends freedom of expression around the world, said Jennifer Tisdale, the Center’s director of public affairs.

“The archives of PEN International and English PEN offer unique insight into human rights crises and document important cultural, historical, and literary debates of the last century,” Tisdale said. 

The records at the center range from 1912 to 2008 and contain administrative documents, details of international meetings, work of committees and undertakings of the organization, Tisdale said. The records also hold more than 100,000 correspondences between the organization’s members — including T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost and Virginia Woolf — that document the association’s major issues and priorities. 

“They illustrate in vivid and compelling ways why the humanities are integral to questions of equality, social justice, and freedom of expression and how humanists can successfully and powerfully engage in the public square,” Tisdale said.

The grant will allow the Center to increase global access to the materials, including the ability to search the contents of the archives through an online description-finding aid, sharing 4,400 images from the archives and providing a teaching collection webpage to educators and students internationally. Center director Steve Enniss said the digitalization could prove to be beneficial in creating cultural awareness in the UT community.

“By providing enhanced access to the records of PEN International and English PEN, this project will allow students and scholars authoritative documentary evidence of some of the past century’s most significant cultural debates,” Enniss said. “In this way, we can learn from that past and also be informed by it.”

Jim Kuhn, the Center’s associate director for the library division, said the grant will allow for increased convenience for students.

“Not all students and researchers are able to come in, so digital pedagogy and digital access is becoming increasingly important,” Kuhn said in an email. “Our digital collections are growing all the time. I have to say though, if the galleries and reading and viewing rooms are not both on every student at UT Austin’s bucket list, they should be!”