UWM Team Awarded Mellon Grant for “Archive Mining”

A collaborative team led by Ann Hanlon, head of Digital Collections and Initiatives at the UWM Libraries, and Dan Siercks, interim director for Web and Data Services in the UWM College of Letters & Science, has received a $50,000 Andrew W. Mellon Grant through the University of Nevada Las Vegas, for the “LGBTQ+ Audio Archive Mining Project.”

The core team also includes Marcy Bidney, assistant director for Distinctive Collections at UWM Libraries, and Cary Costello, associate professor of sociology and director of UWM’s LGBT Studies program.

The UWM Libraries house one of the largest collections of historical and contemporary LGBTQ+ materials in Wisconsin and the Midwest, including a rich record of Milwaukee’s LGBTQ+ communities.

The “LGBTQ+ Audio Archive Mining Project” will use machine learning tools and data analysis and visualization to build and process text datasets extracted from a variety of AV materials in these collections, including collections of oral histories, local television news and radio broadcasts, and early LGBTQ+ community cable programming.

The project will aid in a deeper understanding of the contents of these collections, and enhance discoverability of previously unrecognized topics, relationships, and patterns that shed light on the history of the LGBTQ+ community in Milwaukee and the Midwest.

“This project is especially exciting,” Hanlon says, “because it will enable us to better comprehend our past—something that is all the more important in the case of communities whose histories have often been hidden, such as the LGBTQ+ community. This will open up new audiences for our archival collections, and give students and the community an opportunity to use our collections in ways that simply weren’t possible in their original formats.”

In addition to the core team, project participants include UWM Libraries staff Shiraz Bhathena, Jie Chen, Karl Holten, and Ling Meng. The project kicks off this month and concludes in April 2021.

The New York-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation issues grants totaling more than $320 million every year for projects driven by higher education and cultural institutions that promote and explore the humanities and the arts.

The University of Nevada Las Vegas received $750,000 for “Collections as Data: Part to Whole.” This three-year project explores how existing cultural heritage collections at universities can be used and deployed as usable data. UWM was one of twelve universities nationwide selected by UNLV to share in this grant.