In June, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded $40.3 million in CARES Act economic stabilization grants to support, essential operations at more than 300 cultural institutions across the United States during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Center for Puerto Rican Studies was awarded a $120,000 grant to fund its continuing work on digital collections initiatives, digital humanities exhibits, and to expand virtual and remote programming. The City University of New York was also the recipient of three additional grants. City College received $298,518 for retention and professional development of adjuncts in a COVID-19 Instructional Environment. The Graduate School and University Center received $42,060 for their Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context, and John Jay College received $296,645 to support contingent humanities faculty and online learning
At Centro, the grant is helping to preserve the continuity of services of three core and interconnected facets of its digital humanities programs: building a digital infrastructure; executing a historical preservation digitization program; and implementing a public engagement initiative.
The NEH CARES Act funding is helping to continue the building of Centro’s digital infrastructure, maintain the cultural preservation digitization program, and adapt our Sharing the Puerto Rican Experience public engagement initiative to the new social distance and remote access reality brought about by the COVID-19 epidemic. These three pillars lay the foundation for Centro’s digital humanities initiative.
- Building a digital infrastructure:
CARES Act funding will support the continuation, adaptation and enhancement of Centro’s digital humanities programs to the new social distancing environment, by building up capacity with the acquisition and configuration of appropriate storage and processing capacity for the growing number of applications deployed to make content and educational programs broadly available via the web.
- Digitization program:
Centro will be installing ArchiveSpace, an archival management software, to provide rich descriptive guides to Centro archival collections. The goal for the CARES Act funds grant period is to migrate and publish finding aids for 40% of processed collections. Funding will also enhance the Oral History project by the transcription of nearly 290 interview sessions with more than 275 individuals to complement the audiovisual recordings.
- Sharing the Puerto Rican Experience:
The grant will provide for the development of ten Centro eJournal digital exhibitions highlighting the history of Puerto Ricans in the United States. Digital exhibitions will offer online access to some of Centro’s 300 Archival collections of personal papers and organizational records of prominent Puerto Rican artists, elected officials, social activists, writers, as well as the records of community-based organizations. Additionally, the Puerto Rican Heritage Cultural Ambassadors Program, Centro’s free multimedia online course in Puerto Rican history, culture, and traditions, will create age- or functionally-appropriate content at the high school and college levels; and an instructor course. Centro is working to provide free online teaching resources to schools and colleges to support online instruction.
Social distancing measures to address COVID-19 have led Centro to curtail face-to-face interactions with students, faculty, scholars and the community at large, but Humanities (NEH) CARES Act funding is helping to shift in-person programs and institutional resources online to reach a wider public during the pandemic.
To learn about the Puerto Rican Heritage Cultural Ambassadors Program, a free, self-paced, multimedia online course in Puerto Rican history, culture, and traditions, with a focus on the migration experience of the stateside diaspora, visit https://centropr.hunter.cuny.