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Systems and Planning

Internal Challenge Grant Program

Internal Challenge Grant Program


The University's Library Digital Initiative (LDI) is a comprehensive program in the Harvard Libraries that was founded in 1998 to develop the University's capacity to manage digital information. The LDI has worked collaboratively with librarians and IT specialists across the University in a number of ways:

  • creating the infrastructure that supports the acquisition, organization, delivery, and archiving of digital library materials;
  • providing a team of specialists to advise librarians and others in the University community on key issues in the digital environment;
  • providing librarians and staff with experience in a wide range of technologies and digital materials; and
  • enriching the Harvard University Library collections with a significant set of digital resources.

Because there was virtually no digitizing activity in the Harvard libraries prior to 1998, from the outset, OIS created the LDI Internal Challenge Grant Program to partner with library units interested in specific digital projects and to ensure that design and development could be done with an eye toward real needs and real materials. LDI funded 50 grant projects that have covered such wide-ranging subjects as art, architecture, religion, history, culture, botany, biology, landscape design, music, politics, law, and advertising. The great majority of these projects have involved digitizing analog materials. Projects have created digital texts of books, pamphlets, letters, manuscripts, reports, diaries, interviews, legal trial documents, and more. Digital images include photographs, slides, lantern slides, prints, drawings, paintings, sculpture, coins, and archaeological objects, among others. Audio files have documented ethnomusicology, poetry, and epic songs. Musical scores and medieval manuscripts have been digitized, and geospatial data has been captured, including georeferencing of maps.

Today, the Harvard Libraries offer students, faculty, and researchers an abundance of digital resources. Many of these were developed with LDI support, and many others were made possible by the LDI experience in the library community.

University participation in LDI collaborations has been wide, with the faculties of Arts and Sciences, Medicine, Public Health, Business, Design, Divinity, and Law, as well as the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, all participating in the grant program—most of them with multiple grants and many with joint projects. For several grants, museums and centers partnered with libraries.

Given that the original LDI grants program had accomplished its goals of seeding and testing the LDI infrastructure and of educating many library staff in the intricacies of digital conversion projects, the LDI Executive Committee and the University Library Council ended the grants program and made one final round of awards to the Internal Challenge Grant Program of the Library Digital Initiative. Six grant projects were completed in FY 2009:

Harvard Forest Digital Classroom
Harvard Forest with sponsorship from Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library and Harvard Forest Library

The Artemas Ward House and Its Collections
Harvard University History Department with sponsorship from Widener Library Collections Development (Harvard College Library/FAS)

Web Archiving Development Project—Documenting Born-Digital Harvard
Harvard University Archives

Web Archiving Development Project—Blogs: Capturing the Alternative Voice
Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

Web Archiving Development Project—Japanese Constitutional Revision Kenkyűkai
Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies with sponsorship from Harvard College Library

 View the full roster of LDI-funded projects at: