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The Claremont Colleges Library Receives National Grant to Digitize California Water Resources

Claremont, colleges, library, research

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) has awarded The Claremont Colleges Library a $333,574 grant for the project “Digitizing Southern California Water Resources,” which will digitize and help preserve primary source documentation of water history in California. The Pomona College-led initiative is one of 17 projects awarded a CLIR 2016 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant, a program funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“Digitizing Southern California Water Resources” seeks to digitize documentation on the development, management and exploitation of California and western U.S. water dispersed at The Claremont Colleges Library and six other Southern California institutions. This project will create a digital archive of California and U.S. western water that will support and inspire scholarship through multiple disciplinary lenses, including public health, engineering, urban planning, legal history and the array of disciplines that fall under environmental studies.

“Southern California swings between drought and deluge, a climate history that has been captured in thousands of documents, photographs and other archival material dispersed in local libraries,” says Char Miller, Pomona College professor of environmental analysis and principal investigator of the initiative.

Miller suggests that gaining access to these rich repositories has been difficult—which is why the CLIR Hidden Collections grant is of immense significance. This grant will enable the collaborating institutions to digitize these historical documents and make them available to researchers, policymakers and the larger public at precisely the time when we need this baseline data to make sense of how climate change is altering the conditions of life in this region, he says.

“This complicated past has shaped our present, and the CLIR grant will help us build a more resilient future,” adds Miller.

The project is expected to become a model for other water collections to employ digital tools that support and enhance questions scholars and researchers can ask and answer. Once the water documents are digitized and georeferenced, scholars can create geospatial visualizations of historic watershed data and can share them online so researchers working on global drought may use them in their own inquiries.

“These soon-to-be digitized and widely available primary resources will facilitate the research of a new generation of scholars,” says Kevin Mulroy, the A.J. McFadden Dean of The Claremont Colleges Library. “We’re grateful to CLIR for supporting our proposal and look forward to working with our regional partners on this exciting new initiative,” adds Mulroy.

The collaborating institutions include: the A.K. Smiley Public Library, California State University Northridge Oviatt Library, California State University San Bernardino Water Resources Institute, the National Archives and Records Administration at Riverside, the Ontario City Library and the Upland Public Library. 

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions and communities of higher learning.

Founded in 1969, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.