The Congregational Library & Archives Receives Grant by National Endowment for the Humanities

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The Congregational Library & Archives is happy to announce that their New England’s Hidden Histories project, which seeks to locate, digitize, transcribe, and place online New England’s earliest manuscript church records, has been selected to receive a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Grant supports projects that provide an essential underpinning for scholarship, education, and public programming in the humanities. Funding from this program strengthens efforts to extend the life of such materials and make their intellectual content widely accessible through the use of digital technology, which closely aligns with the mission and directive of New England’s Hidden Histories.

New England’s Hidden Histories will collect and publish an additional 18,000 pages of records from the nation’s founding era from the archives of churches in the American Northeast; 7,000 of these pages will be transcribed. The documents are of immeasurable value to anyone “exploring political culture, social history, linguistics, epidemiology, and climatology…as well as to genealogists and members of the public interested in a range of subjects,” The National Endowment for the Humanities said in its announcement.

Many of the documents in New England’s Hidden Histories are being made available to the public for the first time. Since 2005 the Congregational Library, in partnership with the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale and many local churches across New England, has been rescuing old records from church attics and basements and making them widely accessible through preservation and digitization. Many of the documents also include transcriptions.

Early New Englanders recorded the most intimate details of their lives and communities in their manuscript church records. Spirited church debates, disciplinary hearings, personal narratives, and vital statistics listing marriages, births, and deaths, can all be found in often lost or hidden church records. New England’s Hidden Histories looks to reveal the texture of early New England society, sharing the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary detail. The project has already produced tens of thousands of digital images of these documents in its ongoing effort to freely share this historical resource with scholars, teachers, genealogists, and all interested members of the public on the website of the Congregational Library & Archives.

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