Luther, Vesterheim receive NHPRC grant for archives project

July 19, 2010

Luther College, in partnership with Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, has received a grant of $119,898 from the National Historical Publication and Records Commission (NHPRC) for a project designed to survey and make accessible significant Norwegian-American records housed at the two institutions.

The project, "Journeys to America: Illuminating Hidden Collections at Luther College and Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum," will include the completion of a shelf survey of the collections, assessment of basic conservation needs and the migration of existing collection-level data into a searchable online database.

With NHPRC support, the basic arrangement and description of the collections will be enhanced to improve access to the collections for core constituencies and professional scholars in the U.S. and abroad.

The NHPRC grant will enable the college and museum to hire an archivist devoted solely to the project and its completion.

"This partnership between Luther College and Vesterheim Museum will strengthen both of our collections and expand opportunities for research in our collections; continuing a long tradition of collaboration between our institutions," said Rachel Vagts, Luther College archivist and director of the grant-funded project.

Although scholars have described the collections at Luther and Vesterheim as being rich in materials, these collections have not been used as widely as collections at other Norwegian-American institutions, Vagts said. Creating a searchable online catalog where researchers from around the world have access to the Norwegian-American collections will add to the breadth of scholarship in the field of Norwegian-American studies and improve scholarship in emigration studies as a whole.

The project will set the stage for building an online consortium of institutions in the U.S and Norway, creating one-stop digital access to materials related to the study of Norwegian emigration, Vagts said.

The database will be developed using the Archon database product developed by the University of Illinois. A web-based tool, Archon was developed specifically for archival collections.

The end product will include a Norwegian language interface and will be available for users around the world. All records in the database will be linked to Luther's library online catalog, Magnus, as well as Vesterheim's collections database, Past Perfect.

The NHPRC is the sole federal funding agency whose only focus is the documentary heritage of the United States. Established in 1934, it has awarded grants for preserving, publishing and providing access to vital historical documents.