The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Archive: 01/02/2019

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) at the UMass Amherst Libraries was recently awarded $250,000 from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to digitize a suite of collections documenting the history of disability in America and the growth of the disability rights movement.

The Visibility for Disability Project will provide a freely-available and fully-accessible digital foundation for exploring the experience of disability in the United States and the evolution of the disability rights movement. The resulting digital archive will draw upon 19 collections, representing over 130 linear feet of material and 150 years of American history. Through the personal papers of activists and the records of organizations devoted to disability, this project will reveal the social, intellectual, political, and cultural background of disability and the evolution of new forms of cross-disability, rights-based activism within the broader civil rights struggle. Among the collections included are the records of International Center for the Disabled and Clarke School for the Deaf, and the personal papers of pioneers in the psychiatric survivors movement, Judy Chamberlin and George Ebert.

In January 2019, CLIR announced the award of over $3.8 million to fund 17 projects for 2018 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives Awards. More than 40 institutions located in 17 states and one U.S. territory will be involved in the projects covering subjects ranging from endangered languages and displaced peoples to health issues, architecture, and fisheries. This is the fourth group of projects supported by the Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives Awards program, which in turn is generously supported by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program, successor to the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program, supports the creation of digital representations of unique content of high scholarly significance that will be discoverable and usable as elements of a coherent national collection.