A Platform for Exploration: Bringing together African American History at umbrasearch.org
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Umbra Search African American History (umbrasearch.org) makes African American history more broadly accessible through a freely available widget and search tool, umbrasearch.org; digitization of African American materials across collections; and support of students, educators, artists, and the public through residencies, workshops, and events locally and around the country. To date, Umbra Search aggregates more than 724,000 materials from more than 1,000 US libraries, archives, and cultural heritage institutions. With over 50 national partners Library of Congress, NYPL, Yale, Amistad Research Center, and many more Umbra Search provides a platform for the discovery and use of a diverse range of archival materials and other secondary sources that allow students, scholars, and the public to consider the many dimensions of American and African American history from multiple perspectives, from redacted FBI reports on the surveillance of civil rights activists to newspaper clippings espousing racist ideologies to the thousands of letters written to and from WEB Du Bois about subjects ranging from the founding of the NAACP to the play he saw the night before. Building upon over a decade of investment in digital collections, Umbra Search is openly developed, leveraging open technologies such as Blacklight, a discovery interface, and the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvest. Awarded the 2017 Center for Research Libraries Award for Access, Umbra Search provides access to collection materials and promotes teaching and research in K12 and higher education, scholarship, art, and cultural production. This presentation will discuss the development of Umbra Search, including the technology and design, the role of collaborative partnerships, and the importance of outreach to enhance access and encourage use with these rich materials. We will also address the unique challenges of thematic aggregations for culturally specific materials and long term sustainability for digital platforms, as well as opportunities for shifting perspectives of collection building, access, and use.