A $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been awarded to the J. Willard Marriott Library and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah. The grant will go toward a four-year collaborative project between the library and museum, focused on “Landscape, Land Art and the American West.”
The project will connect the collections of the library and museum to transform the U into a “global resource hub for artists and scholars studying the West,” according to a press release issued by the UMFA. In addition, the project aims to help students, faculty and researchers access resources more easily and efficiently.
The idea for the grant proposal originated in 2017 when the Mellon Foundation approached the U, inviting the university to draft and submit a plan. Alberta Comer, dean of the Marriott Library, and Gretchen Dietrich, director of the UMFA, collaborated closely on the application along with other curators and archivists from both institutions.
The Mellon Foundation, which provides major funding to universities leading projects in the humanities each year, awarded the U with the grant in January. The grant is worth $500,000, and the university has raised an additional $250,000 to match the award. The funding will support the project through 2021.
One goal of the project is to improve the communication and collaboration that exists between the library and museum.
“We’re excited to start changing the way that we have or haven’t worked together in the past to really make use of the collections we have for the future,” Dietrich said.
The topic of the American West landscape was chosen after consideration of what unique perspective the U’s collections could best provide.
“We were thinking of our strengths, and the ways that [the museum and library] match up,” said Todd Samuelson, assistant director of special collections at the U. “One of the things that both the museum and the library are most known for are collections related to the landscape of the West.”
The first step of the project is to appoint faculty to two positions, a collections research curator and an art and archive librarian to research and promote both collections. Those two faculty members will work with a steering committee to develop projects, exhibitions, symposia and curriculum material related to the project topic over the next four years.
The next phase is to create a database or portal where students and researchers can go to search for resources from both institutions.
“It’s all about getting people connected,” Dietrich said. “We’re thinking about it in a cross-disciplinary way. It’s not just about people who are into literature, or books, or artwork … It’s really meant to help people no matter what they’re doing, whether they are geologists, or artists, or scientists, or poets, to connect to and have the ability to understand the scope of the collections.”
Samuelson said that those involved in the project hope to continue the work past 2021, when the grant ends.
“People come from across the country and the world to research the material that we have here, so we hope that this project will build a lasting connection for the people who use our resources in the future.”