National Endowment for the Humanities awards Cornell's Mann Library $865,845 to preserve record of agricultural and rural life

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ITHACA, N.Y. --The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded Cornell University's Albert R. Mann Library $865,845 for the preservation of books, family farm memoirs, land transactions and other published materials that depict the history of American agricultural and rural life.

Mann Library, working on behalf of the U.S. Agriculture Information Service, will be preserving nearly 2,700 titles in 8,500 volumes published in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina and North Dakota between 1820 and 1945. This is the third phase of an ongoing project, the National Preservation Program for Agricultural Literature, that began in 1996.

Agriculture fueled the social and economic engines that built the United States, and the farm family was the basic social unit molding American life for two centuries. "Such literature, much of which was printed on acidic paper, is now rapidly deteriorating," says Janet A. McCue, director of the Mann Library. "These works document the experience of individual farm families, the development of farm communities, the pressures affecting rural culture and its evolution in response to national and world events."

The project is directed by the staff of Mann Library, and it uses the methods developed by Wallace C. Olsen, a senior research associate at the library. Its first phase allowed libraries in eight states to evaluate the available documents to choose those most worthy of preservation, and it allowed four schools, including Cornell, to begin microfilming their selections. The second phase allowed four more states to begin microfilming and another seven to begin evaluation. The latest grant brings total NEH funding for the project to $2.61 million.

Microfilming is done according to national standards and the technical microfilming guidelines in the "Preservation Microfilming Handbook" published by the Research Libraries Group. Records for each item will be contributed to two national library catalog databases, the Research Libraries Information Network and the Online Computer Library Center, with a master film negative sent to the National Agricultural Library for safekeeping. The libraries will keep negatives of the publications they have microfilmed, as well as positive microfilm copies for local use and for interlibrary loan.