In October 2021, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded UC Merced Library a grant from American Rescue Plan funds to support the California Agricultural Resources Archive (CARA) project.
While California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions on the globe, the historical records of the rural center of California are under-represented in the American register. The documents, maps, and photographs preserved in CARA include valuable information on local land development, crop research, and changing agricultural practices. They also shed light on rural domestic life and civic engagement through the organization of Farm Bureaus, agricultural associations, and 4-H.
The one-year grant has funded the retention of four positions: an archivist, two undergraduate student assistants, and a graduate student specialist. In addition to allowing the library to continue processing collections, this federal support enables the library to continue its outreach and engagement efforts despite the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic and a significantly curtailed budget.
In partnership with Merced County 4-H, the library is conducting a “History Detectives” Summer Science Academy for students in grades 8-12 this coming July. Students will learn how to conduct hands-on research in the archives and use tools to curate information for an exhibit on agricultural history in Merced. They will have the opportunity to learn techniques that the typical student is not exposed to until college or beyond.
UC Merced Library is taking a place-based approach to developing special research collections that will support the highest levels of educational opportunity for Valley residents. Recognition of the importance of these efforts has resulted in even more substantial support. In April, the NEH announced it would award a $750,000 Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grant to UC Merced to fund a renovation project in the library.
The Library, in partnership with UC Merced’s Center for the Humanities, will expand its capacity to house archives and special collections documenting the Sierra Nevada and Central Valley regions. The capital project will create secure storage space as well as spaces where researchers, students, and community members can engage with the collections. The project is expected to be completed in two years and will house over 100,000 items.
For more on the Sierra Nevada-Central Valley Research Archive: https://ucm.edu/TzrUEg
To register for the History Detectives Summer Science Academy: https://surveys.ucanr.edu/survey.cfm?surveynumber=37158