An archive isn’t a vault. Since 2013, when Amherst acquired the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection, researchers from Amherst and well beyond have come to campus to examine the materials.
Now, thanks to a pair of grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the College’s reputation as a destination for Native American studies is being given a generous boost.
In December, the Mellon Foundation awarded President Biddy Martin a senior president’s grant of $250,000, to be paid out over three years, to enhance scholarly and community access to the collection.
It complements a larger, $2.5 million grant from Mellon to Five Colleges Inc., also awarded in December, that will support new faculty and new courses in Native American and indigenous studies at the member campuses, including Amherst. The Five Colleges grant focuses on teaching, while the Amherst-specific grant focuses on research. Both arrive at a time of growth—in the number of Five College students pursuing the interdisciplinary field of study, and in indigenous student enrollments.
The $250,000 grant will help Amherst to further develop a regional network of tribal community representatives, library and museum specialists, and information specialists interested in linking collections and communities.
“That’s been a part of the project from the beginning,” says Lisa Brooks, professor of English and American studies, who—with Mike Kelly, Amherst’s head of archives and special collections, and Kiara Vigil, assistant professor of American studies—has been cultivating and promoting the collection, linking it to campus courses and networking with Native American communities.
Notably, this smaller grant will allow Kelly to hire a dedicated program director for this work.
“When I’m interacting with community members, I’m always making sure that people know about the collection,” Brooks says. “And Mike deliberately has gone out to visit other tribal archives to see what they’re doing. The shift is that we’re going to be more deliberate about it.”