The grant from the IMLS that is funding this project is a planning grant, meaning that it is the first step in what we hope will become a bigger project with subsequent grant funding. The phase of this project consists largely of a Summit Meeting with our Steering Committee and the creation of a beta product. (I will talk more about those two parts in later posts.) Obviously there are many parts that make up those two main happenings but it is important for us to keep in mind that we hope to grow this project to much greater heights than this year-long phase will reach.
And it is a good thing, in my opinion, that the IMLS funds planning grants because the emphasis on planning allows us (the Miller Center) to think through the project and take our time carefully weighing decisions and choices that need to be made. We are starting with a small group of partners and a small selection of presidential materials. As I mentioned in my first blog post, the sheer amount of president items is staggering, and we can’t begin to consider them all at once. So we will use this planning grant to test out our approach and product with just a small sampling of materials.
I mention this because I think it is important for us to keep in mind that while we hope to eventually partner with all the libraries and museums that have presidential materials, we can’t start there. At this stage, there are entire categories of libraries that will not be part of this initial project. For example, the Presidential Libraries of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) won’t be included in this first phase. (NARA Presidential Libraries exist for presidents from Herbert Hoover forward.) They just represent huge collections that are already fairly accessible (on a spectrum), and while we definitely hope to partner with them in the future, we felt it was more manageable to establish the project on a smaller scale.