Andrew Martins, Managing Editor
An 18 month grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a total of $12,000 was recently awarded to the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey in an effort to support the 10 publicly funded libraries that dot the county.
The grant will help SCLNJ grow a historical-memories initiative that was announced back in 2013 during the library system’s 325th anniversary, which will allow the library system to collect, catalog and preserve county residents’ memories of the past.
“We are excited to be recipients of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Common Heritage grant for 2018/2019, and are honored to be among the 253 humanities projects that were funded by NEH across the nation,” Technical Services Manager and Grant Coordinator Rebecca Sandoval Sloat said.
Throughout the course of the 18-month grant, which will run from January 2018 through June 2019, the county’s libraries will hold a number of programs that will allow residents a chance to digitally document photographs, textiles, journals or anything that they would like to be preserved.
Library officials said they will then make the items available for research and the use of future generations by contributing them to Rutgers University’s New Jersey Digital Highway, the library’s online catalog, and eventually, the Digital Public Library of America.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for SCLSNJ to build upon our community’s history by digitally preserving the personal items of our community members,” Sloat said.
Program topics will include the development of a complex transportation system to the history of its landowners and land development to the thriving, complex housing community that exists today, to crops and resulting foods native to the area.
A number of community organizations will be partnering with SCLSNJ through the course of the project, including the Board of Chosen Freeholders, Somerset County; the Franklin Township Public Library; the New Jersey Council for the Humanities; and Somerset County Historical Society.
“Public institutions like the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey serve as a critical resource to communities across the nation,” Senator Cory Booker said. “This federal investment will help preserve New Jersey’s diverse culture while showcasing the rich history found throughout Somerset County.”
From its earliest history, Somerset County has grown from an epicenter of the farming industry to become a diverse community comprised of over 333,000 people, boasting over 8,000 acres of preserved farmland while also being home to powerhouse Fortune 500 companies like Bloomberg, Johnson & Johnson, and Sanofi-Aventis.
With Somerset County boasting historical ties to the heritages of Eastern European, German and Latin American immigrants, as well as a rich link to the lives of African-Americans in the region, officials believe the program will be able to uncover unique artifacts and forgotten stories.
“The preservation of history and the fostering of community are goals of libraries and librarians nationwide,” Director of Operations Lynn Hoffman said. “As we install new media technologies and host digitization days, our community members will be able to contribute their personal memories to the collective memory of Somerset County…For a lifelong library lover like me, this project is a dream come true.”
Andrew Martins, Managing Editor