Congregational Library and Archives receives National Endowment for the Humanities grant

For immediate release:

The Congregational Library & Archives, Boston, Massachusetts has been awarded $300,000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities to open a window into Colonial America and onto the lives of ordinary people deliberating on matters both sacred and secular.

The New England colonies stand out for the quantity and depth of their records, and these documents constitute an unparalleled source of information about the roots of America's political culture and the social diversity of early American life. The grant will be used to digitize and transcribe these unique documents, and make them available to the public for the first time.

The New England's Hidden Histories program has been rescuing old records from church attics and basements, and making them widely accessible through preservation and digitization. With a significance that extends well beyond religion, they are of inestimable value to scholars interested in everything from political culture to epidemiology.

Local churches were the center of civic life and their records kept track of births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths. Church meeting minutes document debates and decisions about religious concerns and secular affairs — division of property, taxation, crime and punishment. The Library and Archives' program delves into a very personal side of colonial life, items created by individuals, including sermons, diaries, correspondence, and rare theological works.

While CLA has begun the work of processing, the scope can now be greatly extended. This grant will create a minimum of 18,000 digital scans over three years, along with an online, fully searchable database of digital, transcribed documents. The impact of this project creates a record of life in colonial New England that will be easily accessible to anyone who is interested.