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National Endowment for the Humanities awards $70,939 to KU Libraries for cataloging and digitizing John Gould bird illustrations

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will provide $70,939 to the University of Kansas Libraries for cataloging and digitizing scientific illustrations from the collection of John Gould (1804-1881), a notable nineteenth-century British publisher of illustrated bird books.

Karen Cook, a special collections librarian at KU’s Kenneth Spencer Research Library, is the project director. Wade Garrison, digital humanities consulting librarian in the Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS), is the project manager.  Participating in the project are staff from the KU Libraries CDS, preservation and cataloging departments. Staff in ornithology at the Biodiversity Institute and in prints and drawings at the Spencer Museum of Art will form an advisory board.

The NEH grant will help fund the costs of creating metadata and providing access to the Gould collection, as well as the related research archive of the late Gordon Sauer, leading Gould biographer and historian. Approximately 6,300 of Gould's drawings, watercolors, lithographic stones, lithographic proofs, color trials, and published prints will be digitized and made accessible online for access by scholars around the world.

The grant was one of only 33 in the nation awarded by NEH this year for humanities collections and reference resources projects, and one of two in the state of Kansas in that category—the other being awarded to the Spencer Museum of Art. (A third NEH grant to the University of Kansas was an award in the summer stipends category to Derrick Darby in the Philosophy Department.)

The Gould manuscripts and publications form the centerpiece of the Ralph Ellis collection of 25,000 natural-history volumes, which is one of the best ornithological libraries in America for the period up to 1945, when Ellis died and the collection came by bequest to the University of Kansas. In addition to the development of ornithological science and illustration, the Gould collection ( offers insights into the techniques of lithographic printing and watercolor painting and the natural-history publishing business during the mid-19th century.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library and its staff are dedicated to the preservation of diverse collections ranging from medieval manuscripts and other rare books to Kansas historical records to national political documents. For more information, visit

NEH Grant Announcement

NEH Grants Awarded by State (PDF)

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