The Recipient(s) of the Biennial Innovation Award
The Electrical Machine, invented by Benjamin Franklin
When the Library Company of Philadelphia launched the Biennial Innovation Award, we weren’t sure what to expect. Innovation means many things to many people, and our call for proposals was capacious by design. Thankfully, our learning community accepted the challenge and submitted a dazzling array of projects that surprised, impressed, and inspired our internal and external review committees.
Among the dozens of submissions, we received applications from early-career and distinguished faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, visual and performing artists, and even peers at cultural heritage institutions. We learned about new databases developed to advance the study of African American literature, diaspora, and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade; games designed to teach students about early American poetry and print culture; and digital humanities projects that made congregational records accessible, city directories mappable, and raised-print pages 3-D printable. Applicants demonstrated the power of humanistic scholarship that entwines the critical and creative, from an Eastern State Penitentiary climber’s guide to a history textbook developed by an academic cooperative.
To accommodate the extraordinary breadth of submissions, the Library Company will recognize the recipient(s) of the award as well as two honorable mentions.
Our Innovation Award Recipients:
Dr. Sari Altschuler and Dr. David Weimer, Touch This Page! Making Sense of the Ways We Read
Developed with a team of librarians, scholars, and engineers, Touch This Page! reproduces tactile facsimiles of pages printed for blind and low-vision readers in order to make the experience of reading these books publicly accessible for the first time in over a century. Touch This Page! enlivens issues of disability history through the widely shared experience of reading while illustrating how and why digital humanities projects must expand beyond visual forms.
Sari Altschuler is associate professor of English, associate director of the Humanities Center, and founding director of Health, Humanities, and Society at Northeastern University.
David Weimer earned his Ph.D. in English from Harvard University and has been the Librarian for Cartographic Collections and Learning at the Harvard Map Collection since 2016.
Our Innovation Award Honorable Mentions:
Dr. Ellery Foutch, Sheldon Relic Chair
A course-based collaborative project that enlists undergraduates in curation, fabrication, and local history.
Dr. Lana Finley (Thea Wirsching), The American Renaissance Tarot
A 78-card Tarot deck and companion book that introduces students to American literary and religious history.
Together, these projects illuminate the kinds of innovative work that the Library Company seeks to support, including collaborating scholars who draw inspiration from our collections, programming, and scholarly community (Altschuler and Weimer); faculty who invite students into the research process (Foutch); and researchers who reimage scholarly works for new audiences (Finley).
The Innovation Award was made possible with the support of our Founding Sponsor, Randall M. Miller, Ph.D. Special thanks are due to our internal content specialists (James N. Green, Cornelia King, Jasmine Smith, Cathy Matson, and Erika Piola) and our innovation award committee (Stacy Hartman, Lauren F. Klein, Alexander M. Mazzaferro, William Noel, and Kalela Williams) who painstakingly reviewed all application materials. Finally, thank you to all of the researchers who submitted projects for consideration. You didn’t make this easy on us, and I, for one, feel honored to have learned about all of the important work being done across our learning community.
Dr. Will Fenton, Director of Scholarly Innovation