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Reed College receives substantial grant for digitization

$450,000 W.M. Keck Foundation Award will allow students and faculty access to digital images

PORTLAND, OR (March 14, 2006) – The W.M. Keck Foundation has awarded $450,000 to Reed College to facilitate the use of digital images by faculty members and students. The goal of the project, made possible through the Keck Foundation's Liberal Arts Grant Program, is to create a centrally managed, flexible, and sustainable collection of digital images that is fully integrated into the curriculum. Such a technological platform will make digital images easily accessible in and out of the classroom.

Since 1995, Reed College has secured five grants from regional and national foundations to improve teaching through technology. A key aspect of the Keck-funded project will be to share information and resources with peer institutions of higher education to promote digitization of library and academic collections.

"Ever since the founding of the Library at Alexandria in 283 B.C., people have longed to assemble manuscripts, art, and other vessels of knowledge in one, easy-to-reach location," says Martin Ringle, chief technology officer at Reed College. "The creation of a digital asset management system is the latest incarnation of a goal we have been seeking for more than two thousand years. This system will enable students and faculty at Reed – as well as scholars around the world – to explore texts, images, videos, music, charts, and many other types of 'digital objects.'" Small colleges face special challenges in developing and managing digital collections, because commercial software does not always meet such teaching needs as full-screen, side-by-side projection. And not all systems enable students to create image sets with their own annotations and analysis.

"The development of digital asset systems is just beginning to happen at a handful of colleges that wish to store and manage their proprietary resources," Ringle notes. "At Reed, such unique resources include biologist Keith Karoly's botanical specimens, classicist Alex Nice's images of Greek and Roman antiquities, and countless slides of artwork. What Reed is pioneering today will become commonplace on liberal arts campuses five years down the road."
Reed College's required freshman class, Humanities 110, demonstrates how important digitization is to academic success. About 20 faculty members in five departments team-teach the course, which introduces students to the art, culture, history, and literature of the classical world, from Homer to Augustine. Lecture classes are large (389 students in fall 2005), and students also attend small faculty-led conferences in which they require access to common course images. As a result of the Keck Foundation grant, students and faculty will be able to access the images outside class.

Martin Ringle will serve as project co-leader with Victoria Hanawalt, Reed College librarian. They will work closely with Marianne Colgrove, associate director of computing and information services, Dena Hutto, director of reference and instruction, and Karin Whalen, visual resources librarian.

The W. M. Keck Foundation, of Los Angeles, is one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations. Established in 1954 by William Myron Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company, the foundation's grantmaking is focused primarily on the areas of medical research, science, and engineering.