USC Libraries Launch Collections Convergence Initiative

Posted by Hugh McHarg

The USC Libraries Collections Convergence Initiative will create a community of researchers, artists and library curators to deepen the convergence of collections with scholarship and creative practice. Through the initiative, library curators, scholars and creative practitioners will come together in more direct working relationships to advance research—particularly with primary sources—and develop strategic collections.

The initiative builds upon successful work by the Doheny Postdoctoral Fellows, in partnership with the Department of History and Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West in Dornsife College, and the libraries’ Discovery Fellow program.

The initiative will begin with three pilot areas that reflect current collections strengths and that offer rich opportunities for multidisciplinary scholarship and creative production: the history of Los Angeles, California and the American West, including study of the border regions; Holocaust, genocide and exile studies; and LGBTQ history and culture, particularly relating to West Coast activists and activism.

William Deverell, professor of history at USC Dornsife will serve as the inaugural director of the Collections Convergence Initiative. Deverell also will manage the initiative’s work in California studies. Wolf Gruner, Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies and director of the Center for Advanced Genocide Research, will lead activities related to genocide and exile studies. Dean Catherine Quinlan of the USC Libraries expects to appoint a lead in LGBTQ history and culture before the end of the calendar year.

Working with the directors of USC’s centers, institutes and the USC Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Dean Quinlan plans to expand the initiative beyond the pilot in years two and three.

“We’re always working to align the development and use of primary-source collections with the needs and practices of USC faculty, students, researchers and artists as effectively and productively as we can,” Quinlan said. “This initiative is a new way of organizing library activities that puts library curators in direct, in-depth working relationships with the communities of scholarship that use the collections to produce new research, and in turn, help shape the collections’ development.”

The pilot will draw upon established collections and relationships as a foundation for the initiative’s scholarly activity and public programming, particularly the libraries’ regional history collections and those of member archives in L.A. as Subject, the research collective for which USC Libraries serve as host institution; the libraries’ Holocaust and genocide studies collection and partnerships with the USC Shoah Foundation; and the archival and art collections and programs of ONE Archives at USC Libraries.

“The Collections Convergence Initiative is an exciting opportunity to bring scholars, curators, researchers and collections together,” Deverell said. “It’s just that mix that produces new knowledge and new pathways of collaboration and collegial interaction.”

Among the Collections Convergence Initiative’s first-year priorities are establishing a program of visiting fellows and support for post-docs, identifying library curators in each area, and developing plans to build collections in partnership with the initiative’s leaders and visiting scholars. The initiative also will work with the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study and others to further integrate primary sources into undergraduate research and learning experiences.