June 17, 2004

Mann Library gets federal grant to preserve historical agricultural literature on microfilm and the World Wide Web

ITHACA, N.Y. -- The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded $618,857 to the Albert R. Mann Library at Cornell University to preserve local and state agricultural literature on microfilm. The library also is relaunching the Core Historical Literature of Agriculture (CHLA) Web site to make agricultural materials of national historical significance available on the World Wide Web.

The NEH grant and the CHCA contribute to a long-term preservation project, the National Preservation Program for Agricultural Literature (NPPAL). The project prevents historically significant published materials on the history of state and local agriculture and rural life from being lost to natural decay.

"Preserving this historical knowledge is critical because, to a great extent, it captures the

national character o

f Americans and the American experience," says Mary Ochs, head of collection development and preservation at Mann Library. "Many documents, such as memoirs and transactions of early agricultural societies, seed catalogs, almanacs, extension service publications, archives, photographs, oral histories and periodicals for farm families and early agricultural enterprises are of invaluable historical significance. However, many of these materials are deteriorating and literally falling apart. To lose these materials would be an irreparable loss to the history of American values."

Mann Library will work with university libraries in other states to microfilm 1,150 titles in 2,707 volumes published between 1820 and 1945 from Georgia, Illinois and Ohio. In addition, the agricultural literature from Colorado, Maryland, Oklahoma and Washington will be reviewed and ranked, with the most important material being slated for microfilming in a later phase of the project.

The United States Agriculture Information Network and the National Agriculture Library developed the agricultural preservation project in 1993. Each state is expected to preserve its own local agricultural literature. Since 1996 over 30,000 volumes published between 1820 and 1945 have been saved.

Some of the titles to be filmed over the next two years include the classic Livingston and the Tomato (1893), which contains descriptions and drawings of the varieties brought to life by A.W. Livingston, the Reynoldsburg tomato seed grower who was the best-known developer of tomato varieties in the United States in the 19th century. A Treatise on the Cultivation of the Grape in Vineyards (1850) also will be microfilmed. This is a significant document because it was in the Ohio River Valley where the Catawba grape was cultivated for making wine, spearheading an Ohio industry that grew to be a large producer of wine by 1860. Other titles to be microfilmed include Agricultural Education of Less than College Grade in Georgia 1733-1939 , Religious Instruction of Slaves in Georgia (1841) and Cotton: Its History, Cultivation and Manufacture in the Augusta Area (1940).

The CHLA Web site will add a significant amount of material, including some historical journals and improve the user interface, says Ochs. "We have about 670,000 pages and 1,700 volumes as of today with 300 more to be posted over the summer. By the fall, we should have more than 2,000 volumes and one million digitized pages in the collection."

The CHLA is a core electronic collection of agricultural texts published between the early 19th century and the middle to late 20th century. Full-text materials cover agricultural economics, agricultural engineering, animal science, crops and their protection, food science, forestry, human nutrition, rural sociology and soil science. Scholars have selected the titles in this collection for their historical importance.

Related World Wide Web sites: The following sites provide additional information on this news release. Some might not be part of the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over their content or availability.

oThe National Preservation Program for Agricultural Literature:

http://preserve.nal.usda.gov:8300/npp/presplan.htm

oCore Historical Literature of Agriculture (CHLA):