ULS Awarded Grant from the Recordings at Risk Program, Council on Library and Information Resources

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Recordings at Risk program has awarded a $36,826 grant to the University of Pittsburgh Library System (ULS) to digitize five Pittsburgh area oral history collections held by the Archives and Special Collections Department., These materials will create a rich digital collection of primary sources sharing first-person accounts of African American migrants and European immigrant workers in the Pittsburgh area.  

The project, titled “Preserving the Experiences of African Americans and Immigrants Racing to Pittsburgh’s Steel Valley,” will transcribe, preserve and digitize 350 oral history interviews highlighting the experiences, lives, and voices of minority communities in Western Pennsylvania from the 1970s to the early 2000s. All of the digitized interviews will be made freely available to the public through the Historic Pittsburgh and ULS Digital Collections websites, allowing the continued exploration of these unique and diverse voices in ways that are accessible to modern scholars and community historians.

Expected to be completed in April 2023, the “Preserving the Experiences of African Americans and Immigrants Racing to Pittsburgh’s Steel Valley” project will begin in May 2022. To complement project activities, the ULS will also fund the addition of transcripts and descriptive metadata to previously digitized interviews from the Black Sport in Pittsburgh Oral History Collection (ca. 1980), which includes 54 interviews about regional Negro League baseball clubs. Through preservation, digitization, and improved discoverability, the ULS will make this collection of at-risk audio resources permanently and openly accessible to scholars, community researchers, students, and the public.


About the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR): 

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. To learn more, visit www.clir.org and follow CLIR on Facebook and Twitter

Made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by CLIR, the Recordings at Risk program supports the preservation of rare and unique audio and/or visual recordings of high scholarly value. Since 2017, the program has awarded grants to diverse organizations, providing necessary funds to save cultural memory that would otherwise be lost. The program has previously funded 127 projects to digitally preserve nearly 38,000 at-risk audio and/or visual recordings. This year, the last funding cycle under the current iteration of the program, CLIR awarded a total of $570,595 to 20 Recordings at Risk projects.

Interviews from the following collections will be digitized: 

  • Recordings of the Southern Blacks' Migration to Pittsburgh Oral History Project (1976) - interviews documenting Southern Blacks’ relocation to the region during the Great Migration. 
  • Ethnic Fraternal Organizations Oral History Project Collection (1975-1976) -  interviews exploring the roles and influences of ethnic fraternal organizations in Pittsburgh, including African American, Jewish, Croatian, Italian, and Polish groups. 
  • Homestead Album Oral History Project Records (1975-1977) - interviews with individuals from various ethnic backgrounds, including African American, Slovak, Irish, and Polish communities in the Steel Valley.  
  • State and Local Government Archives Oral History Collection (1996-2002) -  interviews with local African American political figures about regional politics.  
  • Pittsburgh Renaissance Project: The Stanton Belfour Oral History Collection (1971-1973) - interviews capturing the African American experiences during the Pittsburgh Renaissance redevelopment plan.