VANCOUVER, Wash. — Washington State University Vancouver faculty members Leslie Wykoff and Laurie Mercier have started work on a two-year project to develop a digital archive of library and museum collections on the history of non-Native American ethnic groups of the Columbia River Basin. The work is supported by a $197,371 grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services’ National Leadership Grants for Library and Museums Collaboration program.

“Engaging the Public with Digital Primary Sources: A Tri-State Online History Database and Learning Center” is a collaborative project between WSU Vancouver’s Library and Information Services units and the Center for Columbia River History. CCRH is a partnership between WSU Vancouver, Portland State University and the Washington State Historical Society. Other partners in the IMLS grant include the Oregon Historical Society and the Idaho State Historical Society.

The purpose of the grant is to identify, digitally archive and describe library and museum collections to stimulate public use and discussion of primary sources. The first portion of the project is to develop a digital archive of documents, reports, records, maps, manuscripts, photographs, newspapers, museum objects and oral histories that highlight the hidden ethnic histories of the region. After the archive is completed, tutorials on how to do online research and interpret library and museum collections will be developed. Project staff, along with WSU Vancouver and PSU public history graduate students, will then develop and moderate online discussions linking historical research based on the database to contemporary issues.

Wykoff is director of WSU Vancouver’s Information Services Library. Mercier is an assistant professor of history and associate director of the Center for Columbia River History. Mercier recently completed another collaborative Center for Columbia River History Web project that details the history of eight Columbia River communities. This can be viewed at www.ccrh.org/comm.

The national leadership grants program supports innovative projects that demonstrate how museums and libraries can work together to expand public access and meet a range of individual, family and community needs. Emphasis is given to projects that make innovative use of technology, that enhance learning or that help strengthen communities. The grants are awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent federal agency that fosters leadership, innovation and a lifetime of learning by supporting the nation’s museums and libraries.