Seminary Receives Grant to Preserve Sacred Songbooks

Several of the songbooks and hymnals being digitized. Source: Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has received a $346,781 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Collections and References Resources (HCRR) program to preserve sacred song books dating back to the middle of the 19th century by digitizing them.

The HCRR initially funded a pilot planning project in 2020, consisting of digitizing 22 books from four partner institutions. With new funding, a team organized by Jesse P. Karlsberg, Sounding Spirit Digital Library project director and editor-in-chief, and Meredith Doster, managing editor and project manager from Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship, will increase the digital library’s holdings to include 1,284 additional hymnals and songbooks from the southern U.S. published between 1850 and 1925.

Additionally, the grant will support the research and writing of 425 volume summaries, 100 collection descriptions and 15 bibliographic essays introducing audiences to the collections newest holdings.

Other libraries participating in the grant receiving funding include the University of Kentucky, Emory University, Middle Tennessee State University, the University of Michigan and the University of Tulsa.

During the announcement of the grant, acting National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Adam Wolfson said the grant recipients embody “excellence, intellectual rigor and a dedication to the pursuit of knowledge, even as our nation and the humanities community continue to face the challenges of the pandemic.”

Expanding on the pilot digital library, Revell Carr, director of UK’s John Jacob Niles Center for American Music, selected 169 hymnals and sacred songbooks to be digitized as part of the project. In 2020, Fulton, in preparation for the next phase of the Sounding Spirit project, directed the compilation of the “Checklist of Southern Sacred Music Imprints, 1850-1925,” which assembled bibliographic data that will enhance the team’s ability to research multiple facets of American sacred songbook publishing.

University of Kentucky doctoral student Erin Fulton said,“This is a classic example of a great digital humanities project because it makes our collections of sacred hymnals and songbooks accessible to researchers within academia, as well as independent scholars and the public,” Carr said. “For scholars in fields across the arts and humanities – music, religion, ethnic and racial studies, popular culture, American history, publishing history – this material has much to tell us about the American experience in the 19th century.”

The project is expected to start with the coming Fall 2021 academic year.

Source: Baptist Press