The Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Heritage


In June 2019, Rare Book School received a $1.5 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Heritage, a six-year program which aims to advance multicultural collections through innovative and inclusive curatorial practice and leadership. Forty-five fellows who identify with diverse racial or ethnic communities and/or who work primarily with collections that document minority, immigrant, and non-Western cultural traditions will participate in this program over six years.

Comprising three overlapping cohorts of 15 fellows each, the fellowship will seek to fulfill four core goals: 1) developing skills for documenting and interpreting visual and textual materials in special collections and archives; 2) raising awareness within professional communities about the significance of inclusive, multicultural collections, including their promotion, development, and stewardship; 3) building connections with diverse communities and publics through strategic programming, outreach, and advocacy; and 4) advancing careers by establishing new pathways and skills for professional growth.

Overview of Fellowship Program

The Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Heritage includes the following components:

  • Orientation: Fellows will participate in a two-day orientation seminar (the first to be held in April 2020), to include a series of seminars, guided conversations, and workshops, with a focus on skills-based mentoring.
  • Courses at RBS: Fellows will attend three of Rare Book School’s five-day seminar-style courses, one per year for three years. During these courses, fellows will have the opportunity to handle, analyze, and interpret materials from RBS’s c.100,000-item collection, from the University of Virginia’s Special Collections, and, in some cases, from the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Library of Congress, the Morgan Library & Museum, and other major special collections in the United States. From the RBS course offerings, fellows will be required to take one digitally-focused course from the L series and one course from the B, C, G, I, M, or T series; the third course is a free elective. The fellowship provides for a stipend to cover travel, meals, lodging, course materials, and research-related needs, in addition to tuition waivers for three RBS courses.
  • RBMS conference & customized career advancement workshops: During their first year in the program, fellows will receive funding to attend the annual conference of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries. In addition to participating in the conference, fellows will be joined by expert guest speakers for a working lunch and a series of pre-conference workshops focusing on aspects identified as key to career advancement in the field. These workshops will serve not only to enhance working knowledge and skills, but also to introduce fellows to additional mentors.
  • Additional conference funding: In their second and third years of the program, fellows will receive funding to attend conferences of their choosing, whether RBMS or other professional conferences or specialized workshops. Fellows will also be invited to attend the annual membership meeting of the HBCU Library Alliance and present their symposium-related work there in the form of a poster session.
  • Community symposia: Each fellow will receive $2,000 in funds to hold inclusive, public-facing events that will advance understandings of cultural heritage, archives, and/or special collections. These symposia will be held at the fellows’ home institutions, and will enable fellows to promote aspects of their archives or collections to broader publics. Fellows will receive instruction and training on program design and planning both during and after their orientation.
  • Working groups: The fellowship program will include three working groups, the aims and objectives of which will be shaped by the fellows with the aid of facilitators. Each group will conduct project-based work designed around one of the four goals of the fellowship program: education, advocacy, outreach, and advancement. Each year, the working groups will be able to request funding to support their projects, and will submit reports on their activities and spending. Fellows will choose one working group each year.
  • Cultural heritage field schools: Each fellow will participate in one cultural heritage field school, a targeted visit to libraries and archives in a major metropolitan area designed to provide fellows with the opportunity to meet prominent curators, archivists, librarians, conservators, and preservationists working with multicultural collections, who are active leaders in their respective fields.
  • Evaluative surveys: Rare Book School will conduct annual surveys, as well as a longitudinal study of fellows’ experiences in the program, in order to assess the fellowship program’s success, to make ongoing improvements, and to share findings and lessons learned with the broader community.

Qualifications & Eligibility

The Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Heritage is open to early- to mid-career professionals currently employed full time in a special collections library, archive, or other cultural heritage institution located in the United States and who have at least one year of full-time experience—and not more than fifteen years of full-time experience—working with special collections, archives and/or other cultural artifacts.

Eligible applicants will identify as members of diverse racial or ethnic communities and/or work primarily with collections that document minority, immigrant, or non-Western cultural traditions. Individuals coming from or working primarily with other groups who have been historically excluded from the cultural record are also eligible (these could include professionals who identify as LGBTQ+, professionals who come from low-income backgrounds, or professionals with disabilities).

All applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree; a graduate degree (such as an MLIS) is preferred, but not required.

The following classes of applicants are ineligible for this fellowship program:

  • individuals based at institutions located outside the United States
  • independent scholars who are unaffiliated with an institution
  • past or present members of RBS’s full-time, year-round staff

Application Process

We are now accepting applications for the first cohort of Cultural Heritage Fellows. To begin the application process, please log into your myRBS account (or create a new myRBS account). On the Home screen, click the “Apply for a Scholarship or Fellowship” button on the left side of the page. If you have trouble with myRBS, see the FAQ page or email rbs_scholarships@virginia.edu. Participation in the fellowship program implies acceptance of the scholarship/fellowship Terms and Conditions. If you have questions about the fellowship or the application process, please email chfellowship@virginia.edu. Applications must be received by Monday, 2 December 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

The application will include:

  • a cover sheet requesting basic contact information, confirmation of eligibility, and a brief statement of qualifications
  • curriculum vitae (including any service work or outreach)
  • one confidential letter of recommendation from a colleague or supervisor familiar with your work
  • two short essays responding to the following questions:
    • Why do you wish to join this fellowship? What personal and professional aspirations could participating in such a fellowship help you fulfill? What aspects of the program attract you most, and why? How does the program fit your understanding of your work with multicultural materials? (1 page)
    • How do you envision your interactions with other fellows, with Rare Book School’s faculty, staff, and students, and with broader publics as influencing your professional growth? What do you wish to gain from interacting with these groups, and how would you expect to contribute to them? (1 page)

Fellows will be selected based on: their vision for their proposed work in the fellowship; their potential both to broaden and deepen understandings of multicultural collections; and their ability to contribute to collaborative dialogue around inclusivity and diversity.

Applicants being considered as semifinalists will be asked to submit a form, completed by their supervisor, acknowledging the fellowship requirements and provisionally assenting to administrative support from their institution to grant leave for the fellowship’s program activities were they to be accepted into the program.

Advisory Board for the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Heritage

  • Cheryl Beredo (Curator for Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYPL)
  • Trevor James Bond (Co-Director of the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation and Associate Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries)
  • Bethany Nowviskie (Dean of Libraries and Professor of English, James Madison University)
  • Sandra Phoenix (Executive Director, HBCU Library Alliance)
  • Monika Rhue (Board Chair of the HBCU Library Alliance; Director of Library Services, Johnson C. Smith University)
  • Curtis Small (Senior Assistant Librarian and Coordinator of Public Services, University of Delaware Special Collections)
  • Martin Tsang (Cuban Heritage Collection Librarian and Curator of Latin American Collections, University of Miami Libraries)