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 (in April), 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 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).

We acknowledge that individuals working in the cultural heritage community come from a variety of backgrounds; we recognize and value that their contributions and cultural knowledge are not always reflected by academic degrees. All applicants to this program must hold a bachelor’s degree. Additional graduate degrees, such as an MLIS, are desired but not required. Professional experience equivalent to a master’s degree will also be considered.

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

The application process for the second cohort of Cultural Heritage Fellows has closed. We were accepting applications through 30 November 2021 (please see details below).

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 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 Applications for the second cohort must be received by Tuesday, 30 November 2021 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)
  • a form, completed by the applicant’s 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.  (PDF)

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.

Please note that all applicants are 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.

RBS-Mellon Cultural Heritage Fellows

2022–2024 Fellows

15 RBS-Mellon Cultural Heritage fellowships for 2022–2024 were awarded in April 2022.

2021–2023 Fellows

15 RBS-Mellon Cultural Heritage fellowships for 2021–2023 were awarded in April 2021.

2020–2022 Fellows

15 RBS-Mellon Cultural Heritage fellowships for 2020–2022 were awarded in April 2020.

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

  • Cheryl Beredo (Associate Director of Collections, Research, and Education, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University)
  • Trevor James Bond (Director of the David G. Pollart Center for Arts and Humanities, Co-Director of the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation, and Associate Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections at the Washington State University Libraries)
  • Bethany Nowviskie (Dean of Libraries, Chief Academic Technology Officer, and Professor of English at James Madison University)
  • Sandra Phoenix (Executive Director at HBCU Library Alliance)
  • Monika Rhue (Director of Library Services at Johnson C. Smith University, Board Chair at HBCU Library Alliance)
  • Curtis Small (Senior Assistant Librarian and Coordinator of Public Services, at University of Delaware Special Collections)
  • Martin Tsang (Independent Scholar)


Open All
Close All
  • General

    • How has the coronavirus impacted the fellowship program?

      RBS cancelled all of its 2020 courses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and all in-person programming for the fellowship was cancelled as well. Instead, RBS hosted virtual meetups and other online events for the first cohort throughout the spring, summer, and fall. RBS accepted a second cohort of fellows that began in 2021. We combined the activities of the first and second cohorts starting this spring, which resulted in a joint orientation in April 2021. If the pandemic makes it unsafe to gather fellows together in person in 2022, fellowship activities will continue in a virtual format. The expectation is, however, that we will resume in-person activities ni 2022.

      What are the goals of the fellowship program?

      The goal of the fellowship program is to advance multicultural collections by providing professional support to early- to mid- career professionals currently employed full-time in a special collections library, archive, or other cultural heritage institution through innovative and inclusive curatorial practice, leadership, and training. These individuals will identify with diverse racial or ethnic communities and/or work primarily with collections that document minority, immigrant, and non-Western cultural traditions.

      How long would the term of the fellowship be for each fellow? Is it three years? Or a six-year program?

      Each fellowship term runs for three years. The overall fellowship, in total, will run for five years; three cohorts will be admitted in the first three years (i.e., 2020, 2021, and 2022).

      What is it like to attend class in Charlottesville?

      Charlottesville is the main location for Rare Book School courses and the home of its celebrated teaching collection (as well as the wonderful collections at UVA). With a high concentration of antiquarian bookstores and a lively restaurant scene, Charlottesville is an enjoyable location for book historical and bibliographical scholarship, teaching, and collaboration. For more information on what it is like to study and work in Charlottesville (as well as the other cities in which RBS conducts courses), please see the RBS Information Guides for each location.

      I am concerned about Charlottesville’s present and past as a site of white supremacist violence. In what ways is RBS seeking to put into practice its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity?

      The Cultural Heritage Fellowship and RBS are committed to fostering an inclusive, respectful, and welcoming environment that embraces a richly diverse representation of human attributes, perspectives, and disciplines, as detailed in our Statement of Values & Code of Conduct.

      We are mindful that both Charlottesville and the University of Virginia have complex histories. We value social justice as a way of building community, and we will continue to strive to empower and support those who create, preserve, protect, study, and disseminate the multicultural stories of our world, including the stories of our valued communities of color.

      I have a question about the use of funds for community symposia. Could I use those funds to host an event at the archive where I volunteer? Or must I use them at the institution where I work (e.g., that employs me)? What do you mean by a public-facing event?

      This fellowship can be used to promote partnerships between a fellow’s home institution and a community-based archive; however, the actual community symposium should be held at the fellow’s home institution. You are permitted to collaborate with an institution where you volunteer as long as you are able to partner with your home institution for the symposium.

      Public-facing events are open to the public and welcome everyone regardless of their professional or academic status. These symposia should be promoted as open public events that cater to an inclusive group of audience members. These events should be free of charge, and should also be accessible to everyone.

  • Eligibility

    • In calculating how many years I have been in my career, should I start from the year I received my degree or when I started my first job in a library?

      You should start calculating your years in your career from the first month your first full-time job in a special collections library, archive, or other cultural heritage institution.

      I will have worked full-time in a library for one year as of 15 December 2020, before the start of the fellowship program. Would I be eligible to apply? Is the requirement of one full year as of the application date or the start of the program?

      To be eligible for the fellowship, the applicant must have worked one full year as a full-time employee by the application deadline. In 2021, the application deadline falls on November 30; therefore, an applicant who began full-time work on 15 December 2020 would not be eligible.

      What do you mean when you say that other (i.e., not racial or ethnic) groups who have been historically excluded from the cultural record are also eligible? What groups do you mean?

      As mentioned previously, the focus of this fellowship is to advance the work of cultural heritage professionals who identify with diverse racial or ethnic communities and/or primarily engage with multicultural collections. There are many groups of people who have been historically excluded from cultural record in the U.S. The focus of this particular fellowship, however, is to center the work of those documenting minority, immigrant, and non-Western cultural tradition that have been traditionally underrepresented in collections (e.g., African-American, Asian, Indigenous, Latinx, and Middle Eastern materials), as well as other groups that have traditionally been excluded from collections: low-income communities, LGBTQ+ communities, and people with disabilities.

      My work focuses on 20th-century feminist archives; women have historically been excluded from the cultural record. Does that make me eligible to apply for the fellowship?

      If you meet the requirements, you are eligible. Although women have historically been excluded from the cultural record, the goal of this fellowship is to select applicants who represent racially diverse groups and/or those who work primarily with multicultural collections.

      I currently work in a temporary residency/grant funded/visiting position. I have worked in the field full-time for more than one year and am working full-time now, but I may not be able to stay in the same position for three years. Am I eligible to apply for the fellowship?

      As long as you gain another full-time position in the required area, (i.e., special collections library, archive, or other cultural heritage institution), you will still be eligible for the fellowship. You must notify the fellowship’s program manager about any job change. We suggest that, before you reach your new place of employment, you submit the fellowship’s supervisor approval form to your new employer in advance to ensure your continued participation in the fellowship program. You will then need to submit a signed version of that supervisor approval form to the fellowship’s program manager once you begin your new job.

      I have held full-time jobs in libraries since 2000, but only received my library degree seven years ago. Am I eligible for the fellowship?

      We appreciate your commitment to librarianship, but unfortunately, you are not eligible for this fellowship program. You must have worked in the field for fifteen years or fewer. We welcome you to apply to RBS courses and to visit our website to learn about RBS’s other scholarship and fellowship programs, as well as other ways that you can get involved.

      I am not eligible for the Cultural Heritage Fellowship. Are there other opportunities available at RBS?

      Thank you for your interest in the program. We ask that you stay up to date about future opportunities by signing up for our newsletter.

  • Application Process

    • Why does your application include narrative questions? Why can’t I just submit a standard cover letter?

      We are very interested in learning about the details of applicants’ careers thus far, and also in learning about their hopes for participation in the fellowship. In preparing the narrative essay questions, applicants will want to: provide well-thought-out ideas about their goals in joining the fellowship; discuss particular RBS courses that interest them; and also, convey their understanding of their own work with multicultural materials.

      What are the word limits on the essay questions in the application? How long should it take me to complete the application?

      Both essay questions should be answered in fewer than 2,000 characters (i.e., around 300 or 400 words). We advise applicants to begin their application process at least a week before the deadline to avoid any technical issues and/or delays. You are able to save your application and return to it at a later date.

      In terms of the actual application completion, the length of time is based on how well applicants have prepared their application documents, including their responses to the essays. In addition, applicants will want to request letters of recommendation from their colleagues or supervisors well in advance of the submission deadline.

      Can someone give me feedback on a draft of my application?

      The program manager is available to answer very general questions about applications, but cannot provide a detailed evaluation of applications or review individual drafts. The program manager will host an application information session in the fall to provide general assistance for the application process. Sample questions that past applicants have discussed with us include the following: should I include my previous work in public libraries in my application even if I no longer work at that particular library; how much detail should I provide for my project/symposium idea; which courses best support my work; and what do I do if my Interfolio uploads timeout?

      I have asked my recommender to submit a letter through Interfolio, but I am not sure if she has done so. How can I find out if my application is complete?

      You are able to check the status of your recommendation letter submission directly in Interfolio. If that section is not complete, we recommend that you reach out to your recommender to urge them to complete this step. Also, Interfolio sends reminder emails to recommenders if the applicant selects a due date for the letter.

      Who evaluates my application? If I am not successful in my first application, can I reapply?

      All applications undergo three stages of evaluation. All applications are first reviewed by RBS staff to confirm eligibility. The second round of review is undertaken by a group of readers. This group comprises mid- to senior-level librarians and information professionals, who have experience with multicultural collections. The final selection committee consists of senior-level librarians and information professionals with expertise in multicultural collections.

      If you are not successful in your first application, you are more than welcome to reapply the following year.

      Will I receive comments from reviewers on my application?

      All reviews are anonymous and selection committee deliberations are confidential; applicants will not have access to reviewers’ names or feedback. We cannot offer individual feedback to applicants, though applicants may receive very general guidance and feedback to strengthen their application for future application cycles.

      Why do finalists for the fellowship have to apply separately to RBS courses?

      The deadline for applying to RBS courses for the first-round admissions falls in February; after that, RBS faculty admit students on a rolling basis. We ask finalists to apply to courses in late January before the February deadline in to ensure their place in a course. In addition, the course application is used as part of the overall review of fellowship applications. Finalists should be able to choose the courses that best align with their goals and aspirations as a fellow. They are welcome to confer with the fellowship’s program manager about RBS course offerings and about their applications to courses.

      When will I find out whether I have been accepted as a fellow?

      We ask that applicants be patient during the selection process. Last year, we received more than 60 applications. The review process happens in three stages, which means that all applications undergo an intense evaluation by RBS program staff members, then a set of readers, and then a final selection committee. Applicants should receive notice of their status by late February.