January 12, 2016

Wayne State University Press receives $94,000 grant to digitize out-of-print titles

DETROIT (January 12, 2016) — Wayne State University Press will digitize 59 out-of-print titles through a $94,000 grant from a joint project between the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The titles will focus on Jewish and regional studies, and will be freely accessible to the public through the websites of the Wayne State University Library System and the Press. This is the Mellon Foundation’s first grant to Wayne State University.

“Adding these titles back into the public sphere allows them to be discovered for the first time by new audiences,” said Jane Hoehner, director of Wayne State University Press. “Having this rich information available and accessible in a digital format helps us increase awareness and knowledge of key issues in the region’s history.”

Titles selected for the project fall into several sub-topics that reflect current programs: industrial and labor history, maritime history, Detroit history and biographies of significant individuals. It is estimated that all titles will be made available by December 2017.

The grant to Wayne State University is one of ten being awarded to a variety of institutions across the country (see list of projects below). The grants were selected through a rigorous review process that measured how the digitized books would be of demonstrable intellectual significance and broad interest to current readers. 

“Through modern technology, these titles can be far more accessible than they are today,” said Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “These books represent an untapped resource for scholars, teachers, students, and members of the public, many of whom turn to the Internet as their first stop when looking for information.”

The largest funders of humanities research in the United States, the National Endowment for the Humanities and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, made the grants to give a second life to outstanding out-of-print books in the humanities. Under the new Humanities Open Book program, NEH and Mellon awarded grants to publishers to identify great humanities books, secure all appropriate rights, and make them available for free, forever, under a Creative Commons license.

For centuries, printed books have been the primary written medium for expressing, communicating, and debating ideas in the humanities, which are defined as research and study on topics including history, philosophy, linguistics, and others. However, most scholarly books printed since 1923 are not in the public domain. As a result, today’s scholars, teachers, students, and members of the public do not have access to a significant breadth of knowledge. Modern e-book technology can unlock the potential of these books.

The new Humanities Open Book grant program is part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ agency-wide initiative The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, which seeks to demonstrate and enhance the role and significance of the humanities and humanities scholarship in public life.

“The National Endowment for the Humanities is pleased to join with the Mellon Foundation in announcing the first round of Humanities Open Book grants,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “These ten projects will put important out-of-print books into the hands of the public, widening access to the ideas and information they contain, and inspiring readers, teachers, and students to use them in exciting new ways.”

In addition to making the books available, this new collaborative effort between NEH and Mellon will also better define the costs and benefits of digitizing out-of-print scholarship and making it available, at no charge, to the general public.





American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)

(1 year)

Building on the ACLS Humanities E-Book program, a pilot project for scholars to work through ACLS to digitally republish existing backlist titles as free e-books.

The American Numismatic Society

(1 year)

Creating digital, free e-book versions of 89 exceedingly rare monographs on coins and currency that will also link to online digital databases such as the Pleaides Gazetteer, which would allow scholars to learn about the geographic location of ancient coins.

Appalachian State University

(2 years)

Creating digital, free e-book versions of 73 classic works on the history and culture of Southern Appalachia published by the defunct Appalachian Consortium Press.

Cornell University


Creating digital, free e-book versions of 20 classic humanities texts from Cornell University Press in the areas of Slavic Studies, German Studies, and literary criticism.

Northwestern University

(3 years)

Creating digital, free e-book versions of 64 outstanding humanities titles from African studies, philosophy, and literary criticism that are of historical and current importance to Northwestern University Press.

Oregon State University


Creating digital, free e-book versions of 26 essential texts from women authors representing work originally published by the Oregon-based independent press CALYX.

University of Florida at Gainesville

(2 years)

Creating digital, free e-book versions of 30 books on the history and culture of Florida and the Caribbean, in partnership with George A. Smathers Libraries and the Florida Humanities Council.

University of North Texas


Creating digital, free e-book versions of 146 books on the history of Texas and Oklahoma, selected by the University of North Texas Press, Oklahoma Historical Society, Portal to Texas History, Texas State Historical Association, and UNT Libraries Scholarly Publishing Services.

Wayne State University

(2 years)

Creating digital, free e-book versions of 59 classic humanities titles on Jewish and regional Detroit studies from Wayne State University Press in partnership with the Library System.  

Wesleyan University


Creating digital, free e-book versions of 18 essential texts from Wesleyan University Press on the history of dance and theater.




National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating its 50th anniversary as an independent federal agency in 2015-16, National Endowment for the Humanities brings the best in humanities research, public programs, education, and preservation projects to the American people. To date, NEH has awarded $5 billion in grants to build the nation’s cultural capital — at museums, libraries, colleges and universities, archives, and historical societies—and advance our understanding and appreciation of history, literature, philosophy, and language. Learn more at neh.gov.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at mellon.org

Wayne State University Press is a leading publisher of Great Lakes books, Judaica, and African American studies, as well as a wide range of other scholarly and general interest titles. The Press disseminates research, advances education, and serves the local community while expanding the international reputation of the Press and the University. Visit wsupress.wayne.edu for more information.


Theola DeBose, NEH
Phone: 202-606-8255
Email: tdebose@neh.gov
Laura Washington, Mellon
Phone: 212-500-2554
Email: lw@mellon.org
Emily Nowak, WSU
Phone: 313-577-6128
Email: enowak@wayne.edu

Subscribe to Today@Wayne

Direct to your inbox twice a week

Related articles