NEH investment brings Michigan’s expertise in Asian studies to readers around the world

by Charles Watkinson on April 9, 2018

A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will make significant books about Asia published by the University of Michigan freely and publicly available online, in editions that use digital affordances to enrich the reading and teaching experience. Together these titles will dramatically advance public understanding of the diversity of society, culture, and history in East, South, and Southeast Asia at a time when the region is rarely out of the headlines.

The $200,000 grant announced on April 9 is part of the Humanities Open Book Program, created and funded jointly by NEH and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to make outstanding but previously hard-to-find humanities books available to a wide audience.  During the two-year project, faculty from the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, the Center for Japanese Studies, the Center for South Asian Studies, and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Michigan will collaborate with the librarians from Asia Library and International Studies and staff from the University of Michigan Press to select, digitize, and enhance over one hundred titles published by the Centers over the past 50 years.

The selection process will be led by a distinguished advisory board chaired by Christopher Dreyer, acquiring editor for Asian studies at the Press, and including the center directors as well as outside experts. They will be guided in their work by the bibliographic and bibliometric expertise of the librarians of the Asia Library.

Conversion of the printed books to electronic format will be overseen by ebook expert Jason Colman who acts as principal investigator for the project, working closely with Dreyer, project manager Terri Geitgey, and intellectual property specialist Bryan Birchmeier. The books will be presented on the next generation Fulcrum platform, the development of which is also being supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As well as ensuring the ebooks are presented in a discoverable, accessible, and citable form, Fulcrum supports additional source materials and interactive features. Around twenty of the open access books will be enriched with extra materials identified by the advisory board.

“The Asian studies centers within the U-M International Institute have long been dedicated to education, engagement, and innovation. Thanks to this visionary investment by NEH, the U-M Library and Press can partner with these centers of excellence to make sure that the University shares its expertise and research capacity far beyond the boundaries of the Academy,” said Charles Watkinson, Associate University Librarian and Director of University of Michigan Press.

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