New exhibition in Fenwick Gallery,“Conjuring Presence,” featuring Mason students, faculty, alumni

Fenwick Gallery at George Mason University is pleased to host “Conjuring Presence,” an exhibition of visual art and poetry featuring Mason students, faculty, and alumni. The exhibition will run in Fenwick Gallery and online from October 20 through December 11, with a literary reading and an artists’ panel to be announced at a later date.

Curated by Mason faculty member and artist Jessica Kallista, “Conjuring Presence” asks both artists and audience to think critically and examine many manifestations of presence: What does it mean to join our creativity as we co-sense and conspire together for the sake of enlivening our imaginations and our communities? What does it mean to become mindful of the need to work against erasure when we understand who is not present and why? Who decides whether some people are or are not allowed to be present to occupy spaces in the arts and academia? How do we acknowledge the past, work for a just future, and still ground ourselves in the present? How might we work to conjure presence? 

The artists and poets featured in “Conjuring Presence” were paired and asked to consider these questions throughout the collaborative process. In doing the work of considering, questioning, and challenging the status quo with radical honesty and presence of mind, together they embrace the power to envision, freedom dream, and co-create otherwise worlds into existence.

This exhibition is co-curated by Heather Green (Asst. Professor, School of Art) and Stephanie Grimm (Art and Art History Librarian and Fenwick Gallery Manager), with exhibit support from Chen Bi (Fenwick Gallery Graduate Assistant). Exhibition support is generously provided by the University Libraries, School of Art, and Creative Writing Program at Mason.

“Conjuring Presence” will be on display in Fenwick Gallery and online. Fenwick Gallery is located in Fenwick Library on Mason’s Fairfax campus. The gallery is open during Library business hours; see the Library’s website at http://library.gmu.edu for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

For more information on this exhibition at Fenwick Gallery, contact Stephanie Grimm, Art and Art History Librarian, at sgrimm4@gmu.edu.

Center for Mason Legacies releases “Black Lives Next Door” preliminary findings

The Center for Mason Legacies (CML) invites you to explore their newly created digital project, Black Lives Next Door: George Mason and Northern Virginia in an Age of Disparity and Opportunity (BLND). Building on work that began in 2020, BLND is presenting its first set of findings and inviting our community to take a journey through our “pasts next door” and related stories. Read the full announcement here.

About the Center for Mason Legacies: CML is an interdisciplinary and collaborative research center established by the University Libraries and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. CML’s mission is to preserve and examine the legacy of George Mason IV (1725-1792), his ancestors and heirs, and the people he enslaved. Learn more about the center here and their various research projects here.

FRAME II awarded $1,175,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

“Federated Repositories of Accessible Materials for Higher Education II” awarded a $1,175,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

By law, any material required for the education of a disabled student must be made accessible for them in a timely manner. In the United States, the legal obligation to provide accessible learning materials falls on individual educational institutions, and universities and colleges across the country are scrambling to meet their responsibilities to students with special information-access needs. The staff of disability services offices (DSOs) spend a great deal of time and effort remediating printed texts, transforming them into a variety of electronic formats to improve access for students with print disabilities. Because many of the same texts are commonly assigned at multiple institutions, the result is a wasteful duplication of effort as the DSO staff at each independent university must start the remediation work over again.

For the last two years, the University of Virginia Library has led a multi-institutional project to address this problem. With a two-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, University Librarian John Unsworth initiated an effort to create a web-based infrastructure allowing DSOs to share remediated texts, in order to reduce their nationwide duplication of effort, and thereby make it possible for the staff in these offices to achieve better outcomes for students in higher education.

That collective effort, known as “FRAME,” will now continue for another two years and expand to include new partners, thanks to a grant of $1,175,000 from The Mellon Foundation for a second phase dubbed “Federated Repositories of Accessible Materials for Higher Education II.” Representatives of the DSO and library staff at Ohio State University will join their counterparts from George Mason University, Northern Arizona University, Texas A&M University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Virginia, along with a development and project management team based at the UVA Library. Much of the group’s work will concentrate on expanding and improving EMMA (Educational Materials Made Accessible), a membership-based secure repository for remediated texts, and developing workflows wherein librarians and DSO staff will cooperate in uploading texts to the repository.

“For too long, most academic libraries have left accessibility to their colleagues in disability services, even though it is all about providing information resources for teaching and research. The FRAME project seeks to establish a partnership between libraries and disability service offices, to ensure that remediated content is preserved, organized, and made discoverable for re-use, reducing the duplication of staff effort in order to improve service to students (and faculty) with disabilities,” states Unsworth, who is continuing his role as principal investigator from the first FRAME grant.

Also continuing to support the project will be three major digital repositories: Bookshare, HathiTrust, and the Internet Archive. Through a federated search interface, these repositories provide EMMA users with texts that have already been remediated for users with print disabilities or that are machine-readable and suitable for further remediation by DSO staff — a big advantage over having to scan a printed book. Benetech, the parent company of Bookshare, supplied much of the search infrastructure for EMMA in the first phase of the FRAME project and has committed in the second phase to sharing certain cutting-edge technologies to automate parts of the labor-intensive remediation process. In the second year of FRAME II, an additional repository will join the collaboration: the Accessible Content e-Portal sponsored by the Ontario Council of University Libraries.

Another important element of the project is the cooperation of the university presses affiliated with six of the participating universities: George Mason, Illinois, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Virginia, and Wisconsin. As publishers of texts that might be used in higher education, the presses have all committed to contributing machine-readable versions of their publications to EMMA or one of its federated repositories.

John Unsworth is joined by FRAME II co-principal investigator J. Stephen Downie, Associate Dean for Research at the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences. Professor Downie will lead a new educational initiative, developing curricular materials for professional education in library schools. The materials created by Downie and a team of expert collaborators will train library and information professionals in the information needs of students, faculty, and other library users with disabilities. Professor Downie states, “It is truly inspiring to be working with all the project partners at Illinois, Virginia and beyond to realize the promise of the FRAME II vision.”

Read more about the project’s beginnings in 2019 and Mason’s involvement.

Invitation to Mason faculty to join the conversation on Sustainable Scholarship

Virginia’s seven public academic research libraries (George Mason University, along with University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, College of William and Mary, James Madison University, and Old Dominion University) will soon be at the contract negotiating table with Elsevier, the largest STEM scholarly publisher, in an effort to reduce our shared access costs to the Freedom Collection, Elsevier’s flagship academic journal bundle.

Our shared Elsevier contract represents a collective yearly expenditure of $10 million and is scheduled to expire on January 1, 2022, with five percent inflation in the final year of the contract. In light of substantial budget cuts and ongoing fiscal uncertainty – as well as the unsustainable models favored by large publishing conglomerates who control access to academic journals – Virginia universities are considering our next steps for both cost reductions and future sustainability.

In preparation for these negotiations, we are implementing UnSub, an analysis tool that will help us make sound, data- informed decisions about the value of the Elsevier Freedom Collection and our other journal packages. The data we collect, along with additional information about sustainable journal collections, will be made available to the university community on our website throughout the fall. For an example of one large university system’s effective use of UnSub, see this recent Science magazine article.

We know that any changes to the way we share and access information affects our entire academic community. Our faculty are key partners in making any necessary changes, and we welcome your input. If a successful outcome is not reached through negotiations, we – and our partner universities – will continue our common commitment to delivering the resources students and faculty need to do their research and academic work.

We invite you to attend the upcoming Sustainable Scholarship Virtual Forum on Friday, October 2 at 9:30 a.m., where VRL members will share information about the group’s collective priorities concerning equity, accessibility, and the costs of bundled scholarly journal packages.

We have collated some resources about sustainable collections and journal pricing on our Sustainable Collections site. We hope you will find this information, particularly the “Six Things Faculty Need to Know”, helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have additional questions.

Samuel Clowes Huneke and Andrea Weeks Named 2020-21 Fenwick Fellows

Dean of Libraries and University Librarian John G. Zenelis is pleased to announce the annual Fenwick Fellow award recipients for 2020-21: Samuel Clowes Huneke, Assistant Professor, Department of History and Art History, and Andrea Weeks, Associate Professor, Department of Biology.

Professor Huneke’s research proposal, Visualizing Authoritarianism, is a three-part project concentrated on examining the East German regime’s visual propaganda and how it changed over time, through examination of the East German poster collection held by the Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). Professor Huneke will collaborate with both SCRC and the Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Center (DiSC) to accomplish his project goals: 1) migrating existing collection metadata into an Omeka S site (with the assistance of graduate research assistants); 2) conducting a qualitative assessment of the posters in the collection to augment the existing metadata and to create more nuanced descriptions of the posters; and 3) publishing a journal article of research findings and digitizing a sampling of the posters for inclusion with a digital exhibit.

Professor Weeks’ research proposal, The Extended Specimen Project, seeks to explore the extended specimen concept in relation to the curation of natural history collections using the methods of digital scholarship by focusing on an orphaned research collection recently acquired the University Herbarium. The collection, amassed over 40 years by a professor at Virginia’s Lord Fairfax Community College, contains 20,000 herbarium specimens and 18 collection notebooks of significant historical and scientific value for understanding the flora of Virginia and its exploration in the late 20th century. Professor Weeks’ project has two main goals: 1) creating a digital resource of the notebooks (which will be accessioned within the Libraries) and 2) cross-linking the digital images of the notebook entries with the growing database of herbarium specimens, with the assistance of DiSC. Professor Weeks’ also intends to publish and present on her findings.

Zenelis commented, “It is a delight each year to see Mason faculty’s creative proposals to use, build upon, and expand the Libraries’ collections. I am pleased to support the review committee’s endorsement of Professor Huneke’s and Professor Weeks’ projects, with their mix of archival and digital exploration. We look forward to the results of their research projects.”

Professors Huneke and Weeks will present on the outcomes of their projects in spring of 2022 at the annual Fenwick Fellow Lecture hosted by the University Libraries.

About the Fenwick Fellowship: The Fenwick Fellowship is awarded annually to one or two Mason tenured, tenure-track, or multi-year appointment term faculty members to pursue a research project that uses and enhances the University Libraries’ resources while advancing knowledge in their fields. The winning proposals are recommended to the Dean of Libraries and University Librarian by a six-member selection committee including three instructional faculty members and three librarians, with one of the Associate University Librarians serving as administrative coordinator. The recipients are provided with a fully equipped and furnished research office in Fenwick Library and an award of $5,000 to support the recipient’s research project. The term for the fellowship is one academic year.