Chazen Museum of Art and UW–Madison Libraries receive major grant from Mellon Foundation

February 17, 2020

Funds will support efforts to enhance discovery, digitize and preserve the Chazen’s archives

The University of Wisconsin–Madison has been awarded a $500,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the “Coordinating Cultural Heritage Collections at UW–Madison” project. UW–Madison has pledged an additional $317,000 toward the project. This three-year project will support the expansion of current UW–Madison Libraries digital collection initiatives. The Chazen Museum of Art will serve as a pilot organization for the development of tools for collecting, preserving and sharing digital assets. When completed, the project will allow students, faculty and staff to access the Chazen’s art and digital archive collections from one online system. In the future, the systems developed via the project will be available to other collections across campus.

Art museums and libraries within the same college or university typically operate within different organizational structures and separate archiving systems. However, changes in research and teaching are creating faculty and student demand for access to collections that require museums and libraries to collaborate and share resources in new and imaginative ways.

UW–Madison Libraries have invested in a robust digital collection infrastructure, with a goal to partner with campus IT in the development and implementation of a campus-level preservation service, the design of which is already underway. The grant will enable UW–Madison Libraries to expand their platform in support of cultural organizations – like the Chazen Museum of Art – and other collections across the UW–Madison campus.

“As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we are excited to take a great leap forward in terms of the preservation and searchability of our archives,” said Amy Gilman, director of the Chazen. “Thanks to the support of The Mellon Foundation, and together with our partners in Libraries and IT, we will create a structure and process for our peers, solving a campus-wide problem by increasing the accessibility, searchability and preservation of collections in departments from geology to communications to fine art.”

“The UW–Madison Libraries look forward to this opportunity to collaborate with our partners at the Chazen Museum of Art,” said Lisa Carter, vice provost for Libraries. “This grant ensures we can build on the expertise developed by the Libraries in digital collections management to help improve access to the Chazen’s holdings. Through this collaborative effort, we will enhance the discovery of UW’s distinctive collections and expand the amount of local resources available for research, teaching and learning. This project will also suggest strategies for improving access to similar digital or digitized collections across campus.”

The project will expand and enhance discovery, digital collections management, and digital preservation applications already in use or under development by UW–Madison Libraries. In discovery the project will create a distinctive search experience for the Chazen digital collections as well as integrate those collections into the broader search context for University of Wisconsin Digital Collections. By supporting the Chazen’s digital collections within the Libraries’ digital collections management infrastructure and digital preservation platform, the project will scale the Libraries’s technical capabilities to support the Chazen and establish a model for further scaling these capabilities to support other cultural heritage organizations on campus.

The grant will support four new full-time positions and two graduate project assistants, who will work together to engage these technologies in the effort to preserve and digitize the Chazen’s archive.

UW­­­–Madison shares the Mellon Foundation’s commitment to advancing museum-library collaborations through freely available, scalable solutions. Through this project, The Libraries will build on recent work to develop a Digital Preservation Service that includes a full, scalable Digital Preservation Management Platform and associated digital preservation management practices for the Chazen, which will then become available to departments across the UW–Madison campus.


The Chazen Museum of Art makes its home between two lakes on the beautiful campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Within walking distance of the state capitol, it sits squarely in the heart of a vibrant college town. Featuring one of the best views on campus, an art-filled bridge connects the historic Elvehjem building, built in 1970, with the Chazen building, built in 2011. This connection represents both a physical and intellectual joining of human art history and the most dynamic artistic explorers of today.

With a permanent collection of more than 23,000 objects, from vessels of ancient Greece to prints by Kara Walker, the Chazen is the second largest museum in Wisconsin. Two expansive buildings encompass 163,000+ square feet, making it the largest collecting museum in the Big Ten. More than 100,000 visitors come through the Chazen’s doors each year to enjoy the permanent collection and special exhibitions. The Chazen is the most-open museum among its peers, with open hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Admission is free for all and includes programs for students, families and community members, all provided with the museum’s unique brand of Wisconsin hospitality.

More information, including the schedule of visiting exhibitions and events, can be found at

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For 169 years, the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus has been a catalyst for the extraordinary. As a public land-grant university and prolific research institution, the students, staff, and faculty members at UW-Madison partake in world-class education and solve real-world problems. With the Wisconsin Idea as our guiding principle, we’re not only changing the 936 acres we call home—Badgers are also creating a better future for Wisconsin, the national, and the world.

The UW–Madison Libraries are an incredible aggregation of resources, services, learning spaces, and extensive staff expertise. The UW–Madison Libraries together make up Wisconsin’s world class public research university library system, offering convenient access to print materials; e-books, databases, multi-platform access to thousands of electronic journals 24/7, and article and book delivery from libraries around the world. Special collections as well as locally created digital resources support the teaching, research, and learning mission of UW–Madison. The UW–Madison Libraries are an essential partner to advancing the Wisconsin Idea, and engaging in local, state, national, and global collaborations and initiatives.