Poetry Center Announces $135,000 Mellon Foundation Grant to Caption Audiovisual Archive Voca

November 16th, 2021

The University of Arizona Poetry Center, part of the College of Humanities, is thrilled to announce a $135,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the largest grant dedicated to library collections in the Poetry Center’s 60-year history. Through its Public Knowledge program, the Mellon Foundation supports projects that create, preserve, and provide equitable access to the cultural record, and the Poetry Center’s grant will be used to create captions for the entire historical collection of recordings on Voca, the Center’s audiovisual archive. This project will greatly increase the accessibility, usability and searchability of the recordings housed on Voca.

Voca features 1000+ recordings from the Center's long-running Reading & Lecture Series and other readings presented under the auspices of the Center. The earliest of these recordings is a Robert Creeley reading from 1963. Voca's archive is growing, constantly adding the latest recordings from the Center's ongoing reading series, along with newly digitized content from our rich six decades (and counting) of history.

With the support of the Mellon Foundation for captioning services, the Poetry Center hopes to amplify diverse voices, make the archive accessible for users with disabilities, and make the archive more usable for general Web audiences and humanities scholars. The collection of poetry recordings the Poetry Center intends to caption reflects a continuously-expanding range of voices, including Indigenous, Black, AAPI, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, and other minoritized writers, as well as 4 Nobel Laureates, 28 U.S. Poets Laureate, 45 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 40 National Book Award winners.

Library Director Sarah Kortemeier explained the impact of the grant, saying, “I am thrilled to be able to undertake a comprehensive captioning program for Voca. By captioning the entire historical archive, as well as all new recordings going forward, the Poetry Center will help to set a new standard of web accessibility for literary archives. It is an urgent priority for the Poetry Center Library and an important step forward in our work toward greater equity of access to Library collections. I am deeply grateful to the Mellon Foundation for their partnership on this project and their commitment to justice-oriented projects like this one.”

After implementation, Voca will be the largest captioned digital poetry archive in the English language.  

Visit Voca at voca.arizona.edu and stay connected to the Poetry Center’s work on this project at poetry.arizona.edu.