Flowerings Project at JMU

Furious Flower logoThe Flowerings Project: a Library in Transformation

…is a generous $150,000 planning grant to James Madison University (the Furious Flower Poetry Center and JMU Libraries) from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This grant is enabling the development of a partnership model for digital library support of a living center for Black poetry. (See our full Press Release).

Principal investigators are Dr. Joanne Gabbin and Dr. Bethany Nowviskie. Due to the impact of the pandemic, our grant period has been extended through the 2021 calendar year.

Our initial proposal to the Mellon Foundation outlined nine Key Areas of inquiry. These are being explored and refined, and new goals are emerging as part of the planning grant process. Our deliverable is an open access publication outlining the partners’ goals, process, experience and preliminary outcomes, not just for the benefit of JMU but also for other university libraries, digital humanities centers and campus educational technology providers who wish to partner more authentically and equitably with collaborating organizations and communities.

We are grateful to our partners SHIFT Collective (Bergis Jules, Lynette Johnson, and Jon Voss), who have been consulting with us, conducting stakeholder group interviews, and planning a key retreat event.

We are also grateful for the counsel and support of our Flowerings Projet Advisory Committee:


Mellon Award #: 1909-07155

“Innovating the Archives”

Screenshot of Furious Flower prototype website

Screenshot of the Furious Flower Archive prototype website

A touchstone for this grant came in the Spring of 2019, when—in partnership with JMU’s interdisciplinary X-Labs and faculty from the College of Arts and Letters, College of Education, and College of Visual and Performing Arts—Furious Flower and the JMU Libraries supported a student curricular project to design a Furious Flower “digital archive.”

Drawing on faculty and staff expertise from across the institution, digital library systems and resources, and (most especially) the extensive and unique audiovisual and paper-based collections developed and stewarded through the partnership between Furious Flower and JMU Libraries Special Collections, thirty-three undergraduate students and six course instructors spent a semester building a prototype website that could inspire future interfaces to these precious cultural and educational materials.

At a 25th anniversary celebration held for Furious Flower at the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture, JMU faculty and students presented movingly on their learning journey in the “Innovating the Archives” course.