Judaic Studies

Brown Judaic Studies monograph series awarded Humanities Open Book Program grant

With support from a new grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, scholars from Brown University’s Judaic Studies program are set to begin digitizing much of the groundbreaking scholarship they have published in-house.

The University has been awarded a joint Mellon Foundation and NEH grant to digitize 50 print volumes of Brown Judaic Studies (BJS), a peer-reviewed book series directed by the faculty of Brown’s Judaic Studies program and one of the oldest publishers of its kind in the U.S. The funds will enable Judaic studies faculty and staff to convert 50 of its print volumes to digital formats, making the material publicly and freely accessible on multiple web platforms.

The Humanities Open Book Program grant is awarded to projects that will digitize humanities texts that enhance public knowledge of American and European history. Michael Satlow, a professor of Judaic and religious studies and managing editor of BJS, said the $172,000 grant will boost global access to some of the enduring, high-quality Jewish scholarship that has been published at Brown, inviting new advances in the field.

Satlow said the BJS monograph has made important contributions to international Judaic research since its founding in 1978. In its early years, BJS published texts by distinguished Judaic scholars — including Dead Sea Scrolls expert Lawrence Schiffman and two-time National Jewish Book Award winner Elliot Wolfson — when few publishers would consider printing research in the then-nascent field. Forty years and nearly 400 titles later, BJS books are routinely reviewed in leading journals and regularly cited by scholars, even decades after their publication, Satlow added.

“Many of the volumes that we have chosen to digitize are foundational within the field of Jewish studies,” he said. “Due to small print runs and high prices, they are now found in only in a handful of research libraries. We are very excited that we will now have the ability to allow open and free access to the important ideas within these books, spreading their reach and enhancing Jewish studies throughout the world.”

Satlow said the grant will enable BJS to hire a project manager, convert its print materials to e-book and searchable PDF file formats, and distribute the volumes through Brown Library’s digital repository, the Judaic studies website, Amazon, and several academic digital libraries, including JSTOR and Project MUSE. Satlow said the project would take a year to complete.

The digitization of the BJS volumes, most of which are currently out of print, is part of a University effort to make humanities research more accessible to academics around the world. Brown’s digital scholarship initiative, which launched in 2015 with a $1.3 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, has sought to digitally preserve and disseminate centuries-old texts and other previously unavailable scholarly resources in the humanities.

“Brown, with the support of the Mellon Foundation, is at the forefront of exploring the best and most sustainable ways of advancing digital, and freely available, scholarly publication,” Satlow said. “This Humanities Open Book grant will allow us to develop best practices for open access and better understand its impact.”

This article appeared in "News from Brown" on March 20, 2019.  Media contact: Jill Kimball   401-863-5450