University of Minnesota Puts African American History at Your Fingertips

February 13, 2017 11:52 AM

A new project at the University of Minnesota is making African American history more accessible.

It's called the "Umbra Search," and the purpose is straight forward: to help easily search documents spanning hundreds of years of African American history that has now been digitized.


Materials from libraries, historical societies and museums nationwide, including those at the university's library storage facility, are now easily searchable on the web. This includes photographs, sound recordings, videos, oral history, transcripts and letters to and from prominent African Americans.

Users can zoom in on the documents and download thumbnails to a computer or device. The U of M curator of this collection said Umbra Search is for everyone including students, educators, artists and anyone interested in history by visiting

"It brings together over 500,000 materials from all across the country, so this is a way to shine a spotlight on digitized materials that no researcher in their lifetime could actually go physically visit," Cecily Marcus, the Curator of the collection, said.

Materials in the search come from more than 1,000 libraries, archives and cultural heritage institutions from across the country. #Umbrasearch365 is a year long social media campaign to share black history every day of the year on Twitter @Umbrasearch. 

Other co-sponsoring events will take place throughout the year, including an open house at the Givens Collection of African American Literature, film screenings and book talks.


Lindsey Brown

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