Avery Research Center | Mellon Grant - College of Charleston Libraries

January 23, 2023
Spotlight, Avery Research Center

The Mellon Foundation has awarded the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture a $2 million grant to support the collection and preservation of the South Carolina Lowcountry’s social and cultural history.

“This grant is a true difference maker for the College’s Avery Research Center and our entire campus,” says Andrew T. Hsu, president of the College of Charleston. “The Mellon Foundation has an incredibly strong legacy of helping to build just communities, with their significant investments to enhance a dialogue of ideas and bolster imaginations. I am excited to see how this grant will accelerate and expand the important work of the Avery Research Center’s staff as well as its immediate impact on our greater community in Charleston.”

The funding, says Tamara T. Butler, executive director of the Avery Research Center, will allow the Avery Research Center to explore and share new and rich cultural histories.

“This grant emphasizes our commitment to preserving and promoting the Avery Research Center’s histories. We are overjoyed about the opportunity to tell stories about our 160-year-old evolution,” says Butler. “I am grateful for this team of phenomenal scholars. This grant is only possible because of dynamic faculty, supportive leadership and committed staff.”

Funding will allow the Avery Research Center to broaden the reach of their archival collections through training/professional development and community outreach.

Outcomes of the four-year project will include, but are not limited to:

  • Processing, describing and digitizing of selected historic manuscript and audiovisual collections from the Avery Research Center for public use
  • Increased community engagement in the Avery Research Center’s archives and programming
  • Creating accessible and creative interpretations of the Avery Research Center’s histories at the intersections of art, public history and archives/museum studies

“Receiving this grant is significant as it denotes that the Mellon Foundation sees the value in preserving and promoting the histories of African American education in the Lowcountry,” says Aaisha Haykal, Avery Research Center’s manager of archival services. “Providing access to currently unprocessed collections will help scholars, artists and educators explore the histories of spaces and places Black communities have used for a liberatory education. Furthermore, this grant will provide training opportunities for new professionals to gain experience in the cultural heritage profession.”

“I am enthusiastic about increasing our staff and the caliber of our work at the Avery Research Center,” adds Erica Veal, Avery Research Center’s research archivist and interpretation coordinator. “The Mellon Foundation grant will allow us to hire several full-time archivists, a public historian/curator, an education coordinator and multiple artists. With the Mellon Foundation’s support, we will not only process a backlog of collections to make them accessible to researchers, but also create innovative educational tools centered on the newly available collections, publish new editions of the South Carolina Black History Bugle, curate exhibitions and offer new community programming.”

And elevating and expanding this history will have far reaching impacts well past the Avery Research Center’s grounds.

“The Avery Research Center is an integral institution for the College and for Charleston, with the impact of their faculty and staff’s work extending far beyond the historic building at 125 Bull Street,” says Suzanne Austin, executive vice president and provost of the College of Charleston. “We are grateful for the Mellon Foundation’s generous support and to have them as partners as the Avery Research Center continues to enhance our community of learners and the public.”


The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture collects, preserves and promotes the unique history and culture of the African diaspora, with an emphasis on Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry. Through our programming, exhibitions and archival instruction we seek to help communities understand the power of history to transform and imagine futures.


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence and freedom that can be found there. Through its grants, the foundation seeks to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.

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