I have always been fascinated by the fact that history is everywhere and I love being surprised by what we can learn from archives. Our work with fraternities and sororities is a great example of this. While many assume that these histories will only be of interest to the organizations or their members, there is much in their archives that provides historical insight more generally.
Because of this fact, many fraternities and sororities may be eligible for Foundation grants that enable them to create digital museums that communicate their organization’s history and impact. We recently worked with our friends at Fraternal Law Partners to develop this handy reference sheet with more specific information about qualifying for grants.
When considering what a Foundation can fund for a history project, there is one primary overarching question:
Does the archived material place the fraternity or sorority into a broader context?
“Broader context” can mean a number of things. It could refer to Greek organizations as a whole, higher education, the Civil Rights Movement, women’s rights and much more.
If the answer to the above question is yes, then your organization is very likely eligible for a Foundation grant that could help fund activities associated with archived material. Such activities include the ownership, custody, maintenance, curation, digital preservation and display of archived materials, in such a way that they further the Foundation’s educational purposes.
It is important to note that, in order to be eligible for Foundation funding, the online access to archived materials must be available to the general public, not limited solely to members of the fraternity or sorority. As a general rule, Greek-letter digital museums created by HistoryIT meet this criterion.
Examples of Fundable Archived Material
- Greek letter societies & higher education
Most historical documents and items of a fraternity or sorority place them in the larger context of Greek letter societies and higher education. My recent blog post on Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) provides a few examples.
- History of women or men
Many historical documents and items in chapter archives connect to a social history of women or men, such as how the fraternity or sorority experience shaped and defined their individual role in society. These archival materials can often also speak to the way in which women’s and men’s roles in society have changed over the last century.
For example, Electa Whipple, an Alpha Phi alumnae, became a physician in 1884, when women comprised only 4% of that profession. She established her own practice and advocated for more women to join the field. The organization’s archive and digital museum contains Electa’s story, as well as those of many other pioneering women. Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Levere Memorial Temple is another great illustration of fraternal materials sharing a broader story. The temple’s namesake, Billy Levere, championed its construction to honor members who served and died in WWI. SAE’s digital museum includes some rich military history.
- Scholastic achievement & leadership ability
Educational trends, public service and philanthropy are pervasive themes in almost all Greek-letter archives. Quarterly magazines describe programs and projects throughout the decades. Digital museums often contain biographical profiles of outstanding members and the impactful work that they did in their field.
How HistoryIT Can Help
Fraternities and sororities constitute about 20% of our clientele, so we have extensive experience helping Greek organizations create interactive digital museums that showcase their history and place that history in a broader context.
As I often say to potential partners, the digital preservation of history affords your organization the chance to be transparent, to respond honestly to questions and to effect change in order to shape a path forward. As I discussed in my blog on how to talk about difficult history, a digital archive empowers you to activate your history. The capability of addressing these topics and visually connecting your organization’s history to contemporary events are what HistoryIT is here to help with and what Foundations are interested in funding.