NEH Awards Falvey Memorial Library and partner institutions $348,630 Grant to Support Ongoing Dime Novel Digitization Project
By Shawn Proctor
Falvey Memorial Library has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant for $348,630 in order to continue digitizing out-of-print dime novels and papers. The grant will be shared between Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library, and four partner universities: Northern Illinois University, Stanford University, Oberlin College and Conservatory, and Bowling Green State University.
Dime novels, which were published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries before the rise of pulp magazines, provided popular reading materials for a wide audience who often could not afford hardback books. They remained popular until around 1915. Falvey Memorial Library has a growing collection of print dime novels, and its staff has worked to preserve and make public these historical documents through digitization.
Falvey’s dime novel collection, which was inspired by the rediscovery of turn-of-the-century books in the dusty depths of the Library’s basement, led to Falvey being awarded a Council on Library Information Resources grant in 2017. The Library continues to be a recognized curator of these culturally significant texts, and this newest grant will support digitizing titles published by Street and Smith, a prolific dime novel publisher which made its mark on the field through offerings like long-running story paper The New York Weekly and Tip Top Weekly. As the market for dime novels dwindled, Street and Smith absorbed most of its competitors and reprinted many of their earlier releases.
“We have been approaching digitization projects one publisher at a time since it helps keep the scope to a manageable size. Having finished Beadle and Adams, which launched the dime novel boom, we’re now looking to represent the end of the era through the lens of Street and Smith,” says Demian Katz, Director of Library Technologies, who worked on the grant proposal.
“Dime novels provide an important glimpse into the evolution of popular culture and for-profit entertainment, as well as the popular attitudes and high-profile events of their day. By digitizing these books and making them available to historical researchers and popular culture enthusiasts, we are opening a time capsule that can fuel new and exciting research,” adds Michael Foight, Director of Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement.
About the Library: Falvey Memorial Library supports research, teaching, and learning at Villanova University while advancing global scholarship and the common good in collaboration with our community and partners. In pursuit of this mission we enable discovery of, access to, and stewardship of a vast array of scholarly resources; cultivate and share a broad range of staff knowledge and expertise; provide exceptional spaces for study, reflection, learning, knowledge creation, and academic collaboration; generate engaging educational and cultural programming; preserve the University’s history and intellectual contributions; and foster a welcoming and inclusive environment.
Shawn Proctor, MFA, is communications and marketing program manager at Falvey Memorial Library.