Cultivating a targeted user group for support and content

Few archives come with a built-in fan base. The Grateful Dead Archive Online is distinguished from many other academic special collections by the variety of media it holds, from concert tickets to audio files and art created by fans of the band, and by its potential audience, the many thousands of fans of the Grateful Dead. Support for the Archive has come from grant funding, private donors, and from this fan base, which poses one of the project’s fascinating opportunities and challenges. How can the GDAO benefit from the enormous potential audience of devoted fans, and from the material they could contribute, while still remaining true to its academic home at the University Library of the University of California at Santa Cruz?

This case study is one of eight conducted as part of an IMLS-funded project in collaboration with the Association of Research Libraries. The final report, Searching for Sustainability: Strategies from Eight Digitized Special Collections, offers findings drawn from all eight cases, highlighting the ways in which libraries and cultural heritage organizations have undertaken to move their special collections into the 21st century through digitization and ongoing investments to ensure the collections remain valuable to users over time.