Investing in distributed capacity-building for continuous growth

The Maine Memory Network, referred to as “Maine’s Statewide Digital Museum,” created by the Maine Historical Society, provides a shared space for cultural institutions throughout the state to scan and host images, documents, and artifacts from their collections. By initially framing the project as a partnership and investing in concentrated outreach and training, the program has succeeded in bringing in over 270 partners from across the state, from the Maine State Archives, to Colby College, to Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ. Maintaining the growth of the Network is labor intensive, but capacity-building among partner institutions of all sizes was both a necessary requirement for building the Network and an important outcome. With clear signs of impact from at least some of the partners, the project has been funded by federal and private grants, through several stages, for over a decade. The outreach and partnership strategy, in place since MMN’s earliest days, is now considered a model other states and organizations seek to emulate.

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.