April 14, 1999 Mellon Foundation Gives Library of Congress Grant To Digitize Hannah Arendt Papers

Contact: Helen W. Dalrymple, Library of Congress, (202) 707-1940 | Jerome Kohn, New School University, (212) 751-4746 | Richard Ekman, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, (212) 838-8400

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the Library of Congress a grant of $520,000 to support a two-year project to digitize the Library's extensive collection of the papers of Hannah Arendt, the noted political philosopher, author, and educator. The project is being administered by staff of the Manuscript Division at the Library in cooperation with the New School University in New York City.

Work on preparing the 67,000 pages for scanning and description began Feb. 1. The project will ultimately produce a digital version that will be available at the Library of Congress and the New School. Wider availability on the Internet will depend on copyright releases that the Library will attempt to secure for all of the items in the collection.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington accepted the grant with the observation that "Hannah Arendt's writings constitute a dynamic aspect of modern American intellectual life. They have attracted a wide array of scholars from many countries during the Library's quarter-century stewardship of the collection. This generous grant will enable more scholars to have much easier access to these important materials."

The New School, which has long been regarded as a principal center for the study of modern political thought and culture, initiated discussions with the Mellon Foundation that led to the grant for digitizing the Arendt papers. "Since her death in 1975," declared Professor Jerome Kohn of the New School, "the work of Hannah Arendt has increasingly become a major focus of scholarly research and general political interest. Thanks to the Mellon Foundation, the projected digitization of the papers she bequeathed to the Library of Congress will now make possible a greatly enhanced appreciation of the full range of her thought, both in this country and throughout the world."

Associate Librarian for Library Services Winston Tabb has encouraged the development of digital projects that involve cooperation with other research libraries, and he regarded the Arendt project as an integral part of the Library of Congress program to digitize its principal holdings. "As one of modern America's most illustrious immigrants," he noted, "Hannah Arendt reminds us of the substantial contributions we have received from lives and ideas launched in other countries but nourished in an American environment."

Born in Hanover, Germany, in 1906, as a young woman Arendt worked with a Zionist organization in Berlin and was arrested for her activities. She escaped to France in 1933, where she helped Jewish children from Eastern Europe make their way to Palestine. At the time of the fall of France, she was interned in a French detention camp at Gurs, from which she managed to flee. After meeting up with her husband, Heinrich Blucher, the couple escaped to the United States in 1941. Arendt taught at Princeton, Columbia, and Northwestern universities, the University of Chicago, and the New School. Among her best-known publications are The Origins of Totalitarianism; The Human Condition; and Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, a commentary on the trial and conviction of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi who was prominent in the Holocaust execution of Central European Jews. Arendt became a United States citizen in 1951 and died in New York in 1975. She continued her efforts on behalf of worldwide Jewry and was a popular lecturer and author concerning the motivations for state- sponsored persecution, individual violence, and national and international conflict.

Arendt gave her papers to the Library of Congress in 1965, when they began to arrive in installments. The bulk of the collection was given by Arendt as a bequest in 1974. The papers, comprising some 28,000 items, include extensive correspondence with leading literary and political figures of the mid-20th century and drafts of her writings and lectures. They have been consulted by numerous researchers in the past, and it is hoped that the digitized version will extend their availability to a wider audience and at the same time preserve the fragile original manuscripts from further deterioration caused by repeated handling.


PR 99-017
ISSN 0731-3527