GDDF announces 12 collections projects to be funded by “BROADENING NARRATIVES” grant initiative to illuminate underrepresented stories

Grants total $755,500 to 12 collecting organizations and five advisory groups in Chicago and the Lowcountry of South Carolina

Grant recipients will receive a range of $10,000 to $150,000 to fund new projects


CHICAGO [January 11, 2023]—The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (the Foundation)—which supports land conservation, artistic vitality, and regional collections for the people of the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and the Chicago metro area—is proud to announce the 12 recipients of the Foundation’s groundbreaking “Broadening Narratives” initiative, which aims to fund specific collections projects that bring forward underrepresented stories.

This announcement represents the third and fourth rounds of organizations to receive the Broadening Narratives grant. The projects collectively illustrate BIPOC communities, LGBTQ+ perspectives, working-class narratives, small community experiences, as well as other underrepresented groups and viewpoints. The seven Chicago-based organizations are the Chicago Theological Seminary, Korean Cultural Center of Chicago, Museum of Science and Industry, National Indo-American Museum, The Newberry Library, Southeast Chicago Historical Museum, and Urban Juncture. The five Lowcountry-based organizations are Atlantic Beach, C. Williams Rush Museum of African-American Arts & Culture, College of Charleston, Open Space Institute, and South Carolina Humanities Council. Additionally, the Foundation renewed its $25,000 grants to each of the five Broadening Narratives advisory groups that assisted with the formation of the Broadening Narratives funding initiative and have continued to provide counsel: College of Charleston’s Lowcountry Digital Library, Southeastern Museums Conference, Black Metropolis Research Consortium, Chicago Collections Consortium, and the Chicago Cultural Alliance.

“We are thrilled to illuminate these important voices in collections work, who capture vital perspectives of historically underrepresented groups in their communities,” said David Farren, Executive Director of the Foundation. “This type of collections work taps into an unmet need in communities where recorded history has failed to capture diverse voices and narratives. These grantees fill in those critical gaps in our collective history and begin to shape a more whole and true story of Chicago and the Lowcountry.”

The Chicago-based organizations and projects to be funded by Broadening Narratives:

  • Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) is recording oral histories with key figures in Chicago’s civil rights work during the 1960s, focusing on the legacy of Dr. Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and his peers. The oral histories will be assembled as a podcast to educate and inspire the next generation of organizers in Chicago. “At CTS, we believe in the transforming power of stories, and especially first-person narratives from oft-neglected and underrepresented groups,” said Dr. Brad R. Braxton, President of CTS. “We are pleased to utilize these funds to tell an oral history of the life of CTS alumnus Rev. Jesse Jackson, one of the most consequential public leaders of the last sixty years, from those who know him best. We are preserving these compelling stories as leadership lessons for generations to come.”


  • Korean Cultural Center of Chicago (KCCoC) is documenting oral histories about the major influx of Korean Americans to Chicago after the passing of the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act. The project, including a short film, increases accessibility to the Korean community’s history and expands the KCCoC’s vital collection documenting Korean immigrant experiences. “The majority of first-generation Korean immigrants to Chicago are aging, and the need to document their experiences is increasingly critical. These pioneers paved the way for those who followed, and documenting their stories is vital as their history weaves the tapestry of what Korean American identity is today. The project will capture a broad swath of experiences to present a diverse and multi-generational representation of Korean Americans in Chicago,” says KCCoC Executive Director Kay Kihwa Rho.


  • Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is producing an exhibition in collaboration with Chicago-area steelworkers and community organizations, including the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR), Calumet Heritage Partnership (CHP), and the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum (SECHM), that documents the daily life in the steel mills of Chicago and places the local history in a broader context that celebrates its national impacts. These neighborhood narratives, including the stories of African Americans, Mexican immigrants, and women laborers, will be featured both online and onsite at MSI. The project connects to larger themes on the changing nature of work, the significance of laborers, and how industries can impact individual and community identity. “The steel industry is a vital part of Chicago’s history. MSI is thrilled to partner with the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, Calumet Heritage Partnership, and the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum to collaboratively tell the story of steelmaking in our city from the perspective of the steelworkers themselves. The voices of laborers are often underrepresented in science museums; we look forward to broadening the narrative with support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation,” says Kathleen McCarthy, Director of Collections, Museum of Science and Industry.


  • National Indo-American Museum’s (NIAM) Inviting New Voices project features oral histories and video interviews with Indian Americans from a range of socio-economic levels, LGBTQ groups, and under-represented professions, such as artists, musicians, gas station attendants, tailors, cab drivers, LGBTQ activists, and more. Their stories will provide a fuller, more complex picture of the immigrant experience and challenge the stereotypes often associated with the “model minority.” NIAM President Harpreet Taunque Datt says, “We are grateful to the support of Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, which enabled us to digitize the stories of our aging elders, the majority of whom came here as skilled workers after the 1965 change in immigration law. As they do not fully represent the diverse multi-lingual, unskilled, multi-religious groups of people who came here and found common ground with each other, breaking through centuries of separate, yet side by side living. This grant allows us to capture the extent of the diversity of the people from the Indian subcontinent, many of whom came prior to the country’s new borders in 1947.”


  • The Newberry Library is organizing Indigenous Chicago, a free exhibition that will be on view at the library from September to December 2024 and promote access to the institution’s unparalleled Indigenous studies collection. Working directly with partners from Native communities, Indigenous Chicago directly intervenes in how the Native history of Chicago is presented, documenting Chicago’s history as a place of convergence, diplomacy, and trade long before European settlement; the forced removal of Indigenous peoples from Chicago in the 19th century and its impact on the city; the relocation of Indigenous people to Chicago in the mid-20th century; the use and health of Chicago’s land and environment over time; the history of education of Indigenous youth; and Indigenous activism and political movements. “Chicago has always been an Indigenous place, and it is crucial that we reframe this area’s history in a way that centers the Native people and voices that have long been marginalized or rendered invisible ,” said Dr. Rose Miron, Director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry. “We are grateful to the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation for its support of this exhibition, which will prompt audiences to re-think the history of the Chicago region and engage in important conversations about both the dispossession of Native peoples from these lands and Native resilience in the face of these histories.”


  • Southeast Chicago Historical Museum (SECHM) serves as a repository for the donated materials of Latinx, Eastern European, and Black residents who historically lived and worked in this former steel mill region. The website based on these Museum materials is known as the Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project (SECASP) and includes mini-interactive documentaries or “storylines” on topics such as “Closing of the Mills” and “From Wetlands to Waste.” The latter focuses on the long history of industrial pollution in Southeast Chicago, which is also home to 90% of Chicago’s landfills, as well as postindustrial environmental activism led by Latina women residents. The project centers residents’ own perspectives by utilizing objects that residents found meaningful and chose to donate to SECHM as well as the stories they told about them. “The Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project (SECASP) uses objects saved by ordinary people and the stories they told about these objects to offer a different take on history, putting working-class communities at the center of their own historical accounts. With generous support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, we can broaden storylines about the social impact of the steel mill closings and the legacies of industrial pollution and contemporary environmental activism,” says Chris Walley, SECASP co-Director. Rod Sellers, co-Director SECASP, adds, “We must not forget the story of Chicago’s Southeast side, a community built on the backs of the steel industry for over a century. Steel mills attracted thousands of immigrants to come to Chicago’s Southeast Side, but when mills began shutting down, the community was severely impacted. How has this history affected the community at present? And what does the future hold for Chicago’s Southeast Side?”


  • Urban Juncture is building a storytelling archive that will connect people and catalyze action towards the goal of community development without displacement during a time when INVEST South/West and the Obama Presidential Library development is reshaping the built environment and local economy in Bronzeville and surrounding neighborhoods. Working with storytellers, scholars, archivists, civic leaders, and community members, Urban Juncture will collect stories about the historical devastation and loss created in Black neighborhoods by urban ‘renewal,’ to manifest a vibrant, equitable, and resilient future for the Bronzeville neighborhood without gentrification and displacement. “At the heart of the South Side of Chicago lives Bronzeville, a renaissance community rooted in Black culture and history,” said Tanikia Thompson-Carpenter, Project Manager of Storytelling. “However, Bronzeville is rapidly changing, and long-time residents are feeling the pressure of gentrification. Thanks to the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation grant, we will be able to preserve stories and engage our community to enhance development without displacement.”

The Lowcountry-based organizations and projects to be funded by Broadening Narratives:

  • Historic Atlantic Beach, South Carolina will showcase the untold story of its resilience as the only beachfront community in the country to have remained in the hands of African Americans since its founding in 1934. Building on a planning grant award from National Trust Historic Preservation, the funds will support the interpretation and preservation of South Carolina’s “Black Pearl” to share its history and secure a sustainable future. “Atlantic Beach’s history is still very much an oral history waiting to be preserved. The Broadening Narratives grant helps guarantee the ongoing oral history harvests from persons who were engaged in the early history of Atlantic Beach, which will be a part of a collection for others to see to make sure that we ‘Amplify the Story of The Pearl’ for generations to come,” said Jack Evans, Mayor of Atlantic Beach.


  • The C. Williams Rush Museum of African-American Arts & Culture will research the seldom recorded Negro, Colored, Black, and African American Schools of Williamsburg County, which were created during Reconstruction and continued through the Jim Crow era. This project will provide funds to identify and research the early Negro, Colored and Black Williamsburg County schools that were started after slavery, during Reconstruction, the Rosenwald Schools, through the Equalization schools of the 1950’s to current times. “If it is not documented, it never happened, and time is of the essence in researching and documenting the early Colored, Negro, and Black schools of Williamsburg County, SC. The Rush Museum is very appreciative of the Foundation for the support of these vital research efforts,” said Cassandra Rush, CEO and President of the C. Williams Rush Museum of African-American Arts & Culture.


  • The College of Charleston’s Lowcountry History Initiative will build much-needed collections management capacity in the historically underrepresented communities along the South Carolina coast, providing communities the resources to document their own history on their terms. The oral history recordings will remain under the control of the communities that create them, while the Library will provide a digital repository for greater public access enriching the historical record of a little-documented segment of the Lowcountry. “The College of Charleston Libraries are deeply committed to building an inclusive and participatory oral history platform for the Lowcountry Oral History Initiative (LOHI) where staff and partners can bring forward and provide access to underrepresented stories. LOHI is the platform and not the voice, and with support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, we will work to cultivate strong community partnerships that will outlast the grant and allow access to oral histories that would otherwise have been lost,” said Dr. John White, Dean of Libraries.


  • The Open Space Institute and The Nature Conservancy are working alongside the innovative Black River Tribal Interest Working Group to apply Indigenous knowledge and expertise to targeted public lands in South Carolina. In collaboration with the Gullah-Geechee community, botanists, and archeologists, the Tribal Interest Working Group will conduct an ethnobotany study to inventory culturally significant plants. The project will also ensure park access for Indigenous tribal members, support the reclamation of traditional Indigenous knowledge, inform management, and educate the public about the importance of these practices. The study will occur on four properties, including Rocky Point Community Forest and South Carolina’s newest state park — both of which are part of the Black River Initiative, a new, 70-mile-long riverine park network along South Carolina’s Black River. “With many thousands of years of history in the Black River corridor, South Carolina’s tribes have a story to tell about the past and have knowledge and values that can guide the future,” said Dr. Maria Whitehead, Vice President and Director of Land Southeast, Open Space Institute. “This effort is a small but meaningful step forward, and our partnership is thankful for the Foundation’s support in broadening the conservation community in our region.”


  • The South Carolina Humanities Council will share its traveling exhibit, Resilience and Revolution, which presents cultural and historical information from the perspective of the Native peoples of the 18th century, with five Native American communities in the Lowcountry. The exhibit provides insights into the multicultural world of the era and challenges and augments existing narratives of American history. Accompanying resources will support current descendants of Native peoples in their retention and preservation of their unique heritage. “The exhibition explores the struggles and resilience of Indigenous peoples in South Carolina to retain their independence through the upheavals, unrest, and uncertainty following the establishment of the Carolina colony by the British. The funding provided by the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation will enable exhibit display in direct descendant communities across the Lowcountry and will encourage collection and heritage preservation,” said Project Director Dr. Alice Taylor-Colbert.

About Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation, artistic vitality, and regional collections for the people of the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. GDDF awards $750,000 annually through the Broadening Narratives strategy. For more information, visit

Broadening Narratives provides support for capacity-building, projects, technical assistance, collaborations, networking/advocacy, and field building. In addition to the traditional repositories of museums and libraries, Broadening Narratives defines collections and collecting organizations expansively. Some organizations that hold community and cultural collections serve multiple functions. An organization is eligible to apply as long as collections are a significant part of their mission–though it need not be their primary mission–and they have resources dedicated to the ongoing care, management, and sharing of collections.

The Foundation also supports arts organizations in the following ways:

Supplying multiyear general operating support to all of its arts grantees.  Anecdotally, multiyear general operating support is the “gold standard” most valued by grantees. It supports organizational stability, provides flexibility, and helps build further trust in relationships between funders and grantees.

Providing value in addition to dollars. The Foundation’s strength is in the overall “value proposition” of its grants—the award dollars, plus technical assistance support, hosting convenings, providing informal coaching, and underwriting scholarships for conferences and other organizational development opportunities.

Establishing multiple touchpoints with grantees throughout the grant cycle. Every Foundation grantee, no matter the grant size, has contact with its program officer at least once a year, usually more often. Program staff attend cohort meetings, learning sessions, and informal gatherings with various grantee clusters.


Chicago Press Contact:
Katy O’Malley
The Silverman Group, Inc.

Lowcountry Press Contact:
Erin Spencer Sairam
Blue Ion

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