CLIR/Library of Congress Fellowship

As part of its Mellon Fellowship program, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) offers a fellowship award to support original source dissertation research in the humanities or related social sciences at the Preservation Research and Testing Division of the Preservation Directorate at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The fellowship is offered as part of CLIR’s long-established Mellon Fellowship program and is generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

About the Fellowship

The Library of Congress has an array of new technologies and tools that can reveal hidden information on original sources and permit a more rigorous approach to scholarly questions concerning influence, provenance, intent, and object construction. CLIR seeks proposals from applicants whose dissertation projects would benefit from using these tools to examine the unique historical objects – books, maps, manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings, drawings, etc. – available at the Library of Congress.

The fellow will work on-site with the professional staff in the Preservation Research and Testing Division (PRTD). A mentor from the Division will work closely with the fellow, as well as the fellow’s dissertation advisor(s) and other professors at the fellow’s home institution, to ensure the fellow receives the training and support necessary to successfully complete the full year of research. PRTD staff will act as a liaison with special collection curators to ensure the fellow has access to a range of expertise and knowledge that supports their area of study. No prior technical experience or scientific background is required to apply for this fellowship.

How To Apply

To access the application guidelines, including a link to the online application form, click here >>.

  • Applications, including reference letters, are due by 5:00 pm Eastern time on Monday, December 4, 2017.
  • Note that applicants interested in the Library of Congress fellowship opportunity are required to submit an additional essay as part of their research proposal.
  • Applicants requesting consideration of their proposal for the Library of Congress-specific fellowship will automatically also be considered for a regular CLIR Mellon dissertation fellowship.

Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility requirements are the same as those for the overall fellowship program, with the  additional requirement that the applicant must also plan to do dissertation research with original source material at the Library of Congress for a period of 9-12 months.

Fellowship Tenure and Conditions

The fellowship tenure and conditions are generally the same as those for the overall fellowship program.

In addition to the fellowship’s $2,000 monthly fellowship stipend, the CLIR/Library of Congress Mellon dissertation fellow will be granted an additional $500 per month to support living expenses in Washington, D.C. Thus the maximum award for 2018 will be $31,000.


If you have questions regarding the fellowship application process, click here to contact CLIR. For questions regarding the Library of Congress and the Preservation Directorate, please click here to contact Dr. Fenella France, Chief of the Library’s Preservation Research and Testing Division.

The information below is related specifically to the CLIR/Library of Congress Mellon fellowship. For general questions about the program, see the Questions section on the program’s main For Applicants page.

  1. What new technologies and equipment might I work with during my fellowship at The Library of Congress?
    The Preservation Research and Testing Division use a range of technologies and methods of analysis to furnish new information useful to researchers investigating original sources.
  • hyperspectral imaging (HSI) system enables non-invasive recovery of obscured and degraded text, and unique identifiers such as fingerprints, as well as spectral analysis of pigments, inks, substrates, treatments and other conditions to reveal the history of technology, manufacture and use of original source materials.
  • An environmental scanning electron microscope (E-SEM) and an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer allow non-destructive or direct examination of collection and similar materials, enabling identification of inorganic pigments and colorants and new interpretations of the materials, treatments and changes effected by environmental conditions. The Library’s handheld XRF analyzer can be taken out of the lab and directly into collection storage areas to allow analysis in-situ. This can provide information about elements present in materials that can link them to specific regions, or time periods.
  • Raman and other spectroscopies enable identification of pigments and other colorants used in original sources and can help date/provenance the document or object to a specific time period.
  • The Library is also currently developing a handheld Fourier transform infrared spectroscope (FT-IR) to allow in-situ identification and assessment of magnetic tape and other modern storage media.
  • Gas chromatograph mass spectrometers (GC-MS) allow detection of minute quantities of organic compounds, enabling identification of modern and aged cultural heritage objects.
  • State-of-the-art environmental chambers, including a Weatherometer, allow accelerated and natural aging studies to forensically determine the nature and history of original source materials.
  • Finally, a specially designed scanning system, unique to the Library, can enable researches to capture sound from obsolete or damaged analog audio formats.

All these tools can enable a researcher to formulate new interpretations of geographical and cultural origin of materials; their period of manufacture, associated use, history and technology (such as possible source or trade routes for materials), identification of relevant time period of pigments and colorants; and, sometimes, the state of mind of the originators of original source materials.

  1. Is there original source material at the Library of Congress that is relevant to my dissertation research?

There are 160 million items in the Library of Congress, including international collections of original source material. Search the catalog to see if there are original sources related to your research.

  1. Where can I find more information about the work being done at the Library of Congress?
    You’ll find the website of the Library of Congress here, and their blog here. You may also wish to review the following articles and presentations regarding some of the available technologies and current initiatives at the Library of Congress: