CLIR/Library of Congress Mellon Fellowship

Information for Applicants

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.

The deadline to submit an application was February 29, 2016, and CLIR congratulates this year’s fellowship recipient Elham Bakhtary. CLIR will begin accepting applications for the 2017-2018 fellowship in late 2016.

About the Fellowship

Important Documents
Application Form (.pdf)>>

Reference provider guidelines (.pdf)>>

Please note

CLIR does not accept application materials in paper form.

To read files in portable document format (PDF), users may wish to download the free Adobe Reader software.

New technologies and methods of analysis enable new interpretations of our unique books, maps, manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings, and drawings – the rich array of human expression – and also assist in preserving those sources. Technologies such as hyperspectral imaging, handheld x-ray fluorescence, Raman spectroscopy, X-Ray diffraction and environmental scanning electron and other high resolution microscopy use new forms of non-destructive testing to reveal hidden or obscured information on objects; shed new light on techniques of document and object construction; and permit a more rigorous approach to scholarly questions concerning influence, provenance and intent.

CLIR seeks proposals from applicants whose dissertation projects will benefit from the opportunity to examine original sources using the entire array of new technologies and equipment available at the Library of Congress. Applicants should explain how their research will reveal previously hidden content and properties of original sources, support new interpretations of those sources, and advance scholarship in their field. No prior technical experience or scientific background is required to apply for this fellowship.

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.


How To Apply

All application documents must be submitted in one email** to A complete application consists of:

  • a completed application form;
  • the Research Proposal;
  • a Qualifications essay;
  • transcripts for all graduate coursework taken to date; and
  • two (2) reference letters (see the reference provider guidelines).
    **Reference letters may be submitted with the other application documents or emailed directly to CLIR by the letter writer. Letters sent directly to CLIR by the letter writer will be held confidential and will not be shared with the applicant.

The application documents can be combined into one PDF document or attached to the submission as individual files, but (with the exception of the reference letters) must be sent together in one email message to

Eligibility Requirements

Who is eligible to apply?
To be eligible, an applicant will:

  • be enrolled in a doctoral program in a graduate school in the United States (master’s thesis research is not eligible), and have already received approval of the dissertation proposal
  • complete all doctoral requirements except the dissertation and be ready to start research for it no later than September 1, 2016
  • plan to do dissertation research with original source material at the Library of Congress for a period of 9-12 months
  • write the dissertation and receive the Ph.D. degree in a field of the humanities or in a related element of the social sciences (candidates for the Ed.D, J.D., or D.D. degrees are not eligible).

An applicant may be of any nationality but must be enrolled in a U.S. graduate school and be studying here, not on a campus abroad even if operated by a U.S. institution.

Proposed research must be conducted on-site at the Library of Congress for the entire duration of the fellowship.

Who is not eligible to apply?

  • Those who will be significantly engaged in writing their dissertations during the fellowship tenure. This is a research fellowship. Students may apply even if they have started dissertation research or done some writing, but CLIR’s awards may be used only for original source research that applicants still need to do. Awards will not be granted to applicants who request support for intermittent research trips combined with the writing of their dissertations.
  • Those who will be conducting interviews and/or creating oral histories. This fellowship is not meant to support the creation of primary source material, such as oral histories. Applications which request support for research involving interviews or oral history creation will be considered ineligible, even if a part of the research period will also be spent conducting research at the Library of Congress.

Fellowship Tenure and Conditions

  • The fellow will receive a stipend of $2,000 per month for a period ranging from 9-12 months, and will receive an additional $1,000 upon participating in a symposium on research in original sources and submitting a report acceptable to CLIR on the research experience. The fellow will also be granted an additional monthly stipend of $500 to support living expenses in Washington, D.C. Thus the maximum award for 2016 will be $31,000.
  • Fellowships must begin by September 1, 2016 and end within 12 months of commencing.
  • Fellowships cannot be renewed or extended.
  • Fellows are expected to devote full time to their dissertation research without holding teaching or research assistantships or undertaking other paid work.
  • Applicants may apply simultaneously for other fellowships, including other Mellon awards, but fellows may not hold other fellowships simultaneously with CLIR’s.
  • Fellows may use stipends to meet living expenses, travel costs, and other expenses that enable dissertation research to be carried out, but not to defray tuition.

Successful applicants will agree to the special provisions of the fellowship opportunity.

  1. Within one month of the end of the fellowship period, the fellow will send to CLIR a written analysis of the fellowship experience. The fellow may also have the opportunity to present his or her report at a Library of Congress TOPS event, and/or to develop the report into a CLIR publication.
  2. Following the fellowship period, the fellow will participate in a one-day symposium about the fellowship experience. The symposium will be held in mid-October 2017 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The fellowship program will cover all costs associated with the fellow’s attendance at the post-fellowship symposium.


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.

  • A 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.

2. 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.

3. 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:

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