More About the Project

Project Goals

By establishing a workflow to identify and digitize items entering the public domain every year – at least two that represent highlights or unique instances from the canon and ten that represent non-canonical or unique works produced by or featuring narratives of women, Queer and/or other people of color – this project hopes to:

  • Elevate and celebrate significant works that have not been recognized by the dominant canon or scholarship
  • Support and encourage research on a broader range of material by increasing access via digitization
  • Diversify the type of material found in Princeton’s digital holdings
  • Contribute to the ongoing conversation about the public domain, copyright in society and scholarship, and artistic license (see Duke’s Public Domain Day for one example)

The project will start by releasing items from 1926 and 1927 on January 1st, 2023. Then, throughout 2023, we'll be adding new pages for items from 1924 and 1925 to be in line with the period when works started to enter the public domain again after a 20-year pause by the United States Congress. From there, the project will add a new slate of items every January.

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Methodology and Curatorial Vision

A note from curators Jennifer Garcon (Librarian for Modern and Contemporary Special Collections) and Emma Sarconi (Reference and Outreach Specialist):

In compiling our lists, we are indebted to those who have come before us - the scholars, researchers, and enthusiasts who had already identified examples of early 20th-century African American literature, Queer Literature, Women’s Literature, and Indigenous Literature in bibliographies, essays, and blog posts. In addition to these bibliographies, we consulted lists of authors considered “forgotten” and others considered “firsts”. We thought about our own personal relationship with the canon, the authors we read in our schooling, and the authors we wish we had read in our school. We thought about what the canon means for all of us. With this in mind, we crafted a guiding mandate for the objectives of this project and proceeded in identifying material that highlights narratives by or about the experiences of women, Queer and/or people of color. These lists are not meant to be definitive nor comprehensive, they are not meant to be bibliographies (please see the resources page for those), rather they are meant to inspire, excite and expand what it means for a work to be “important”.

To round out our list, we also chose to include two more canonical items – one from the Cotsen Children's Collection and one from a celebrated author -- to add context to the other items chosen.

We hope that, above all, this project provides new opportunities for reading and for research.

If you have suggestions for titles that you think should be included in the future years for this project, please reach out to the Special Collections team via the Ask Us Form.

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Project Parameters

As is true with most endeavors, there were administrative factors outside of curatorial control that impacted final decisions. We were first restricted to objects currently held by Princeton University Library. Furthermore, due to shared collections agreements, we were also only able to digitize objects where Princeton is the primary holding institution. In some cases, we were able to purchase a copy of a particular title, but in other cases, copies were not available to be purchased (or only available for purchase in sub-par conditions). There are books that are not on these lists that we wish were or could be. Maybe one day, we will have the opportunity to add them.

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