While writing his dissertation and later his book, Tenacious of Their Liberties: The Congregationalists in Colonial Massachusetts (1999), James Cooper traveled between New England towns, exploring fragile seventeenth- and eighteenth-century manuscripts stored in church basements. He quickly realized that the records, which document the history of early European settlers in North America, were of inestimable historical value—they were also largely inaccessible and vulnerable. With the American Congregational Library & Archives, he established New England’s Hidden Histories, a project aimed at providing small congregations with a place to store their archives as well as digitize them, at once preserving them for the future and making them digitally accessible to scholars and the general public. And with NEH funding, Cooper was able to transform the project from a part-time effort—something he worked on during summers while he taught at Oklahoma State University—to a full-time endeavor that has preserved and digitized thousands of records from communities across New England.
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