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Givens Collection

Help improve ‘Umbra: Search African American History’

By June 11, 2015September 16th, 2023No Comments

umbra website screenshot

By Sarah Carlson
Umbra Project Assistant

Over 350,000 objects documenting more than 300 years of African American history and culture are now discoverable in Umbra: Search African American History ( We continue to build the Umbra collection through partnerships, and refine searching, browsing, and sharing features in order to increase access to aspects of African American history and culture that are largely ignored or underrepresented, too often left in the shadows, or in the umbra of the moon.

You can help improve Umbra by taking a brief online survey (5 to 10 minutes of your time) and sharing your feedback. Please share this survey and the Umbra site with anyone who you think may be interested!


Your feedback is critical to the development of an effective, impactful tool that is easy to use and, most importantly, provides access to materials that document African American history and culture from libraries, archives, and other repositories around the country.

About Umbra: Search African American History

Umbra: Search African American History is being developed by the University of Minnesota Libraries in partnership with Penumbra Theatre Company, and with the support of archives, libraries, and other repositories around the country. Participating institutions include Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Temple University, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Knox College, among others; as well as founding partners Digital Public Library of America, the New York Public Library Schomburg Center and Library for the Performing Arts, Library of Congress, Smithsonian NAAMHC, Theatre Library Association, Columbia University, the Amistad Research Center, Theater Communications Group, and more.

The content in Umbra is inherently social: it documents individuals, historical events, and organizations; artistic, cultural, and social movements, as well as works of music, literature, and theater that provoke profound social and political change. In this phase of development, we are testing the sharing and social media features on Umbra that will help enhance content accessibility, create thoughtful digital exhibits and collections, and connect individuals with information and cultural heritage organizations. We invite Umbra participation from theater professionals, educators, students, activists, artists, library and museum professionals, and others, regardless of background, credentials, or focus.

Umbra: Search African American History is brought to you by the University of Minnesota Libraries Givens Collection of African American History/Performing Arts Archives and Penumbra Theatre Company, with generous funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Links to related information about Umbra

If you would like to participate as a part of the Umbra community, whether as a future beta-tester, by contributing materials, or through other partnership opportunities, you can sign up here.

Questions / Comments

If you have questions or comments, please contact Cecily Marcus at

Thank you!
Umbra Team
Cecily Marcus, University of Minnesota
Chris Widdess, Penumbra Theatre Company
Sarah Carlson, University of Minnesota
Kathryn Hujda, University of Minnesota
Chad Fennell, University of Minnesota
Jason Roy, University of Minnesota
Tia Gardner, University of Minnesota


Mark Engebretson

Author Mark Engebretson

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