First Fridays Series highlights Umbra online search tool

Slide presentation image showing that audio, image, text and video files are included in Umbra's database.Attendees at the February 6 First Fridays event were treated to a behind-the-scenes look at Umbra, the online search tool currently in development at the University Libraries.

Umbra: Search African American History began in partnership with Penumbra Theatre Company as a way to make the archival content for African American theater history more accessible online.

“If you’re interested in documenting theater, you’re also documenting life,” said Cecily Marcus, Givens Collection Curator and Umbra’s Principal Investigator, who explained the expansion of the search tool to include other works of African American cultural history.

Having generated a list of nearly 1,000 search terms, the Umbra project team is currently identifying and cataloguing the digitized images, audio files, oral histories, music, letters, and other texts that exist in archives and collections throughout the United States. The work is made possible thanks to the collaboration of a growing list of partner organizations including the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the Digital Public Library of America, HBCUs and many other colleges and universities.

Umbra, scheduled to launch in early 2016, is designed to become “a one-stop experience,” where bits and pieces of history can be brought together to amass a wonderful collection.

To join the beta testing community for the Umbra online search tool, contact

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