MPR, TPT feature Umbra Search

Libraries' Cecily Marcus interviewed on MPR News and TPT's Almanac

Cecily Marcus and Lou Bellamy
Cecily Marcus and Lou Bellamy at Minnesota History Center. Photo by Paula Keller.

Minnesota Public Radio and Twin Cities Public Television featured Cecily Marcus and Umbra Search in stories last week. 

Marianne Combs highlighted Penumbra Theatre, the Minnesota History Center, and the University Libraries’ Umbra Search in a story that aired February 21 and is now featured on its website.

And Marcus was interviewed February 24 on TPT’s Almanac program, where Marcus discussed the Libraries’ Archie Givens, Sr., Collection of African American Literature and demonstrated the Umbra Search African American History research tool. 

MPR: ‘Black history comes alive…’

Black history comes alive on a stage, and in a database highlighted Penumbra Theatre at 40, the exhibition at the History Center that celebrates “the nationally renowned African-American theater company based in St. Paul. It coincides with the public launch of Umbra, a new online search engine for African-American history, inspired by Penumbra Theatre,” Combs wrote. 

Penumbra founder Lou Bellamy told Combs that “seeing the company’s work gathered together in one show is gratifying, and a bit overwhelming.”

Cecily Marcus, Curator of the Givens Collection of African American Literature at the University of Minnesota Libraries, told Combs that the Umbra Search African American History search engine, developed by the University Libraries, was “inspired by Penumbra Theatre, when Lou Bellamy made a gift of the company’s archives to the University of Minnesota: annotated scripts, playbills, and costume and set designs at the exhibit to introduce visitors to Umbra.”

Said Marcus: “This is a treasure trove for anyone who’s interested in black history, or American history.”

Marcus on TPT: ‘Taking the library out of the library’

On TPT, Marcus talked about effort involved in making Umbra Search a tool useful for students and scholars across the globe.  

Umbra Search is really about bringing together what has been digitized because no University has enough money to digitize everything,” Marcus told hosts Cathy Wurzer and Eric Eskola. She noted that over the last 20 to 25 years, libraries, universities, archives, and museums across the country have been involved in digitizing their own materials. “We wanted to find a way to use technology to take the library out of the library, bring all of these materials together and so Umbra Search has over 500,000 materials from about 1,000 institutions.” 


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