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By Project MUSE

How do you celebrate a milestone anniversary during a pandemic?  If you are Project MUSE, the massive online collection of humanities and social sciences content administered by Johns Hopkins University Press, you cancel in-person celebrations and postpone the launch of an online tribute to 25 years of innovation and service.  Instead, you focus exclusively on using your digital resources and expertise to help a global academic community that is suddenly tasked with completing the spring semester remotely. 

As the world adjusts to evolving and varied public health concerns, Project MUSE is looking back on a year like no other and proceeding with the launch of a long-planned anniversary website that collects the stories and celebrates the milestones of “25 years supporting digital scholarship.”   The anniversary website features a new video, a timeline of the platform’s evolution and growth, and reflections from 25 current and former staff members and associates. 

It also includes a new read-for-free curated selection of MUSE content from a variety of publishers called “MUSE in Focus: Charting the Digital Humanities.” The journal articles and books explore the history and theory behind digital humanities, trace its course through to the present, and chart the range of paths forward as scholarly communications adapt to an increasingly digital world. 

“When the global health crisis hit the U.S. hard in March, we put the anniversary celebration on hold and turned our attention to helping the academic community however we could,” noted Project MUSE director Wendy Queen.  While adjusting to working remotely themselves, the MUSE staff kept the platform running smoothly and quickly assembled and opened a special collection of scholarship relevant to the pandemic. Many MUSE publishers decided to make a huge amount of material temporarily free to access worldwide as teachers and students finished the work of the spring 2020 semester virtually, a move that prompted record-setting usage of the platform’s content.  

“I’m so proud of our response to COVID,” said Queen, “and that we made it our priority. But we don’t want to lose the opportunity the 25th anniversary year gives us. MUSE has an amazing story to tell, and we have many friends to thank.  We wanted to find the right way and the right time to acknowledge this milestone. We hope this anniversary ‘microsite’ does that.”

The anniversary content includes a new video celebrating the global community that has embraced and sustained MUSE for 25 years. An illustrated timeline follows the evolution of Project MUSE from its start as a grant-funded ‘experiment’ conducted by the Press and Library at Johns Hopkins in the early days of the World Wide Web.  A gallery of “25 MUSE Makers” features current and former staff members and associates recalling the early challenges of launching the platform, commenting on key decisions about technology and content, and noting that success was not assured or inevitable.  

But astounding success is at the heart of MUSE’s story. What began in 1995 as a pioneering effort to serve 12 humanities journals published by JHU Press to 53 subscribing institutions has grown into a platform with 3,000+ subscribing institutions in 77 countries; collections with 500,000+ journal articles and 1.3 million book chapters from 259 publishers; and 14 million downloads annually by users worldwide.  

“As we started making plans for the 25th anniversary of Project MUSE in 2020, we looked forward to a unique opportunity to celebrate with friends and colleagues, express our gratitude, and begin a conversation about the future,” Queen wrote in a statement for the anniversary website. “COVID changed everything, of course. And, while this has not in any way been the year we imagined and planned for, 2020 has brought extraordinary opportunities to witness and participate in meaningful responses to the challenges posed by the pandemic.  At some point, certainly, we’ll meet again in person to toast MUSE’s 25th (or 26th!). In the meantime, we’ll be grateful for 2020’s powerful reminders of the resilience, purpose, and utility of what our community has built together. And in that spirit, we cordially invite you to browse this 25th Anniversary website, where treasured friends and colleagues help us tell MUSE’s wonderful story of 25 years of service and achievement.”

Project MUSE is a leading provider of digital humanities and social sciences content for the scholarly community.  Since 1995, the MUSE Collections have supported a wide array of research needs at academic, public, special, and school libraries worldwide. MUSE is the trusted source of complete, full-text versions of scholarly journals from many of the world's leading university presses and scholarly societies, with over 120 publishers currently participating. Books on Project MUSE offers access to nearly 70,000 books from over 140 presses, fully integrated with MUSE's scholarly journal content for browsing and discovery.