MacArthur Foundation

Internet Archive’s Founder and Digital Librarian, Brewster Kahle and Director of Partnerships Wendy Hanamura Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Internet Archive’s Founder and Digital Librarian, Brewster Kahle, Director of Partnerships Wendy Hanamura, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

Denver: And tonight, it’s a great pleasure to have with us the Founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive, Brewster Kahle, and Wendy Hanamura, who serves as the Director of Partnerships and the project lead in the 100&Change challenge of the MacArthur Foundation. Thank you so much for being here!

Brewster: Good to be here, Denver. 

Wendy: Thank you, Denver.

SFW.BrewsterKahleInternet Archive

Brewster Kahle

Denver: Let me start with you, Brewster. Give us a little history about the Internet Archive and the mission of the organization.

Brewster: The idea of the Internet Archive is to try to build the internet into the Library of Alexandria for the digital age. Can we make it so that anybody anywhere can have access to all of the published works of humankind – all the books, music, video, web pages, software ever created? Can we make it so that if you’re curious, you can go and use your screen to find all the published works of humankind? That’s the general mission of the Archive where we’re making good progress.

Denver: And you have an incredible collection both in terms of software titles and audio recordings and television and e-books. Gives us an idea of what’s in the Internet Archive right now.

Brewster: It’s actually huge! We have 2.5 million books. We’ve got a couple of million audio recordings, lots and lots of concerts including everything the Grateful Dead has done – very popular. We’ve got lots of movies. We’re probably most famous for the web pages. We have like a billion web pages every week. So there’s about 285 billion old web pages that if you go to archive.org, you can see the web as it was. Also software, you can go and play all the Apple II software in your browser. We’re trying to keep it so that anything that’s been produced is available, either through somebody else’s website or if need be, on ours. 

Wendy-Hanamura

Wendy Hanamura

Wendy: Denver, we’re a digital library and I think you have to ask your listeners: What would libraries look like and feel like? How will you experience them in the future? And we believe this is what it will be like. You will be able to play video games of the past. You’ll be able to watch films. You’ll be able to listen to music. And of course, the books – the books are what drives us

 

There are so many millions of life-changing books out there that aren’t in the reach of digital learners. We think that we can change that by digitizing and lending 4 million of the most important books to students, to teachers, to scholars, to the blind and dyslexic.

Denver: Well, you have said, Wendy that if a book isn’t digital, it’s as if it doesn’t exist, and your proposal to the 100&Change competition aims to address this. Tell us about your idea and plan.

Wendy: Let me start with just a little story. It’s about a book that means a whole lot to me. It’s called Executive Order 9066. It’s a beautiful book of photographs from the Japanese-American internment. It’s a book that I discovered when I was, I think in sixth grade in the Glenview Public Library in Oakland, California. This is a book that changed my life, Denver, because it was the first time I ever realized that my parents, my grandparents had spent years in a concentration camp during World War II. But this book is out of print. It’s very, very hard to find. It was published in 1972. And now I have a son, he’s a junior in college. He’s taking a class on race and ancestry, and this would be a great book for my son, Kenny. But, you know what? It’s not digital in many cases. And for him, if it’s not digital, he’s not going to be able to use it. It’s not going to be in the workflow of his student life.

So this is the problem that we’re trying to solve. There are so many millions of life-changing books out there that aren’t in the reach of digital learners. We think that we can change that by digitizing and lending 4 million of the most important books to students, to teachers, to scholars, to the blind and dyslexic. That’s what we’re trying to do.

Denver: How are you going to determine, Wendy, what 4 million books to digitize? That sounds like a good deal of curation and a lot of coordination. 

Wendy: Well, that’s true and we’re not going to do it by ourselves. We’re going to be working with lots and lots of scholars and librarians and committees that are actually already doing this work. They’re doing what they call the “cultural assessment” to see what’s missing in our libraries. There’s a great group called the Open Syllabus Project led by Dan Cohen. He’s already pulled together all of the syllabi of the college classes so we can see what are the books that are most assigned in college classrooms. Then, we want lots of libraries to be able to lend these, Denver. So we’re looking at the books that are most widely held by libraries. There’s 1.2 million that had been determined to be held by many, many libraries. So it’s not really going to be one list, I think it will be curating many lists.

Denver: Brewster, let me ask you about the copyright issue. Now, anything before 1923 is considered to be public domain but it’s not so clear-cut after that. How do you plan on addressing that?

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Beverley Postma, CEO of HarvestPlus, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Beverley Postma, CEO of HarvestPlus, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

 

Bev_Postma_HarvestPlus CEO

Beverley Postma

Denver: And it’s indeed a pleasure for me to welcome to the show the Chief Executive Officer of one of the eight semi-finalists of the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition. She is Beverley Postma, the CEO of HarvestPlus. Good evening, Bev, and congratulations on being named one of the elite eight! 

Beverley: Good evening, Denver! It’s great to be here.

It really is a super program that starts with science; it mixes in some nutrition and food; it applies some economics; and it comes out with a very, very simple way of helping to solve malnutrition. 

Denver: Tell us about HarvestPlus and the mission of the organization. 

Beverley: Well, HarvestPlus is the most remarkable program. I had the honor of joining it just six months ago as CEO, and it’s just the most wonderful, simple idea that is going to save hundreds of millions of lives in Africa, in Asia, and in Latin America. It really is a super program that starts with science; it mixes in some nutrition and food; it applies some economics; and it comes out in the end with a very, very simple way of helping to solve malnutrition.

Denver: Part of that malnutrition you talked about, Bev, is something which is called “hidden hunger” — something that impacts about 2 billion people across the world. What is hidden hunger?

Beverley: Yes. This is something that shockingly today is still one of the world’s biggest problems. We’re reasonably familiar with images about malnutrition.  Fortunately, we’re making good progress around the world in tackling both poverty and malnutrition. But one of the more hidden and more sinister types of malnutrition is still very prevalent. And that’s when people are getting enough food on their plates—they’re maybe getting a good meal or two meals a day of big, starchy food like rice or wheat, or maize/corn—but they’re just not getting enough micronutrients– the vitamins and minerals. And this is what we call “hidden hunger.”

Denver: So, when they’re not getting those necessary vitamins and nutrients, which ones are typically missing from their diet?

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Cecilia Conrad, Managing Director of the MacArthur Foundation, Joins Denver Frederick

With all the discussion in philanthropy about “Big Bets” for social change, the biggest “Big Bet” of them all just may be the initiative of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. This competition, announced in June, will award a single $100 million grant to a nonprofit or for-profit entity that comes up with the best proposal and plan to solve one of the world’s biggest problems.

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Cecilia Conrad, Managing Director of the MacArthur Foundation

This interview has been edited for clarity.

In this transcript  from The Business of Giving, Dr. Cecelia Conrad, Managing Director of The MacArthur Foundation, traces the history of this idea and outlines the process for the competition. She also offers us a behind-the-scenes look at the MacArthur Fellows Program and shares her mixed feelings about it being dubbed the “Genius Grants.”

 

Denver: There is a foundation out in Chicago that shook up the world of philanthropy and beyond by announcing recently that they would award a single $100 million grant to a nonprofit or for profit entity that could come up with a proposal and plan to solve one of the world’s biggest problems. That foundation, also known for a program that has been coined by the media as the”genius grants,” is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. And with us this evening is their Managing Director, Dr. Cecilia Conrad. Good evening, Cecilia, and welcome to the Business of Giving.

Cecilia: Good evening, and thank you for including me.

Denver: Before we delve into the two programs I just mentioned, tell us who were John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur. How did they make their money? And tell us a little bit about the history of the foundation.

Cecilia: Well, the MacArthurs made their money in real estate and in insurance. Actually, they did quite a bit of work in Florida real estate. When they passed away, they decided to set aside their estate as the MacArthur Foundation. And what’s unusual about them is that they did not give specific directions about how the money should be spent or on what issues. They basically said, “Here’s our gift. Go and make the world a better place.”

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