Building on Lucy's longtime work and previous grant-funded projects on Mesoamerican languages, John Lucy (Professor Emeritus, Comparative Human Development) and David Woken (LACS Librarian) have been awarded a National Science Foundation for "Preserving Indigenous Mesoamerican Language Heritage."

The project seeks to refigure and improve infrastructure for the University of Chicago’s collections of materials documenting the indigenous languages of Mesoamerica to ensure that they remain an important and useful repository. The collections are historically important, dating back to the 1920s. They are broad in scope, including recorded, textual, and other materials on scores of languages, some extinct or endangered, others revitalizing or still flourishing. The overall project involves administrative, technical, and intellectual changes designed to enhance the collections’ sustainability, discoverability, and accessibility. More specifically, the project will develop standard metadata structures for all collections and then use these to build a unified bilingual (English and Spanish) online web portal with improved browsing and finding functionality to facilitate both research and public use. In addition to serving the needs of academic researchers, the enhanced interface should facilitate heritage speaker communities discovering and accessing materials, both those interested in historical materials for language preservation and revitalization and those interested in contemporary materials relevant to their own recording and publishing traditions.

Lucy is William Benton Professor Emeritus in Comparative Human Development. Lucy is an internationally recognized expert on the relation between language and thought. He has published two landmark books (Language Diversity and Thought and Grammatical Categories and Cognition, both from Cambridge University Press) and many articles. He is a recognized expert on the Yucatec Maya language and has taught Yucatec regularly for twenty-five years. He is chief coordinator of Chicago’s indigenous language programs, which have included the development of an archive of literature written in Mesoamerican indigenous languages, development of instructional resources, and supervision of regular teaching of Yucatec, K’iche’, and Nahuatl. He has managed several research grants, including a US Department of Education International Research and Studies grant for “Digital Chicago Maya: Modern Spoken Yucatec and K’iche’”;  an NEH grant for the “Digital Preservation of Mesoamerican Linguistic Resources”; an NEH DEL grant for "Chicago Historical Archive of Mesoamerican Linguistics.”

Woken is the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Librarian at the University of Chicago Library. He has an MA in History (specializing in Latin America) from Indiana University-Bloomington (2002) and an MA in Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2012). Prior to joining the University of Chicago Library in July of 2019 he was the History and Latin American Studies Librarian at the University of Oregon from June of 2013 to June of 2019. He has published multiple articles on information literacy instruction and critical pedagogy methods as applied to archival primary sources.