Two years ago I sent out an "SOS for DARE," that is, a plea for the indispensable Dictionary of American Regional English, which had run into funding troubles. Though DARE was granted a temporary reprieve, the latest news is more dire than ever.
Marc Johnson laid out the situation in an article for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
The end may be near for one of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's most celebrated humanities projects, the half-century-old Dictionary of American Regional English. In a few months, the budget pool will drain to a puddle. Layoff notices have been sent, eulogies composed…
For years, DARE has weathered seemingly endless financial crises, somehow always finding eleventh-hour benefactors. This time, though, the project will begin the fiscal year in July with a little under $100,000 — not even 20% of its usual annual budget. And the university has troubles of its own: a proposed two-year $300 million budget cut from the governor.
John Karl Scholz, dean of the College of Letters and Science, declined to comment on the dictionary's predicament, saying, "The DARE team is best equipped to tell their own story."
Chief editor Joan Houston Hall, who has devoted almost 40 years to the project, recently sent layoff and nonrenewal notices to all five DARE staffers, herself included.
"I've lost many nights of sleep trying to figure out where we're going to get funding, and in recent months I just haven't thought of any place left to go. I recognize that the university is stretched to the limit," she said.
"I believe in this project. It has been an important gift to the nation and there is still work to be done."
If she is unable to find more funding, Hall said she may stay on at 20% of her salary and spend the next year, "trying to figure out what goes in the archives and what goes elsewhere."
(The Journal-Sentinel article was also picked up by the Associated Press.)
University of Wisconsin librarian Anna Lewis has set up a fundraising campaign for DARE on GoFundMe. Please consider donating if you'd like to see the great work of DARE continue. (You can also donate directly on the DARE website.)
It's our hope that we can not only continue adding new entries to DARE and improving existing ones, but that we can also complete some ongoing projects:
1) Creating the API for DARE so that developers can make apps utilizing its wide-ranging materials (imagine an app for doctors, defining the thousands of regional and folk names for ailments and diseases; an app for regional foods; one for travelers in each region of the country; one for bird-watchers, with all of our regional and folk names for birds; one for writers who want their characters to use appropriate regional words and phrases; one for makers of word games, etc.).
2) "Bleeping" the personal or confidential information in our collection of 1,843 audio recordings made between 1965 and 1970 so that they can all be posted on the UW-Madison's Digital Collections Center website. (We are more than halfway through the project, which is being done by graduate Project Assistants and undergraduate interns.)
3) Posting short segments of audio recordings from each state in the "English Dialects" segment of this site.
4) Posting results of our Online Survey of Wisconsin English here.