RAI Update on Coronavirus Pandemic

The current crisis: What the RAI is doing to support research and maintain our community (21 April)

The core mission of the RAI is to support research into, and scholarly understanding of, the history, politics and culture of the United States and its place in the world. We are determined to do we all we can to continue that mission even in these challenging and entirely unprecedented conditions.


There are two immediate sets of challenges. The first, and most pressing, is the difficulty facing many members of our community who are suddenly cut off from archives with transatlantic travel no longer possible and libraries closed.

To mitigate this, we are introducing a RAI Book and Archive Material Fund (see below for details) to help graduate students who are unable to visit archives in the US because of the current travel restrictions.

Those who have already been awarded an RAI Travel Grant will be able to defer their use of that money for as long as necessary.


The other set of challenges for the RAI is that we are unable to hold any face-to-face meetings or events. We’ve had to postpone or cancel the whole of our Trinity Term programme, including our research seminars, two of our big annual lectures and numerous other conferences and workshops. Where possible, we plan to hold these events at a later date.

Some of our regular research seminars are hoping to hold events online using MS Teams, or Zoom or similar. Convenors will email regular attendees with details, and we will post updates on Twitter and our website.


While it is very frustrating for us to have to cancel events and not be able to conduct research in archives, another difficult aspect of this crisis is the prospect of not seeing each other face to face. At the RAI, our weekly Tuesday coffee mornings have always been a wonderful way to catch up and discuss common interests in an informal setting. In order to try and maintain as much of that as possible, we will hold online coffee mornings on Tuesday mornings at 11am, starting on Tuesday 21 April (0th week).

Even a couple of weeks ago, few could have imagined the sudden onset of these kinds of conditions. But so long as the RAI exists and has resources and healthy staff, and a community of researchers to support, we will try to do all that we can to keep going. If you have suggestions for what else we might do, please get in touch. 

RAI Book and Archive Material Fund

The Rothermere American Institute has set aside extra funds for Graduate students in US history, literature and politics for the purposes of obtaining:

(A) scans of primary source material from archives in the United States; and
(B) library materials not otherwise accessible.

Procedures for the two application streams are as follows.

A. To apply for funding to pay for the scanning of archival material

The purpose of this scheme is to help graduate students who are unable to visit archives in the US because of the current travel restrictions. Please note that we do not normally envisage that any one application would be for more than about £100, though we will consider applications for higher costs in exceptional circumstances.


  1. Contact the library or archive in the United States to enquire about the cost of scanning the material you need. Please be mindful that we anticipate a heavy call on these funds, so do not ask for more than you really need.  
  2. Please send an email to joanne.steventon@rai.ox.ac.uk before you order the scans, providing brief details of the material you are requesting, how it is necessary for your research, and how much it will cost.
  3. If we approve the application, you may place the order with the archive. Then send the receipt or invoice to joanne.steventon@rai.ox.ac.uk and we will reimburse you.

B. To apply to purchase books

The purpose of this scheme is to provide access to secondary (i.e. published) material that is necessary to your research, but which is not otherwise available via the Bodleian.


  1. Check SOLO to see if the item you want is already available electronically. Remember that electronic legal deposit items are inaccessible while libraries are closed, but our electronic holdings are being increased daily.
  2. Email the Vere Harmsworth Librarian at bethan.davies@bodleian.ox.ac.uk with details of an item which is important for your work and currently unavailable to you. Bethan will try to obtain an ebook version, and will contact you with access details or alternative instructions. Take no other action until you hear back from her.
  3. If it is not possible for the Bodleian to purchase an ebook, Bethan will then send approval for you to make a purchase, either of a hard copy or a Kindle ebook. Wait for Bethan’s approval before ordering, as her authorisation is required for you to reclaim your costs.
  4. To be reimbursed, fill in the details of the item, its cost and your name and bank details on an expenses claim form (download at https://finance.admin.ox.ac.uk/files/r12expensesclaimformxlsx). Send this form electronically, together with the delivery note/order confirmation, and Bethan’s authorisation, to joanne.steventon@rai.ox.ac.uk (copied to bethan.davies@bodleian.ox.ac.uk). Please keep paper records and submit these to Joanne Steventon when the RAI reopens.

Please note: books purchased through this scheme will remain University property and will be added to the VHL's holdings once you no longer need them.

This is a pilot scheme, and we will be keeping it under review. It is intended for key resources vital to your work. Funds are not unlimited, so please proceed with moderation. Priority will be given to students with the most urgent need, e.g. those finalising theses.