Southeast’s Special Collections and Archives Awarded NEH Grant

NEH Logo MASTER_082010Kent Library’s Special Collections and Archives (KLSCA) Department at Southeast Missouri State University was recently awarded a $5,910 Preservation Assistance Grant (PAG) for Smaller Institutions from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Southeast will use the funding to conduct a holistic preservation assessment of its Special Collections and Archives department beginning in April. Kent Library plans to hire a preservation consultant to assess environmental conditions, storage policies, and provide strategies to optimize preservation, including development and implementation of a disaster preparedness and recovery plan.

“Being awarded this highly-competitive grant is such an honor,” said Roxanne Dunn, Special Collections and Archives librarian and project director for the grant. “Kent Library would not be able to afford to bring in a preservation consultant without this assistance from the NEH. This consultation will greatly improve how we are able to care for our historical collections.”

The NEH is an independent federal agency promoting excellence in the humanities and supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. NEH PAGs help institutions —particularly small and mid-sized institutions— improve their ability to preserve and care for their humanities collections.

The consultant’s assessment will include a long-range preservation plan, but may also include some short-term steps to be implemented right way, said Dunn.

“The assessment will provide insights pertaining to all aspect of the department’s operations, and will be used to establish policies and procedures to integrate preservation practices into daily work, strategic planning and development activities,” she said. “The outcomes will also improve communication with the library’s stakeholders and expand the level of care we can provide the collection within the institution’s fiscal means.”

The 14th Century Book of Hours, housed in the Kent Library's Rare Book Room as part of Southeast's Special Collections and Archives.

The 14th Century Book of Hours, housed in the Kent Library’s Rare Book Room as part of Southeast’s Special Collections and Archives.

The KLSCA’s 3,300 linear feet of archival material is the most extensive and accessible collection of rare books, regional history collections, and William Faulkner-related material in the region.

“These collections contain extremely rare and unique materials from southeast Missouri and the surrounding states,” said Dunn. “Having a preservation specialist help us to develop appropriate policies, procedures and guidelines allows us to provide optimal care of these treasured collections.”

The collections are used for instruction, research and community outreach. It’s important for the library to take care of these collections to ensure they remain undamaged for generations to come, added Dunn.

“Our goal is to be able to continue to share these wonderful cultural and historic materials with students, researchers and community members to build appreciation for humanities-based learning,” Dunn stated.

Having that in-person connection with the manuscripts and books is an overwhelming and priceless experience for many students and researchers. Without proper preservation techniques, those moments could be lost, said Dunn.

“We have a number of very rare books we can no longer show,” she said. “With the consultant’s help we will be able to establish a plan to address the causes of deterioration and pinpoint affordable strategies for mitigating these problems.”

The library hopes to begin implementing short-term recommendations and work on fundraising possibilities to implement long-term preventative conservation strategies by November 2017.

For more information about the National Endowment for the Humanities, visit www.neh.gov.