KU Libraries receive National Endowment for the Humanities grant

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

KU Libraries are pleased to be the recipients of a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections grant will help to improve the physical environment in Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections provides funding for institutions to preserve and prolong the life of diverse collections by supporting institutional resilience, which is the concept that institutions should be equipped with the ability to prepare and respond to potential disasters in their spaces. Kenneth Spencer Research Library houses rare book, manuscript, and archival collections, but on the cusp of the library’s fiftieth anniversary, building upgrades are necessary. Funding from this grant will focus on confronting the aging air handling unit, which supports a single-zone HVAC system.

“We are very excited to have this opportunity to consider ways to improve the physical environment in which Spencer Research Library maintains its unique and distinctive collections,” said Kevin L. Smith, dean of KU Libraries. “The staff at Spencer does a great job as stewards of the materials housed there, and this grant will help to solve some persistent issues. We are very grateful to NEH for making this possible.”

Outside consultants, including an environmental expert for cultural heritage collections, will pair with a knowledgeable project team to identify feasible, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable solutions. The ultimate goal of this project is to better preserve the impressive and important collections and the facility itself while reducing the environmental impact of the building’s operations. Work on the grant project will begin in October, 2017, and continue until March, 2019.

“We are really excited to bring in an expert to help us figure out how to better meet the needs of our collections,” said Whitney Baker, head of conservation services and project director for the NEH grant. “This grant will provide the ability for us to take existing equipment and make it more efficient.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities awards annual grants through an incredibly competitive application and review process. Receiving such a significant grant speaks to the importance of the collections at Spencer, including one of the most significant and sizable collections of rare Irish materials outside of Ireland, as well as the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements and the Summerfield Collection of Renaissance and Early Modern Books, among many others.

“Kenneth Spencer Research Library is a key asset for students and faculty at the University of Kansas. This library houses some of the most outstanding collections of materials that allow students and researchers to connect with the early settlers of Kansas,” said Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins. “As a descendent of Brewster Higley, who played a prominent role in Kansas heritage, I am pleased NEH made this investment in Spencer Library’s future, as this grant will go a long way in preserving these important materials.”

Congresswoman Jenkins is a member of the Congressional Humanities Caucus. This caucus works to strengthen awareness of humanities across the United States. Representative Jenkins understands the importance of the humanities not only at our universities, but the larger impact it has to the surrounding community.  

The project team will consist of Whitney Baker, Beth Whittaker, assistant dean of distinctive collections, Kent Miller, associate dean, Kathryn Conrad, associate professor of English, Gary Mohr, project director and mechanical engineer for KU Design and Construction Management, Cassidy Reimer, energy conservation behavior specialist in the KU Center for Sustainability, George Werth, campus energy engineer, and Josh Wheeler, energy technician.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this release, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Learn more at www.neh.gov.

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