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Special Collections Wins Preservation Grant
by Reba Leiding

Special Collections has been awarded a $5,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities to help preserve cultural and historical materials in the collection.  In addition, JMU Libraries’ preservation initiative was honored with a “We the People” designation by the NEH.


According to the NEH, the goal of the “We the People” initiative “is to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America.”We the People Certificate


Funds from the grant will be used to preserve unique materials in Special Collections such as the Shenandoah National Park Oral History Collection and a small collection of artifacts attributed to James Madison.  These include such items as a spyglass, pen knife, an apothecary scales, and a lancet.


Special Collections has a growing collection of oral histories which the grant will help preserve.  The Shenandoah National Park Oral History Collection includes the oral recollections of 135 community members who were displaced from their homes following the creation of the park. Another collection contains transcripts and oral histories from Harrisonburg’s historical African American community.  In recent years, Special Collections has begun a collaboration with the JMU History department and History Professor Daniel Kerr on the Shenandoah Valley Oral History Project.  Students working on the project collect interviews from minorities, immigrants, and others outside the mainstream to help broaden the view of the social fabric of the local community; these oral histories are made to available on the Project’s web site, while Special Collections is preserving them in a digital archive.


Julia Merkel, JMU Libraries Preservation Specialist, wrote the grant proposal and will serve as Principal Investigator on the project.  She was assisted by Special Collections Librarian Tracy Harter, and student interns Katherine Fox and Ashley Spencer.


The $5,000 grant will be used to purchase archival containers, folders, and interleaving papers with buffering agents for sensitive and fragile print materials, CD jewel boxes with anti-corrosion inserts for containing the oral histories, and media and flat-file storage furniture.  About 180 linear feet of special collections materials and manuscripts will be preserved through this grant.


This grant is the second NEH grant that JMU Libraries has received in recent years.  A previous grant for preservation assistance, awarded in 2004, allowed the Library to bring in a nationally known consultant to evaluate the Libraries’ preservation efforts and write a report.  Carrier Library has already implemented many of the recommendations from that report, including an environmental monitoring program in the building, upgrades to the HVAC system, a new roof, and improved drainage around the building’s exterior.

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