Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1996-1997 index

Distributed December 19, 1996
Contact: Linda Mahdesian

NEH grant will help Brown's libraries preserve the old and the new

The National Endowment for the Humanities will award Brown University $625,000 in the form of a challenge grant to support the library's ongoing preservation efforts for old and new items.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Brown University will receive $625,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to enable the University Library to preserve old as well as new items in its collections.

Brown was one of 26 institutions nationwide chosen to receive challenge grants to support endowments for humanities programs, as announced today by the NEH. Brown received the highest amount of challenge grant funds awarded to any institution.

The funds will create an endowment to support the library's ongoing preservation efforts for more than 1 million items in a vast array of formats. Those items include monographs, journals, broadsides, manuscripts, sheet music, sound recordings and leaflets. The NEH will match one dollar for every four dollars raised from non-federal sources over the next four years. The total is expected to reach $3,125,000 by the year 2000. "I have full confidence in our development people to reach the goal on schedule," said Merrily Taylor, the Joukowsky Family University Librarian.

In addition to preserving the old, the funds will support surveying and treating all new acquisitions for the humanities collection - about 4,500 items annually, according to Taylor.

The preservation efforts will focus on areas of great strength in Brown's humanities collections. Those areas are Ancient Studies and Classics, Egyptology, the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays, History of Mathematics, the McLellan Lincoln Collection, the H.P. Lovecraft Collection, Music and Ethnomusicology, and Old World Art and Archaeology.

"This grant is very important to Brown," said Taylor. "For more than two centuries the University has put an enormous amount of resources into building a unique collection, and a portion of it is endangered because of deterioration." She added, "This is an opportunity to save this great resource. Beyond that, Brown's collections are important internationally. We have people come from all over the world to use them. We're doing this not just for Brown, but for the nation and the world, which is why the NEH chose to fund it."

Preservation efforts include de-acidification of paper-based documents and books. Other items will be rebound, digitized, microfilmed or put on microfiche. Not only will books and other paper-based items receive treatment, but also recordings on audio tape, vinyl, compact disk, videotape and computer disk.

"The NEH viewed the Brown plan as something that should be a model for other libraries - a new approach that's tied to our strengths in subject areas," Taylor said. "It could be managed by a library of any size.... We're not trying to do everything, we're targeting where we're known for our strengths."