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UMKC Libraries Nets Federal Challenge Grant for Special Collections

Stuart Hinds, director of special collections, surrounded by a treasure trove of artifacts in Miller Nichols Library
Stuart Hinds, director of special collections, surrounded by a treasure trove of artifacts in Miller Nichols Library

National Endowment for the Humanities providing $500,000 in matching funds

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Libraries have received a $500,000 matching funds grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help pay for a relocation and major expansion of the Kenneth J. LaBudde Special Collections and Marr Sound Archives and to establish an endowment to fund the Director of Special Collections.

The grant must be matched by $1.5 million in non-federal funds. About $800,000 of that amount – slightly more than half – has already been raised. The balance of the matching funds must be raised by July 31, 2018.

The combined $2 million will be used to renovate the third and fourth floors of the Miller Nichols Library while increasing space used for exhibits, research, instruction and preservation of Special Collections from 3,721 square feet to 11,714 square feet.

The funds will also be used to endow the Director of Special Collections position and a new student research scholarship program: The Martha Jane Starr Research Grant program will assist individuals using the Martha Jane Starr collection or any of the designated Women’s and Gender Studies manuscript holdings in Special Collections.  The Director of Special Collections will supervise the scholarship awardees in conjunction with their faculty advisor.

Special Collections at the UMKC Libraries serves as the humanities research lab and is home to millions of primary and secondary source materials, including manuscripts and personal papers; sheet music; photographs, postcards and other images; books, including rare and limited editions; historical periodicals; city directories; maps and atlases; historical documents and research files. Subject strengths include the Trans-Mississippi West experience, local and regional history, Native American history, music history (especially Jazz Age Kansas City), cultural and social history, local political and civic leaders.

The Marr Sound Archives is the audio division of Special Collections, an archive and research center serving scholars and organizations from around the world. Since 1999, the Sound Archives has partnered with Special Collections to preserve and provide access to unique research and digital resources. Today, the Sound Archives is home to over 350,000 sound recordings of jazz, blues, country, classical, opera and popular music; historic voices and authors reading their own works; and vintage radio programs.

“The National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant enables the UMKC Libraries to increase capacity for our excellent and rapidly growing Special Collections and Marr Sound Archives. By providing matching support for renovations to create expanded space and to establish an endowment for the Director of Special Collections position, the Special Collections will be able to accommodate more scholars, exhibits, and programming that support humanities research at UMKC,” said Dean of Libraries Bonnie Postlethwaite. “Through this challenge grant, scholars will be able to discover the depth and richness of our special collections both onsite and in online exhibits.  We are most grateful to NEH for their support of the UMKC Libraries.” 

The new Special Collections space will include a reading room, listening room, digitization studios, instructional rooms, staff offices, an exhibit hall, a dean’s gallery and the new Edgar Snow Scholars Alcove. It is expected to be completed by early 2015.


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