Knox College Library Receives NEH Grant

Funding for assessment of Special Collections and Archives

February 29, 2012

Special Collections and Archives

With extensive resources for student and faculty research in American history and literature, Knox College's Seymour Library has been awarded a Preservation Assistance Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct an assessment of the College's Special Collections and Archives (photo, above).

This spring, the $6,000 grant will bring to Galesburg an assessment program coordinator from the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Boston. After inspecting Knox's materials, the coordinator will prepare a report to help the College develop a long-range plan for preservation of its Special Collections, which include rare books, manuscripts and other objects; and its Archives, comprising records dealing specifically with Knox and its history.

"What makes Knox's collections distinctive among small colleges is the wide range of materials, more than 11,000 items in all," said Knox College Librarian Jeffrey Douglas. "This enables researchers to pursue their interests and explore perspectives in unexpected ways. The grant provides us with the expertise required to assess such diverse material and help us plan how to make the best use of it in the future."

Knox's Henry M. Seymour Library features notable collections of rare visual and textual materials on the history of the Upper Midwest; the exploration of the American Southwest; Abraham Lincoln; and the Civil War, abolitionism and reconstruction. More than 300 manuscript collections include diaries and personal papers of the founders of Knox and Galesburg, and noted Knox faculty and alumni.

"As the College looks toward overall strategic planning, it will benefit us to have the best possible information about these important academic and public history resources," Douglas said.

Images from Knox's Special Collections and Archives have been featured in numerous books and television programs on Lincoln, the Civil War, and Carl Sandburg.

"Knox's Special Collections and Archives are used every day, by students, faculty and outside scholars," Douglas said. According to figures collected by the College, usage of Special Collections and Archives has increased 30% in the past decade. In 2009-2010 alone Knox received over 200 requests for access from off-campus researchers.

Knox's extensive Archives have enabled the College's academic departments to research their own programs going back more than 100 years. Following the loss of many local history documents in a 1958 fire that destroyed the Galesburg Public Library, Knox's Special Collections expanded its holdings to include more materials from the early history of Galesburg.

In the field of literature, Knox has collected several hundred early and first editions by Ernest Hemingway and other "Lost Generation" writers of the 1920s; works by Eugene Field and Edgar Lee Masters, two noted early 20th century writers who attended Knox; and rare, locally printed books of poetry by Galesburg native Carl Sandburg.