Saving Her Words: Preserving the Gwendolyn Brooks Papers (2020-2022)

Funded by the Save America’s Treasures grant program through the National Park Service, this grant will ensure long-term access to the Gwendolyn Brooks Papers held within the Library’s Rare Books and Manuscript Library (RBML). The collection, which was compiled by Brooks herself as well as her daughter, Nora Brooks Blakely, was acquired by the RBML in 2013 as more than 500 boxes filled with manuscripts, drafts, revisions, correspondence, scrapbooks, clippings, recordings, broadsides, photographs, awards, artifacts, notebooks full of personal notes and lists, and several homemade chapbooks of handwritten early poetry. Since that time, the RBML has hired a manuscript curator whose primary responsibility has been to supervise the processing and rehousing of this expansive collection – work which is now nearing completion. The collection holds unrivaled content that illuminates Brook’s creative process, personality, and literary career. However much of the unpublished manuscript material – predominantly created between the years of 1960 and 2000 is heavily handled, on poor quality wood pulp paper which has been stored in less-than-ideal conditions before its acquisition. This combination has left much of the most valuable materials to researchers torn, dirty, covered in pressure-sensitive tape, moldy, and often too fragile for safe handling in its current state. Through this grant, we seek to conserve and selectively digitize these irreplaceable materials that document the career of, and reveal the woman who was one of the most influential poets of our modern era.

Fostering a Community of Practice: Software Preservation in Libraries and Archives (2020)

One of six projects selected to participate in this larger, cooperative software preservation grant, funded through the IMLS.

A Case for Case Paper (2019-2020)

Funded internally through the Library Innovation Fund and in partnership with Eric Benson of Art+Design. In 2016, the University of Iowa’s Center for the Book ceased production of “flax PC4 papers”. This paper is widely accepted as the best quality paper for book conservators to use for historic limp case and paper case bindings. Since 2016, no suitable substitute has come on the market.  Upon a visit to a local papermaking studio (the FreshPress, part of Art+Design), University Library conservators were intrigued to find papers being produced that closely resembled the Iowa Case Paper, but with a noble mission. The Fresh Press follows a mission to “explore and enact the potential of regional sustainable agricultural fiber waste as paper and paper products”.  This proposal seeks to fund research towards developing a paper stock to rival the utility of the Iowa Case Paper for book conservation while maximizing the use of sustainable fibers. Our goals are to show proof of concept working collaboratively across colleges to create a new, locally sourced and produced paper to be used in cultural heritage conservation; to test material and chemical characteristics to determine the best source and production details of a new paper; and to test the resulting materials in a conservation setting to ensure practical use in the field.

The Woodward Collection of Advertising: Documenting American Media, Culture, and Business in the 20th Century (2019-2021)

Funded by the National Historic Publications & Records Commission. In 1989, the University of Illinois acquired what may be the largest collection of historic newspaper and magazine advertisement clippings in the United States. Covering roughly 1,800 cubic feet in 1,530 boxes, the collection includes ads from publications all over the country dating from the 1880s through 1980s. Thanks to a grant from the NHPRC, we are now processing the collection, one box at a time. Once processed, the entire collection will be available for research through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Communications Library.

Educational Materials Made Accessible (EMMA) (2019-2021)

One of six partner institutions in a grant led by the University of Virginia, this grant has the goal of making digitized materials more accessible to patrons with print disabilities (

National Digital Newspaper Program Grant (multiple grant cycles, current cycle 2018-2021)

This fifth phase (2018-2021) of our participation in this national effort funded by the NEH focuses on newspapers published by underrepresented communities and political causes. It is anticipated that we will digitize approximately 90,000 pages of newspapers from microfilm. Titles vary in content and date range, from the early 1800s with one of the state’s first newspapers, Illinois Intelligencer, through the 1960s with The Robbins Eagle, a newspaper dedicated to serving African American readers in the Chicago area.

Counting Diversity in Preservation Survey (2017-2018)

Anecdotally, the field of preservation and conservation shows a significant lack of diversity. Recently, there has been an upsurge in interest in addressing this situation. However, without any hard statistics it is difficult to show where we are currently, to better project where the field should attempt to improve and how.  In order to collect relevant data on this important issue, we surveyed the field of library and archive preservation in order to attain a current picture of our field’s demographics.
This survey was made possible with a grant from the University of Illinois Library Research and Publications Committee.

Implementing an Energy Efficient and Sustainable HVAC System at the University of Illinois, Archives Research Center (2013-2016)

Building on a successful planning grant completed in 2011, in July 2013, the University of Illinois Libraries, with Preservation as PI, was awarded a $300,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Sustaining Cultural Heritage implementation grant to replace the aging HVAC system in the Archives Research Center (in the Horticultural Field Laboratory Building) and install fire suppression to greatly increase the long-term preservation of valuable historical materials housed within.  Click the project header, above, for more information and a public notice regarding necessary alterations to a historically significant building. 

Preservation Self-Assessment Program  (2013-2015)

Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the PSAP is a web application being developed to aid collection managers in museums, archives, and special collections in their efforts to assign preservation priority and definition of need to their photographic, loose paper, and book media holdings.  This program will also integrate and refine the audiovisual coverage of its predecessor, the AvSAP (see below).

Planning for an Energy-Efficient and Sustainable HVAC System at the University of Illinois, Archives Research Center (2010-2011)

The University of Illinois Library and Archives in partnership with the University of Illinois Facilities and Services Engineering Services Engineering Design (ESED) Sustainability Coordinator successfully submitted a National Endowment for the Humanities Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections planning grant to analyze the existing climate control system for Archives Research Center (ARC), as well as evaluate the performance characteristics of the storage vault area to develop a plan for improved operation, effectiveness and energy efficiency.  Planning for the installation of a fire suppression system has also been included.  This planning grant is a critical step towards improving the preservation of one of the most valuable and unique collections held by the University of Illinois Libraries, which is currently stored in a less-than-ideal environment with no available fire suppression.

Connecting to Collections State-Wide Planning Grant Partner for Illinois (2009-2010)

The University of Illinois Library’s Preservation program was a leader in the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Connecting to Collections initiative.  As a partner, we played a leadership role in the trial formation of the Illinois Collections Preservation Network, a group of museum, library and archives professionals from around the state interested in furthering preservation education and awareness around the state.  In late 2010, the ICPN submitted an implementation grant to the IMLS for start-up funding.  Decisions on that grant program are still pending.
The ICPN is now offering scholarships to all members (membership details here) seeking further skills or professional development, through a wide array of preservation and collection management courses. Members are encouraged to apply for a $500 scholarship to the International Preservation Studies Center (IPSC).  The scholarship can be applied to any IPSC workshop.  Click to view IPSC’s list of courses.  For more information about an ICPN Scholarship and application instructions, visit the IPSC website.

Audiovisual Self-Assessment Program Project   (2007-2010)

(AVSAP) – Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), this project will provide assessors with basic guidelines on reformatting and rehousing needs, long-term storage and the potential ability for the reformatted media to be mounted on the Internet.

Carl Sandburg Preservation Project (2005-2006)

Funded by the Save America’s Treasures grant program, this grant is providing the Library with the resources needed to preserve the personal papers, literary manuscripts, photographs, and library of this unique American figure.

CIC-8: American Railroading (2004-2006)

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as a collaborative grant to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (now called the Big Ten Academic Alliance), this grant is providing resources to preserve two significant serials emblematic of American railroading history.
Statewide Preservation Needs Assessment
With funds from the Illinois State Library, the University Library engaged a consultant to complete a statewide preservation needs assessment.