Sustaining Cultural Heritage Grant

Project Overview

Starting in July of 2013 University of Illinois Library and Archives was awarded $300,000 through a Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections implementation grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities to replace the existing climate control system for Archives Research Center (ARC), which will improve system operation, effectiveness, and energy efficiency as well as provide a preservationally sound storage environment for valuable archival holdings, which range from paper documents to historic instruments.  Installation of a fire suppression system will also be included in the project.  This implementation grant is a critical step towards furthering both the Library’s commitment to sustainability as well as 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.

Established in 1963, the University of Illinois Archives includes more than 25,000 cubic feet of office records, publications, and personal papers from the University and the Urbana-Champaign campus. Over 14,755 cubic feet of the Archives’ collections (comprised of materials from the University Archives, the Sousa Archives, and the Student Life and Culture Archives Program) are housed at the ARC, located in the former Horticulture Field Laboratory facility on the University’s South Campus. The varied humanities collections held in the ARC vaults include material types ranging from paper documents, photographs, audiovisual materials, and historic musical instruments. The historical importance of the collections materials as well as the wide assortment of material types currently housed in the ARC vaults make maintenance of a preservation level environment and installation of a fire suppression system a high priority.

Although the highly insulated vaults were designed in the 1920s to hold temperatures of 0, -20, and -40°F, the original ammonia gas refrigeration system was removed from the cold room/vault areas and replaced with a residential quality Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system in the mid 1990s that has proven to be unable to provide a preservation grade storage environment and is not at all energy efficient, due both to its age as well as by being oversized for the space it serves. Therefore, the University of Illinois will replace the inefficient HVAC system with a newer, more efficient mechanical system and install a pre-action wet pipe fire suppression system.  Additionally, the University will partner with consultants from the Image Permanence Institute to optimize the new system in order to maximize energy efficiency while still maintaining an optimal preservation environment.


The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign a grant to install new climate control and fire suppression systems for its Archives Research Center (ARC). NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. This public notice is issued as part of NEH’s responsibilities under 36 C.F.R. Part 800, the regulations which implement Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended, 16 U.S.C. § 470. NEH, a funding agency, is required by regulation to identify and assess the effects of any proposed actions on historic properties. If any proposed action will have an adverse effect on historic resources, NEH works with the appropriate parties to seek ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate any adverse effects. Additionally, the Section 106 regulations require NEH to consider the views of the public on preservation issues when making final decisions that affect historic properties. (See full public notice)