UM’s Mansfield Library lands grant to preserve rare books, historic photos

The University of Montana’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library has landed a $20,671 Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant will help fund a project to improve storage for the library’s rare books, historic photographs, archival collections and other materials.

The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library has a trove of historic photographs, including this of the late senator.

“Part of the library’s overall mission is preserving and protecting cultural heritage materials in its trust,” said Shali Zhang, UM dean of libraries. “This grant allows us to work with an interdisciplinary team of experts to survey and assess the library building and its mechanical systems and will provide an actionable and sustainable plan for development.”

According to Donna McCrea, head of the library’s archives, special collections and preservation unit, the library has a good temperature control system now, but the relative humidity in the building fluctuates more than is recommended for certain cultural heritage materials, including photographs and vellum-bound books.

One project goal is to stabilize the climate in certain storage areas and another is to determine whether additional air filtration systems are needed to mitigate the impact of smoke from forest fires on the library’s cultural heritage collections.

McCrea said that the collections at the heart of the project, including unpublished diaries, letters, photographs and oral histories, are primarily about the people and activities of Montana, particularly western Montana.

“Archives and Special Collections materials are used on and off campus for personal and professional research and scholarship,” McCrea said. “For example, photos from the archives illustrate scholarly books and articles, hang on the walls of Montana homes and businesses and have been used to inform a variety of projects, including climate change studies and industrial cleanup operations. We want to ensure that all our special collections are available for research into the future.”

More information about the Mansfield Library’s Archives and Special Collections and its holdings is online at

The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act of 1965 created the National Endowment for the Humanities as an independent federal agency. The law identified the need for a national cultural agency that would preserve America’s rich history and cultural heritage and encourage and support scholarship and innovation in history, archaeology, philosophy, literature and other humanities disciplines.

The Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections program helps cultural institutions meet the complex challenge of preserving large and diverse holdings of humanities materials for future generations by supporting sustainable conservation measures that mitigate deterioration, prolong the useful life of collections and support institutional resilience: the ability to anticipate and respond to natural and man-made disasters.