Thursday, November 29, 2012

WMU Archives Update!

Because construction of the Charles and Lynn Zhang Legacy Collections Center hadn't progressed past the dirt and diggers phase when I was in Kalamazoo last month I won't bother showing you a photograph of the site. I can, however give you a peek at the artist's projections for the new home of the Western Michigan University Archives and Local History Collections.

The new building will be named after Charles and Lynn Zhang who made a substantial donation. [1] The two WMU alumni are also local business people (Zhang Financial). [1] Other donors toward the project include the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and the late Frederick J. Rogers. [1]

A diagram of the floor plan of the new space is shown below.

As you would imagine most of the space in the Legacy Collections Center (LCC) will be devoted to storage. After “several go-rounds with the building design,” Sharon Carlson, Director of the Archives was happy to inform me that all of the archives materials, including items currently off-site, will be housed in the LCC. In addition, there will be room to expand on-site holdings into the future. The reason that so many resources can be housed in a relatively small space is the result of using collapsible shelving.

Dr. Carlson said that she is most looking forward to having “all of our collections together in a temperature and humidity controlled space which will be accessible to all patrons.” No more storing boxes in an old swimming pool! Although I imagine she won't miss capturing critters that managed to make their way into East Hall over the years she will miss “the atmosphere and the historical nature of the building.” Dr. Carlson continued “East Hall is also situated on what I think is the most beautiful part of Western's campus. We are all eagerly anticipating the new building but we are starting to feel a bit nostalgic about East Hall.”

Asked about some of the collections housed in the Archives, Dr. Carlson stated she thinks “the University side of the office is sometimes overlooked.” As for other unique resources, Dr. Carlson cites “the records of the Kalamazoo Ladies' Library Association, including the architectural drawings for the building. The Kalamazoo Ladies' Library Association building was the first to be constructed by and for a women's organization in the United States.” For a nice (and brief, for those with limited time) description of the Kalamazoo Ladies' Library Association please see this article at Seeking Michigan. It was written by Dr. Carlson, who earned a Ph.D. in history for her work on the subject.

Work to catalog the items in the recently donated Kalamazoo Gazette archive (for more see: WMU Archives' Big News) continues. While the photograph files will eventually be available, the Gazette clippings file is slated to be open for research “early next year,” according to Dr. Carlson. These random clippings primarily span the years from the 1930s to the 1990s. Though hit or miss, if you find something you didn't know then it was worth the effort to look. Dr. Carlson and Lynn Houghton, author of Kalamazoo Lost & Found, plan to give a talk for the Kalamazoo County Historical Society on Monday night and go into greater detail.

1. Ursula Zerilli. Future Western Michigan University archives center named for Charles and Lynn Zhang. Published Sep. 21, 2012 at

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