Federal Funding Impact Story #4

Project: Detroit Institute of Arts Archives Assessment

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Detroit Museum of Art exhibition catalog, 1886.

 

Granting Agency: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
Grant Program: Humanities Collections and Reference Resources
Institution: Detroit Institute of Arts
State: Michigan
Congressional District: 13th Michigan Congressional District
Grant Period: June 20, 2016-July 31, 2017
Award Amount: $40,000
Institutional Match Amount: $40,000

Jobs Created:
– 1 PTE 28 hr/wk position for 12 months
– 3 graduate students earning 3 credits each for 5 months of experience

Project Description
Assess and establish intellectual control over a collection of 11,000 linear feet of the museum’s administrative records, dating back to its founding, including 30 years of unprocessed artists’ correspondence, acquisition records, director’s files and curators’ exhibition papers.

What was the need for the grant?
Documents within the DIA’s Research Library and Archives detail pivotal moments in the City of Detroit’s history. Most recently, they described the DIA’s role in the resolution of the City of Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy. It was the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history both by debt, estimated at $18 billion, and by population, over 700,000 residents. At the time, the DIA was owned by the City of Detroit. It was also the city’s most valuable asset. Following the bankruptcy filing, creditors asked for the sale of DIA art. News agencies predicted the museum would close.

During bankruptcy proceedings, the DIA’s archival records helped save the museum. During the trial, over 180,000 DIA records were digitized for court proceedings. The documents showed that most of the museum’s most important works came from non-City of Detroit support. They were used extensively during the approval of a financial agreement that would come to be known as the “Grand Bargain.”

Unfortunately, like most of the DIA’s archival records, very few of the bankruptcy documents had previously been appraised, accessioned or processed. All such activities stopped thirty years ago, following severe museum-wide budget cuts and the dissolution of the DIA’s archival team. Therefore thirty years of records, including artist correspondence, directors and curators’ papers, and acquisition documents, have not received archival treatment. Many of the museum’s earlier documents, dating back to the late 19th century, have not been processed either.

Following Detroit’s bankruptcy and its resolution, the museum has better financial stability than at any other time in its modern history. With financial stability and a bankruptcy behind it, the DIA has resumed its commitment to its archival activities.

What has been the primary impact of this project?
The holdings survey was the key to understanding the unknowns of the materials currently held in RL&A. The museum is fully committed to making its archives more available and better organized for researchers. The Project Director and DIA Archivist are now able to better strategize future use of the DIA archives upon discovering its full contents. An immediate outcome of the holdings survey is improved access to collection, in particular, those that have been “hidden.” The collections-based reports can subsequently be translated into finding aids and catalog records for better access to the local, national, and international community.

The Project Team synthesized the results of the holdings survey with the input of the Advisory Team. The combined intelligence has been used to strengthen physical and intellectual control over the collection. The holdings survey provided the evidence needed to move forward with making sound decisions for improvements in description and access, prioritizing preservation needs, informing workflows, identifying issues we were not aware of, and plan for future projects (such as a future digitizing project).
Impact 3: To date, 164 collections (approximately 8,000 cases and 4,700 cubic feet) have been identified within the Library Stacks (the library’s book storage area) Archives Stacks, the DIA’s offsite Warehouse, and various other departments within the museum including AV offices and the Photography Department. Materials in each of these locations were inventoried and compiled into a single database for ready reference with rankings to reflect housing quality, physical quality, physical access, intellectual access, and intellectual value. These rankings are to inform and prioritize for future digitization efforts.

Submission by: Danae Dracht, Project Archivist, Detroit Institute of Arts
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Federal Funding Impact Story #3

Project: Documenting Modern Living

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Alexander Girard textile design floor plan, ca. 1956, on the IMA Archives Digital Archives Portal landing page (archive.imamuseum.org)

Granting Agency: National Endowment for the Humanities
Grant Program: Preservation and Access: Humanities Collections and Reference Resources
Institution: Indianapolis Museum of Art
State: Indiana
Congressional District: Indiana US District 7
Grant Period: April 2012 – May 2015
Award Amount: $190,000
Institutional Match Amount: $221,000

Jobs Created:
The largest portion of the award received from NEH went to the hiring of two full time employees–one for 18 months, and the other for 24 months.

Project Description
Digitization of the Miller House and Garden Collection, and creation of a Digital Archives Portal for delivery of content.

What was the need for the grant?
The Miller House and Garden Collection documents the design, construction, decoration, and maintenance of the iconic mid-century modern property for over 50 years. When the house and garden were gifted to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, this important archival collection also came to the museum. To assist the IMA in successfully stewarding the home and the many collections materials that came along with it, increased access and better preservation of the archival collection were key. Digitization would solve both needs, and a grant would allow for the purchase of digitization equipment and the hiring of staff to undertake the years-long process.

What has been the primary impact of this project?
This project has allowed for unprecedented access to an important mid-century design collection that documents the legacies of Daniel Urban Kiley, Eero Saarinen, and Alexander Girard. The easy availability of this material has made it possible for the Indianapolis Museum of Art to present the story of the home to the Columbus and broader Indiana  and national communities at a level of detail and accuracy that would not have been possible without the grant award. Perhaps the greatest impact that this project has had is on the country’s future architects, as architecture students from around the country have requested the high-resolution images of the home and landscape architectural drawings to further their studies. Students of interior design have similarly benefited, and will continue to do so for many decades to come.

This grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities has also had a direct impact on the lives of the two full time, temporary employees hired with the grant funds. One has gone on to further the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives as their archivist, and the other was offered a job at a high-profile design company immediately following the grant period as a result of their work on the Documenting Modern Living project.

Submission by: Samantha Norling, Archivist, Indianapolis Museum of Art
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Federal Funding Impact Story #2

Project: Preservation at the Charleston County Records Center

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Granting Agency: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
Grant Program: Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions
Institution: Charleston County Government
State: South Carolina
Congressional District: SC 1st Congressional District
Grant Period: January 2016 – June 2017
Award Amount: $6,000

Jobs Created:
1 contract consultant job created

Project Description
Preservation needs assessment conducted by a Lyrasis consultant, along with the purchase of preservation materials to rehouse archival collections.

What was the need for the grant?
Many of the oldest, most valuable records held at the Charleston County Records Center (CCRC) were in need of preservation. Federal grant funds from the NEH aided in beginning the process of developing a preservation program through the preservation needs assessment and provided funds for rehousing materials needed to adequately preserve archival records.

What has been the primary impact of this project?
The project impacted the local citizens of Charleston County by developing a plan to ensure their records and their ancestor’s records are in good condition and accessible in the future. At the national level, this project looked at how to ensure that historical records of research interest will be preserved for future research purposes. The grant also made it possible for CCRC to purchase 150 archival boxes to rehouse historic Clerk of Court records that date pre-1950.

Submission by: Haley Doty Vaden, Records Manager, Charleston County Government