WMU to break ground for Legacy Collections building

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Artist rendering of WMU Legacy Collections Center

KALAMAZOO--After years of planning and fundraising, Western Michigan University will break ground at 10:30 a.m., Thursday, July 19, for a facility that will house the University's archives as well as historical records for all of Southwest Michigan.

The 16,000-square-foot, $8.3 million Legacy Collections Center, officially part of University Libraries, will be built on WMU's Oakland Drive Campus. The campus includes the grounds and some of the original buildings of the Kalamazoo State Hospital, all of which constitute a Michigan historic area. The new legacy facility will be at the end of Calhoun Street, a road that dates back to the property's state hospital days. It is the first entrance into the grounds north of Howard Street.

Participating in the July 19 groundbreaking event will be WMU President John M. Dunn; Dr. Joseph G. Reish, dean of University Libraries; Dr. Sharon Carlson, director of the legacy collections; and representatives of funding organizations.

The Legacy Collections Center will be built with private funding that includes several significant gifts. When finished, it will house more than 28,000 cubic feet of what is now known as the WMU Archives and Regional History Collections as well as overflow books and serials from the University Libraries. The collections include historical University, regional and local governmental records; manuscript collections; oral histories; census records; a research collection of books, magazines and newspapers; and several large photographic collections.

The Legacy Collections Center also will house the complete archives of the Kalamazoo Gazette, an arrangement that was worked out earlier this year and announced by the Gazette in May.

For more than 20 years, research and historical materials have been housed in East Hall, WMU's first building. The collections are shelved in what was the campus's gymnasium. Additional parts of the collections are in two off-site areas. The University's long-term goal was to find or build a permanent home that is secure, climate-controlled and easily accessible by the general public. The planned building will bring together the collections from East Hall as well as the off-site storage areas.

"This has been our goal for many years, and now it is finally being realized," says Dunn. "I've always considered the historical collections entrusted to us a public treasure and one for which we've needed a facility that could guarantee their safety and accessibility for years to come. With the support of this community, that goal will become a reality."

Each year, more than 1,800 people visit the collections to do historical and genealogical research. The collections are also used by WMU students and faculty members as well as by visiting scholars.

Legacy Collections Center

The new building will include a large reading room with 1,250 linear feet of shelving, tables and seating for 24. The reading room will have the capacity to be transformed into a 72-seat event center for such activities as public lectures. The center also will have a two-story storage area with 30-foot tall compact shelving for materials and will have ample public parking just steps away.

Site preparation and utilities work will begin the week of July 23. Foundations will be laid during the first three weeks of August, and the building exterior will be completed and closed in by winter. The facility is scheduled for completion in summer 2013.

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