Library receives grant to help preserve collections

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By Margaret McKinney
Highlands University

The New Mexico Highlands University Donnelly Library was awarded a $6,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help preserve the library’s extensive historical records and fine arts collection.

It is the first NEH grant in Donnelly Library’s history.

The grant will help preserve a wide range of materials, from 1,800 local historical photographs donated by the Las Vegas Citizens’ Committee for Historic Preservation to more than 2,000 original fine art prints from masters like Rembrandt and Picasso that Dr. Robert Bell donated.

Some other historical artifacts include Santa Fe Trail and Fort Union history, New Mexico and Las Vegas land grants, and the Beisman Collection ­– more than 7,500 local survey maps, plats, deeds, photographs, and other property records from the 1930s through the 1980s.

“The university funded a site preservation study this year to help us identify what we need to do to help preserve and extend the life of our valuable special collections,” said Ruben Aragon, Donnelly Library director. “We’re very grateful to the NEH for this grant, which will help us implement the first phase of a long-term preservation plan.”

The grant will be used to acquire special acid-free archival storage boxes and folders, electronic data loggers to monitor temperature and relative humidity in special collection rooms, ultraviolet filters for the fluorescent lights, oversized shelving for extra-large books, and other preservation materials.

Cheryl Zebrowski was the primary grant writer for the National Endowment for the Humanities proposal and will administer the grant. She is an assistant librarian at Donnelly and head of cataloging and systems.

“This grant will help us preserve one-of-a kind historical documents that reflect the history and culture of Northern New Mexico, from prehistory to the Santa Fe Trail period to Las Vegas’ heyday as a railroad town,” Zebrowski said. “These documents provide unique insights into the controversial land claims between diverse cultures, from the Native American pueblos to Spanish and Mexican land grants to Anglo property laws. The grant will also help us preserve and protect Donnelly’s art collection of more than 2,500 pieces.”

Zebrowski said Donnelly’s historical records, including the Las Vegas Optic repository, are popular with community members doing genealogical and property research.

“Cheryl has been an innovative and visionary librarian,” said Linda LaGrange, associate vice president for academic affairs.

Other university librarians who will work on the preservation grant include Leslie Broughton, head of collection and instruction, and April Kent, head of public services.

“The Donnelly art collection is an educational tool that allows students and the community to experience internationally known art as well as the unique artistic culture of our area,” Broughton said. “The art collection is used by fine arts and media arts students, and also for exhibits in the library’s Ray Drew Gallery.”

The Donnelly art collection is diverse, with most of the pieces housed in the library’s art viewing room. The collection includes original works by recognized artists such as the painter Elmer Schooley and regional artists such as the sculptor Harry Leippe, a retired Highlands University fine arts professor.

Retablos, devotional paintings common in northern New Mexico’s Hispanic culture, are an important part of the collection, which also features fine art prints from the the 15th – 21st centuries, and more.