Changes Come to Library & Archives

Thanks to the generosity of many Academy supporters, we have completed the renovation for a modernized Library Research Center and new exhibit gallery. This bold effort links Academy science and collections to the visitor experience, effectively improves our organizational sustainability and responsibly stewards our valuable collections.

After a yearlong renovation, the elegant Library Reading Room at the Academy will soon open its doors as a new exhibition gallery with the exhibit Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The renovation creates the first new large space dedicated to exhibits in a decade.

The Library Reading Room is now called the William B. Dietrich Gallery in recognition of The William B. Dietrich Foundation’s generous support of a major part of the renovation. The gallery will be dedicated to experiences and exhibits, including shows focused on art and photography, that will appeal particularly to adults.

The transformed Library Research Center will offer greater access to the Library and Archives for staff, scientists and researchers around the world while improving environmental conditions and security of the collections, preserving these treasures for future generations. The renovation project includes the McLean Wolf Rare Books Room, through the generosity of The McLean Contributionship, and the Morris Reading Room, through the generosity of Martha and I. Wistar Morris
III of Villanova, Pa. Read on for a list of more amazing supporters who have made the Library Research Center and new gallery project possible.

How do these renovations affect the beloved books and artifacts that reside inside the walls of the Library and Archives? And how are our librarians and archivists tackling the changes?

The Academy’s Brooke Dolan Archivist, Jennifer Vess, weighs in.

JV: How many people does it take to move a 200-year-old mineral cabinet? This is one of the many questions our Library and Archives staff has answered over the last year.

In May 2019, the Library and Archives closed its doors so that we could prepare for this monumental project. Construction is a long and messy process, and much of it took place in areas that house our precious collections.

So what did we do with those collections? We moved them.

Stack of rare books

With 2,000 linear feet of archives, dozens of paintings, hundreds of objects and thousands of rare books, the moving process is complex. Our first step was to find temporary spaces in other areas of the Library and Archives. Though we don’t have much space to spare, we made use of every inch to house our objects (including statues, furniture and microscopes) as well as oversized archives and an extensive collection of glass negatives and lantern slides.

The majority of the collections, however, could not stay here at the Academy. During the renovation, our collection of some 50 portraits and oil paintings, along with a large portion of our rare books, was placed in a specialized art storage facility. We worked with professional art handlers to pack and move each item so that all were protected and returned to the Academy in the same condition as when they left.

The Archives, which includes documents, photographs, manuscripts and other materials, is a substantial collection. We have been very privileged to work with the Legacy Center Archives and Special Collections — the repository of the historic records of the Drexel University College of Medicine and its predecessor institutions (Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University). The Archives resided at the Legacy Center at Drexel’s Queen Lane Campus, and we were able to provide some access for researchers on a limited basis. This move required time, expert movers and special carts designed for the movement of large amounts of records.

The move out took place over several months, and this winter we were engaged in moving everything back into the new space. Fresh new rooms, new compact storage in both the archives and the rare book room and a new HVAC unit to control temperature and humidity for the precious rare books will allow us to better protect the history of the Academy and the legacy of the natural sciences over multiple centuries. We anticipate reopening the library and archives to researchers in 2020.

And that 200-year-old mineral cabinet? It took four trained collection managers to safely move it.

By Jennifer Vess, Brooke Dolan Archivist

We would like to thank the generous supporters who made the Library Research Center and New Gallery project possible.

The Arcadia Foundation
Mr. and Mrs. Pierce Archer
Mary and Peter Austen
Joseph F. Baker and William S. Mulherin
Jeffrey A. Beachell
Jack Christopher Beard
Muriel V. and Alfred R. Berkeley
Blue Sky Family Foundation
Jean G. Bodine
Mr. and Mrs. Richard C. Boothby
Mr. and Mrs. Robert G. Bradford
Amy Branch and Jeff Benoliel
Lois and Julian Brodsky
Mrs. Elia D. Buck
Elinor Hosterman Buck and James M. Buck III
Mr. and Mrs. R. Kent Cadwalader
Mr. G. Hayden Cadwalader
Marie Carroll
Amy and R. Putnam Coes III
The Connelly Foundation
The Cotswold Foundation
Giny and Don Crawford
Katherine Criscuolo
Ms. Maude de Schauensee
Abbie and Patrick Dean
Patty and Rob Delany
Dorrance H. Hamilton Charitable Lead Trusts
Karen and Robert Drury
Ralph C. Eagle Jr., M.D.
Mr. and Mrs. George W. Gephart Jr.
Jacqui and Dave Griffith
Haldeman Family Foundation
We would like to thank the generous supporters who made
the Library Research Center and New Gallery project possible.
Hamilton Family Charitable Trust
Hamlin Family Foundation Inc.
Mr. and Mrs. James Harbison
Mrs. Nancy G. Harris
Ellen Harvey and Tad G. Sperry
Ted and Michael Hauser
Mr. and Mrs. Peter H. Havens
Deborah Holt Weil
The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Jun Huangpu and Xia Li
Hufty Foundation
Mr. and Mrs. Craig N. Johnson
Scott Eric Jordan and Gina Valdez
Brooke and Tom Katzenbach
Lew* and Janet Klein
Ms. Abby Kropp
Mr. and Mrs. David P. Lazar Sr.
The Legnini Family
Ms. Frances H. Leidy
Courtney and Page Leidy
Leo Model Foundation, Inc.
Leslie Miller and Richard Worley Foundation
Nicholas Long and Abigail Brooks
Louis N. Cassett Foundation
Lynn and Scott Magrane
Dr. Berrell Mallery
Elizabeth P. McLean
Lisa McLean
Sandra McLean
Ward and Kelly McLean
Wendy W. McLean
The McLean Contributionship
Mr. Allen J. Model and
Dr. Roberta E. Gausas
Edward A. Montgomery Jr.
Theresa and Ranney Moran
Martha H. and I. Wistar Morris III
The Pennsylvania Trust Company
The Philadelphia Foundation
Ms. Marian M. Pool
Pam and Hobie Porter
Maggie and Thomas Rassweiler
Raynier Institute & Foundation
Van* and Shirley Reiner
Mr. and Mrs. Gerald B. Rorer
The Rorer Foundation, Inc.
Dr. John P. Schmidt
Mrs. Peter G. Smith
SNAVE Foundation
Judith Soltz and Richard Belas
Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Stauffer Jr.
Mr. and Mrs. Morris A. Stout
Margie and Matt Strickler
Mr. and Mrs. James M. Talbot II
Vertex, Inc.
Margaretta Tranger Walton
Ms. Patricia A. Warehime
William B. Dietrich Foundation
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Wilmerding
Mr. and Mrs. James W. Zug
Mr. James W. Zug Jr.
Linda and Brooks Zug

This article first appeared in the spring/summer 2020 issue of the Academy’s member magazine, Academy Frontiers.

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