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Addlestone Adaptation Project

Posted by: Jennifer Stevens | October 2, 2013 | No Comment |


Written by Stephanie Alexander Rehmann:

Charleston’s beaches and friendly people may be world famous, but above and beyond its natural beauty, Charleston is heralded for its rich contributions to our nation’s history. The South Carolina Historical Society (SCHS), the state’s oldest and largest private repository of books, letters, maps, journals, drawings and photographs about South Carolina history, has called Charleston home since its founding in 1855. Letters from U.S. Presidents, rare 19th century images of South Carolinians, and the papers of Charleston renaissance trailblazers Dubose Heyward, Josephine Pinckney, and Laura Bragg represent a cross section of the Society’s many treasures. National Book Award-winner Edward Ball, who spoke to the Friends of the Library in February 2013, informed much of his bestselling book Slaves in the Family from the SCHS’s collection of this own family’s records, the Ball Family Papers.


The Historical Society is a collaborating organization in the Lowcountry Digital Library initiative, and when the Society began exploring new options for housing its collection, they turned to their friends in the College’s Libraries. Out of these discussions came an exciting new partnership: The College of Charleston’s Special Collections will soon house the majority of the SCHS’s collection. The South Carolina Historical Society currently resides in the historic Robert Mills Fireproof Building located at 100 Meeting Street. Native South Carolinian Robert Mills, the first professionally trained architect born in America and federal architect under President Andrew Jackson, designed many important buildings in Washington, D.C., including the Washington Monument. The Fireproof Building, built in 1822 as a state office building with secure storage for local public records, was the first fireproof structure in the nation built specifically to protect documents. The Fireproof Building was named a National Historic Landmark in 1973. Major renovations to the interior and exterior of the Palladian style structure were completed in 2002. The Fireproof Building, however historically significant in itself, isn’t positioned, either in space or technology, to house the Society’s ever-expanding collection. The Addlestone Library’s Special Collections, on the other hand, is a 21st century archives, with dedicated, modern facilities to repair, restore, and protect the treasures under the Society’scare. In housing the collection in the state-of-the-art Addlestone Library, the Society will ensure the safety of the thousands of fragile maps, letters, photographs and books in its possession, and will guarantee the space for continued collection growth. With the addition of the Society’s materials to the College’s already extensive holdings, the Addlestone Library will rank with the top research centers in the nation in Southern Studies.

“This partnership will enable the College to make the South Carolina Historical Society’s repository of historic resources more accessible to a much larger audience,” says College of Charleston President P. George Benson. “As a hub for research and intellectual discovery, the College’s Addlestone Library is the ideal place to house such an important collection.” Dr. Faye Jensen, Executive Director of the South Carolina Historical Society, is equally pleased by the partnership. “The holdings of the South Carolina Historical Society have long been acknowledged by scholars and students as an irreplaceable and inexhaustible resource of state, regional, and national culture,” she said. “We are pleased that these resources will be in close proximity to the College’s own invaluable collections.”


Partnership Leads to Major Improvements at Addlestone

The sudden influx of so much fragile and valuable material will require a major renovation to the Addlestone Library. Shelving in Special Collections will increase by 260%, to 45,000 square feet, with additional research space for students and scholars. The renovation serves a dual purpose: it addresses unexpected discrepancies between today’s realities and the usage numbers predicted when the Addlestone opened in 2005. The library operates 334 days per year, to serve 1.2 million people. Even with 1400 seats, the building can accommodate only 13% of the students at one time. At peak times during the semester, demand exceeds supply. Students require spaces for quiet study and collaborative work, as well as access to the expansive range of research materials – both print and electronic. The renovation will add 206 seats for students, including 140 general seats, eighteen seats in three small group study rooms, and fifty seats in new modular classroom learning space. While the Addlestone will safeguard the SCHS’s collection and ensure easy public access, the Society will retain ownership of its materials. Its staff will be intricately involved in the collection’s future maintenance, and have access to the College’s innovative digitization initiatives and best practices in traditional archiving. The collaboration, a true partnership between like-minded organizations, will be a boon to all: the College, the Historical Society, and countless researchers.

According to Cristi Schultz, project manager for the Addlestone adaptation project, Phase 1 of construction will begin in the summer of 2014. Renovations are expected to be fully finished in January 2015.

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