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Marion E. Wade Center Awarded Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

February 12, 2018

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded Wheaton College’s Marion E. Wade Center a Preservation Assistance Grant for 2018. The Wade Center will use the NEH grant to assess the preservation needs of a selection of books from the personal library of C.S. Lewis.

While Wheaton faculty have received NEH grants in the past, this is the first time that an NEH grant was awarded to the College, according to Wade Center archivist Laura Schmidt. The Wade Center received $6,000 in grant funding, and Schmidt will serve as project director for the preservation assessment.

“As archivist I am responsible for obtaining new materials for our collection, preserving those materials, and helping people to use them,” Schmidt says. “The NEH grant supports both the preservation and access parts of my job. Preserving these books through conservation treatment will allow them to be usable by our visitors for years to come.”

A professional book conservator from Chicago’s Conservation Center will be conducting the assessment in late February 2018. The conservator will examine 420 volumes from Lewis’s library over the course of a week to determine which books are most in need of treatment.

Schmidt will work alongside Wade Center catalog librarian Elaine Hooker to assist the conservator with the on-site assessment. A final report including a detailed evaluation of each volume with cost estimates for the completion of the project will be sent to the NEH upon conclusion of the assessment.

The Wade Center owns over 2,400 books in varying physical conditions from C.S. Lewis’s personal library. These library books are among the Wade Center's most heavily accessed collections, making them especially vulnerable to deterioration due to regular handling. The volumes, never before evaluated by a conservator and in varying physical condition, contain Lewis’s annotations of unique, unpublished content. As a result, they are a significant and valued resource for gaining insight into Lewis and his thoughts. 

Following the assessment, the Wade Center will create a long-term fundraising plan for conservation treatment of the books based on the assessment recommendations.

For more information about the Marion E. Wade Center, visit wheaton.edu/wadecenter.