Thousands of artifacts from the York County History Center’s collections could soon be stored in the kind of environment that will keep them preserved and accessible for decades, thanks to a federal grant awarded in August. The $36,933 planning grant will be used explore how to turn a wing in the Agricultural and Industrial Museum (AIM) into climate-controlled storage space. The existing space has no ability to control heat and humidity, and the grant will pay to develop a plan to upgrade the HVAC system and turn the 10,000-square-foot area into state-of-the-art storage.
The funding comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which announced a total of 226 grants totaling $31.5 million for projects around the country, including just 12 for projects in Pennsylvania. The History Center grant was in the category of Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions, and the center was one of 65 such grants awarded nationally. You can see the full list of grant recipients here.
“This is a significant grant award that could help us be successful when we apply for the next round of NEH funding for this project that will allow us to upgrade that area of AIM,” said Joan Mummert, president and CEO of the History Center. “Credit to Rachel Warner, our director of collections, and the rest of the project team that put this first grant application together. We appreciate that the NEH recognized the value of the work we’re doing to make sure our artifacts can be enjoyed for generations to come and further our progress toward accreditation.”
History Center staff will use the funding to study the feasibility and plan for developing proper environmental storage spaces at AIM, and they will work next to Kenya Brown Feeser, a trained conservator, and Dennis Kunkle, the History Center’s former facilities director, who has more than 33 years’ experience in both the museum and construction fields. This team will also work with a local architectural firm to research sustainable preservation strategies for AIM.
The planning phase should be complete by December. At that point, the History Center will apply for a second round of funding to implement the plan and improve the space. That wing of AIM currently houses the Local Industry exhibits, which tell the stories of various local businesses, including the recently reinterpreted Pfaltzgraff story. A significant upgrade to the space will allow the center to better care for their artifacts, prolonging their life and accessibility to the public for future generations. The work could start in 2023 or 2024.
This NEH project coincides with the History Center’s plans to consolidate facilities and collections into a new museum, the former Met-Ed steam plant along West Philadelphia Street in downtown York. Some of the large artifacts currently on display at the Agricultural and Industrial Museum will be moved to new exhibits at the Steam Plant. Many other History Center artifacts will then be moved to the upgraded space at AIM.
The new museum will open to the public in early 2024.