GARDINER — The Gardiner Public Library archive room’s historical records are on their way to being better protected after the library secured more than $100,000 in grants this year to pay for renovations to the room.

The library received $112,000 in grant money from four foundations and one private donor over the last several months to fund its plan to renovate the lower floor with a new heating, ventilating and air conditioning system, a tiled floor and LED lighting.

Anne Davis, director of the library, said the donors asked not to be named, but some are well-known organizations that have supported libraries in the past.

The library will raise the remaining $35,000 needed for the estimated $145,000 renovation from the community, Davis said. She said she’s confident the library will be able to reach its goal and complete the renovations by the end of December or early January.

“People are just so generous in our city that I honestly don’t think it will be an issue for us,” she said.

The library has already bought 16 metal rolling shelves for most of its archive collection. Many of the books and records were previously on wooden shelves and had to be carried up to the top floor by hand when flooding threatened, Davis said. Now the wheeled shelves can be easily moved upstairs with the elevator.

Some of the collection, which includes documents and photographs, date back to before the Revolutionary War. One Boston newspaper from 1769 in the library’s collection features a front-page advertisement about a runaway slave named Titus, with the owner offering a reward of $10.

The collection also includes books from Gardiner’s two Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, Laura E. Richards and Edwin Arlington Robinson; cemetery records, city records from the early 1800s before Gardiner was incorporated; church records; historical business and resident directories of Gardiner and surrounding towns; and high school yearbooks.

Many of the items in the library’s collection were donated by individuals and families, according to Dawn Thistle, the special collections librarian.

People often stop by or contact the library to find out family history or information about their homes or buildings, Thistle said.

She said students learning about the Civil War visited the archives room to look at newspapers from that time. The library has nearly all the copies of the Gardiner Home Journal between 1861 and 1863.

“What’s a better way to get an idea of what was going on in town when the Civil War was just getting started?” Thistle said.

Many of the documents are filed in boxes, but Thistle said it’s more important to control the environment of the big box — the room.

Fluctuations in humidity and temperature can damage old documents, Thistle said. The new tile floor will seal out moisture, and the LED lighting won’t damage documents like fluorescent lighting does, she said.

“Fluorescent lights are almost as bad, if not worse, than sun damage,” Thistle said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig


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