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Libraries receives $1.5 million gift from the Wallin Foundation

By February 15, 2017September 16th, 2023No Comments

Maxine Houghton Wallin Center-5Students, scholars, and users from across the globe will benefit from enhanced technology, contemporary classroom space, and access to rare and special collections worth nearly $1 billion at the University of Minnesota Libraries, thanks to a $1.5 million gift from the Wallin Foundation, a leader in advancing education.

The gift honors Maxine Wallin, a librarian, a lover of books, a former Friends of the University Libraries Board member, an alumna of the U of M Library School, and a longstanding supporter of the Libraries. Wallin — a descendant of the Houghton family, whose philanthropy has created libraries and benefited education — earned degrees in international relations and library science and began her career at the University’s Walter Library, before advancing to a cataloging role with rare collections, which included work with many non-English language texts.

A new public space for scholars, students, and the community will be created on the ground floor of Elmer L. Andersen Library and named the Maxine Houghton Wallin Special Collections Research Center. The $1.5 million gift leverages additional investments, which will help fund the Center and new secure storage vaults in the caverns beneath Andersen Library. The vaults will hold the Libraries rare books and the James Ford Bell Library collection, which are currently housed in Wilson Library. For the first time, most of the Libraries’ major special collections will be housed in one library.

“Libraries record the history of mankind and I am delighted to support new technologies and methods so that more students and researchers can access the outstanding University collections and promote global understanding and education,” Wallin said.

Center will enhance traditional approaches to learning, research

The Center will enhance traditional approaches to learning and research by providing a wide range of individual user stations and technology-enhanced seminar space, while boosting digitization capacities to increase online access to materials. It will provide a transformative research experience to diverse users — including scholars from around the world, authors, documentary film producers, high school students, and students and faculty from the University of Minnesota.

“As a History of Medicine professor — and archive geek — I regularly use many of the University Libraries’ special collections related to health, welfare, maps, institutions, medical education, and public policy for my own research,” said Professor Jennifer Gunn, adding that the collections are one of the University’s key student recruitment tools. “I give my undergraduates a primary source research assignment every year so they can ‘touch’ history and experience the process of historical analysis and interpretation. The new Maxine Houghton Wallin Special Collections Research Center will make it possible for my students to work together in groups, for me to teach in the archives, and with updated digitization and learning technology, to share that experience beyond the boundaries of the University.”

Thousands of people visited the Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections in 2016, including: PBS producers, History Day students, a filmmaker working with Ken Burns, Norwegian scholars, and professors from Yale and Harvard.

“Sixteen years ago, Governor Elmer L. Andersen helped create a space for our unique and valuable special collections. Soon, we will fully realize his vision when the Maxine Houghton Wallin Special Collections Research Center opens next year,” said University Librarian Wendy Pradt Lougee. “The new Center represents an unparalleled and innovative opportunity to share and explore our cultural record, support interdisciplinary research, and enable new educational opportunities.”

Center expected to open first quarter of 2018

Construction of the storage vaults is expected to begin in summer 2017, while construction of the Wallin Special Collections Research Center is expected to begin in September 2017 and open in the first quarter of 2018. It will feature a suite of program spaces, including:

  • A reading room for research and study of special collections materials
  • A classroom/seminar room with technology for presentations and deeper exploration of special collections materials
  • The James Ford Bell Library and exhibits, including the 1602 Ricci map and an interactive touch-screen display
  • Curator and staff offices and workspace

About the Wallin Foundation

The Wallin Foundation was formed by Winston and Maxine Wallin in 1990 and provides philanthropic support primarily for youth education and life science research. Most notably, Wallin Partners is a consortium of over 50 Twin Cities corporate and family donors who support low income students — with high talent and motivation — who wish to graduate from college. To date, more than $45 million has been invested in over 4,000 students, most of whom are the first in their families to attend college.

Mark Engebretson

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