LATROBE, PA – The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded Saint Vincent College a $10,000 preservation assistance grant to aid in the relocation, protection and preservation of the more than 4,000 works of art in the Saint Vincent Art and Heritage Collections.
Currently located in the Robert S. Carey Student Center, the Saint Vincent Gallery, which houses the majority of the art collection will be relocated to the Dale P. Latimer Library upon the completion of its multimillion-dollar expansion and renovation, scheduled for spring 2020. This new, climate-controlled space will significantly expand the area available for both the display and storage of Saint Vincent’s vast collection. The funds from the NEH grant will go toward expert consultation, materials and training to safely preserve the art collections within this new environment.
“Saint Vincent has one of the best collections of European art in Western Pennsylvania,” said Andrew Julo, curator of the Saint Vincent Art and Heritage Collections and administrative director of the Saint Vincent Gallery. “These funds, coupled with our move to an updated facility, help us to better care for the objects entrusted to us. It improves our ability to share with new audiences – both on campus and regionally – items that articulate the artistic and cultural heritage Saint Vincent has amassed over the past century and a half.”
While the new artwork area in the campus library will enhance its visibility and accessibility, Julo said that the improvement in storage is equally important.
“Right now,” he said, “we have several spaces across campus where artwork is kept. We have never had the ability to store it all in one centralized location. This is going to make it easy for us to take a total inventory – something we’ve never been able to do before – and give us more of an awareness of what exactly we have.”
Along with the added storage space, the tools and equipment that will be purchased with NEH grant funds will ensure the proper measures are taken to care for Saint Vincent’s collection, which includes items dating back to the 13th century. Funds awarded will aid in the purchase of acid-free interleaving paper to safely preserve stacks of manuscripts and other works on paper; archival foam core and mat board for backing paintings and mounting works on paper; as well as digital dataloggers to record climate conditions throughout the exhibition and storage facilities. Additionally, Julo will attend a training workshop on developing disaster response and recovery plans.
Though the awarding of the NEH grant coincides with the upcoming move to the Dale P. Latimer Library, the seeds for improving the storage and preservation of Saint Vincent’s collections were sown in 2013 by Julo’s predecessor, the late Br. Nathan Cochran, who hosted a visit from noted art conservator John Hartmann. The former chief of conservation for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and currently president and senior conservator of Hartmann Fine Arts Conservation Services in Carlisle, Hartmann presented Br. Nathan with a list of recommendations to improve the storage and preservation of Saint Vincent’s collections.
As part of the current NEH-funded project, Hartmann will also serve as a consultant throughout the upcoming move to the Dale P. Latimer Library, advising on the best practices for the relocation of the artwork and the purchase and utilization of new tools and equipment.
“John is going to visit campus next week,” said Julo, “and we are going to go through best practices for safely packaging the materials for the rehousing, as well as finding the best route for relocating. Getting everything wrapped up and ready to relocate is one of our biggest tasks.”
Julo plans to begin the moving process upon the completion of the fall semester in mid-December, saying that it will take a few weeks to get everything moved and then a few months to completely arrange both the storage and exhibition areas in preparation for the official opening of the new library and gallery areas, slated for late April.
“This is going to be a vast improvement,” said Julo. “Our current Carey Center gallery was a former lounge. The fact that we’re not going to be confined to a second- or third-use space, but one that will be outfitted specifically for our uses, is optimal. I’m beyond excited.”
The NEH is an independent federal agency created in 1965, serving to promote excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The Endowment accomplishes this mission by awarding grants for top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers. These grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television and radio stations and to individual scholars in order to strengthen teaching and learning; facilitate research and original scholarship; provide opportunities for lifelong learning; preserve and provide access to cultural and educational resources and strengthen the institutional base of the humanities.
In 2014 and 2017, Saint Vincent College was awarded two similar NEH preservation grants to help cover the cost of book conservators from the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts to visit the College to examine its collection of rare books, Benedictine history and illuminated manuscripts in Saint Vincent's Special and Legacy Collections and make recommendations for their long-term care.
Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
PHOTO: A public exhibition in the Saint Vincent Gallery, which will be moving from its present location in the Robert S. Carey Student Center to the new Dale P. Latimer Library.
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