A&M-Corpus Christi Awarded $500K NEH Challenge Grant for Downtown Building, Library Archives

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Special Collections and Archives is receiving national support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for preservation, growth, and enhanced community engagement. NEH has awarded the Island University $500,000 in federal matching funds over three years as part of The NEH Challenge Infrastructure and Capacity Building Grants program.

The purpose of the program is to strengthen the institutional base of the humanities by enabling infrastructure development and capacity building that secures long-term support for efforts to preserve and create access to outstanding humanities materials. At the Island University, the funds will help secure much needed renovations to the university’s downtown building – a mixed use building that will be the new home for the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Special Collections and Archives.

Dr. Catherine Rudowsky, TAMU-CC Dean of University Libraries, is the grant’s program director. She is working with faculty and staff in the TAMU-CC Bell Library, College of Liberal Arts, and the Division of Institutional Advancement to fulfill the grant.  

“We have outgrown our space here at Bell Library,” Rudowsky said. “We currently have two congressional collections in offsite storage and have donors patiently waiting for us to have room to transition their larger collections to our care. The area we will inhabit in the downtown building provides 12,000 square feet of space and is estimated to sustain up to 20 years’ worth of growth.”

The library’s current archives consist of over 320 collections ranging from 1845 to present day and represents over 12,000 linear feet of unique primary source materials. The long-preserved collections are comprised of richly diverse voices from the many nationalities who immigrated to our region, including writers, artists, architects, surveyors, political activists, publishers, historians, coastal environmentalists, marine scientists, and city, state, and federal officials. 

While the university and community partners have provided funds to renovate the downtown building’s mechanics, including plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and elevators, the unique and specific needs of archives require additional funding.

“The build out of the archives in the downtown building comes with significant costs, including high-density storage, cold-storage, and a quarantine room, which are all fundamental spaces for proper archives,” Rudowsky said. “We also plan to create a workroom to process collections, a digitization lab, research space, and a larger multipurpose community engagement room for educational programs, outreach activities, exhibit openings, meetings, and more.”

Built in 1947, the 79,000 square foot building located on Chaparral Street is made of poured concrete and has survived six hurricanes – a sizeable consideration for Special Collection and Archives. According to Rudowsky, the move to the downtown building increases the support for preservation efforts and ensures dedication to the long-term stewardship of donor collections. 

“This grant is a notable investment from a federal agency which recognizes the value of our local history and the need to preserve and promote that history,” Rudowsky said. “We hope this commitment will speak to other donors, who can rally around federal support and who will know that their money goes twice as far, through the dollar-for-dollar match.”

The challenge grant is a competitive program that has a funding rate of approximately 28%. While this NEH program is normally funded at a 3:1 match, as a Hispanic Serving Institution, the Island University has been awarded matching funds at 1:1 ratio. The fundraising performance period started March 1, 2023, and concludes July 31, 2025. The match timetable is $150,000 by July 31, 2023, and $175,000 each of the next two years.

“Our local history is part of our nation’s history,” Rudowsky said. “This is not just a financial boost; it is confirmation of the importance of what we are doing. To be supported by a distinguished federal agency is validation that folks beyond our local region recognize the value of our unique heritage and stories within the Coastal Bend.”

To learn more about supporting this project, email catherine.rudowsky@tamucc.edu.