For 25 years, Rudolph Vecoli woke up in the middle of rainy nights hoping his archive wasn’t flooded out.
With a leaking roof, poor drainage and an occasional sewer backup, the Immigration Research History Center has caused its director many sleepless nights since the center moved to its “temporary” location in 1974.
But Vecoli, a history professor, will rest easier when the center relocates to Andersen Library.
That “temporary” location turned into a 25-year residence simply because the University never moved them out, Vecoli said.
So the center has dealt with a constant risk of water leaking from the roof and damaging valuable archive material.
Although nothing has been lost because of leaks, Vecoli said water has seeped into the archive on several occasions.
In addition, the building’s appearance and location — on Berry Street in St. Paul, a block off University Avenue — are detrimental to its function, Vecoli added.
“It’s been an embarrassment to bring people to a place like this,” Vecoli said.
But the immigration center, along with several other University archives, will relocate to the West Bank’s new Andersen Library, scheduled for completion in late November or early December.
Many of the other archives have also dealt with climate-control problems.
“It’s hard to monitor a large building that was built in 1923,” said Karen Nelson Hoyle, curator of the Children’s Literature research collection housed in Walter Library.
With the delicate documents housed within archives, temperature fluctuation and humidity can cause severe damage.
“We have stuff that is too brittle to be Xeroxed,” said Al Lathrop, curator of the Manuscripts Division, currently housed in the same building as the immigration center. Some manuscripts in the collection have become so brittle that they need to be copied digitally.
Usually archive materials need to be stored at a temperature between 62 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels between 45 and 55 percent, said Joel Wurl, the immigration center’s curator.
But Andrea Hinding, curator of the YMCA Archives, located on 2642 University Ave. in St. Paul, has been pleased with their facilities and has mixed feelings about the move to Andersen Library later this year.
Although she will have to move from a building she likes, the move will bring her archive closer to others, providing a better opportunity to collaborate with other archives.
Nathan Whalen covers construction and facilities and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3237.