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Special Collections connects with WNC communities through 1889 Impact Grant-funded project

1889 hunter library


Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library is providing free exhibitions of historical photographs to communities across Western North Carolina through a project made possible by donations to the Fund for WCU.

The nearly $2,000 project undertaken by the library’s Special and Digital Collections unit is supported by funding from the WCU Division of Advancement’s 1889 Impact Grants Program. The funds enabled library staff to purchase materials used to assemble the display.

During the past academic year, Special Collections used the display for an oral history listening station at an international days event at Southwestern Community College. Staff also utilized the display at a presentation during Kephart Days, an annual event in Bryson City celebrating the life and works of Horace Kephart, an outdoorsman, author and advocate for establishing Great Smoky Mountains National Park who lived from 1862 to 1931.

Relationships between Special Collections staff and organizers of the Kephart event and many of the attendees over the course of many years has resulted in donations of historical items and monetary contributions, said Liz Harper, Hunter Library’s special and digital collections librarian.

“Through these local displays, we’ve connected community members with photos of their family they’ve never seen before and identified numerous individuals pictured in the photos. With this grant funding, even more community members are able to participate, growing our reach and engagement,” Harper said.

 In addition, the Waynesville branch of the Haywood County Library is hosting the display as part of a two-month long exhibit that began earlier in September, and future exhibitions are in the works at the four branches of the Nantahala Regional Library later this year.

“We are particularly excited to represent WCU in the far western counties. We anticipate these displays will generate interest, and new exhibits and partners will emerge,” Harper said. “We also continue to have extensive collaborations with the community in Bryson City, collaborations which were the inspiration for this grant. These relationships have resulted in the donations of numerous extremely unique and wonderful regional collections.”

Launched in 2021, the 1889 Impact Grants program is designed to provide a consistent source of funding for colleges and other units at WCU in support of initiatives that enhance the engagement of alumni and community stakeholders with the philanthropic activities of the university.

Funding for the program comes from annual contributions to the Fund for WCU, including leadership gifts from members of the 1889 Club, which recognizes donors for gifts made on an annual basis to the Fund for WCU. The club, among four giving societies established by the Division of Advancement to celebrate the impact of philanthropy on the institution, is named in honor of the year of WCU’s founding.

Eleven projects were selected to receive a total of $40,000 in grant funding during the program’s inaugural year.

Learn more about how the Fund for WCU and 1889 Impact Grants provided support for this project.

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