An Upgrade for the Wilcox Archives

MARA Blog
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Published: August 19, 2019 by Kenna Wulker

Thanks to a $300,000 grant, archives at the William Way Community Center in Philadelphia, PA are finally getting the treatment they deserve. In this collection are thousands of various items detailing the history of LGBTQ+ life.

A Work in Progress

Five years ago, the Wilcox Archives at William Way in Philadelphia was dismal at best. While one of the largest collections of its kind, few resources and chronic inconsistency left the collection haphazard and frankly, not fit for housing such an important collection of archives. There was no HVAC system, no consistency in storage or even materials used. The archives were manned totally by volunteers with no set schedule. 

Organization was also a major deficit at the Wilcox Archives. Boxes used to store precious historical items were often old fruit or beer boxes, meaning the acid used in these boxes could destroy the archives all together over time. This collection, one of the largest of its kind, was at risk of irreversible damage.

A Grant to Save the Day

A saving grace came in 2014 from the William Penn Foundation in the form of a $300k grant. This grant allowed hiring of a full time and part time employee, new acid free boxes and other resources that the repository desperately needed to ensure long term preservation. 

Director John Anderies discusses the impact of the grant on the collection, noting not only the better storage supplies, but the ability to make the collection more accessible. Since being hired on as the full time archivist, Anderies has worked tirelessly to create policies and procedures for cataloging, digitize what he can, and organize the entirely donated collection.

Upcoming Renovations

Thanks for Governor Tom Wolf, the William Way Community Center will undergo major renovations, which will double the size of the archives. In the new design, the repository will double in size and allow visitors to have access to select artifacts, while the more sensitive material will be kept in a second room. Chairs, tables, and desks will also be added to the space. 

While the task of organizing the collection and implementing best practices for preservation has been a daunting task, Anderies believes the payoff is worth the effort. The renovations are expected to begin within six months. To learn more about the Wilcox archives, click here