Gift Endows Library Curatorship and Fellowships

Looking up at the front of Wilson Library

A $2 million gift from William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust will endow a curatorship and fund fellowships at University Libraries. The endowment honors Sarah Graham Kenan, who provided the first major gift for the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library in 1930.

Part of the gift is a $1.5 million endowment that will create the position of Sarah Graham Kenan Curator of the Southern Historical Collection. The Southern Historical Collection is today considered one of the nation’s leading repositories for materials about the American South. In November, 2021, Chaitra Powell was appointed curator of the Southern Historical Collection and will be the first curator to hold the endowed title.

The endowment will enable Powell and her successors to continue developing the collection and its programming. It will also support archivists’ efforts to build digital pathways that enable researchers, students and community members to explore and use the extensive collection.

The remaining $500,000 is a three-year challenge match to endow research and teaching fellowships at the Wilson Special Collections Library. Wilson Library currently operates a competitive program of research and creative awards. Participants engage with historic collections, the expertise of librarians and archivists, and colleagues across campus. The endowment will provide permanent funding for these awards and for programs that encourage creative engagement with the collections through visual and performing arts. The University Libraries has already raised $225,000 toward the match.

“Sarah Graham Kenan enthusiastically supported the Southern Historical Collection when it was still a bold but untested idea,” said Elaine L. Westbrooks, vice provost for University libraries and University librarian. “Just as she looked forward, this endowment from the Kenan Charitable Trust looks ahead to the collection’s next century and beyond. Sarah Graham Kenan’s legacy will continue to live on in the collection she helped make possible.”

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