A $50,000 grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities will study how the records of the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College can be better preserved.

Swenson Center Director Dr. Dag Blanck said in a Monday college release that two consultants — one archival and one architectural — will come to the Denkmann Memorial Building (3520 7th Ave., Rock Island) to explore ways in which the facilities that house archives for the study of Swedish-American history and relations can be improved through an assessment of the environmental conditions; mechanical systems; and the walls, windows and roof of the structure.

Dag Blanck is the director of the Swenson Center at Augustana.

Materials include letters, diaries, books and several hundred newspapers focused on the time period of 1840-1930, when 1.3 million Swedes made their way to the “new world.”

Annually, more than 600 people access the Swenson Center resources, including in-person and digitally, according to the Augustana release. In addition to academic research, the center also assists individuals researching their own Swedish-American genealogy.

“We are very concerned about continuing to be good stewards of the materials given to us,” Blanck said, speaking from Uppsala University in Stockholm, Sweden, where he serves as professor of North American Studies and director of the Swedish Institute for North American Studies.

Since becoming Swenson Center director in 1985, Dr. Blanck has divided his time between the Quad Cities and Uppsala.

The Swenson Center hosted a trip to Sweden this past summer, including to Drottingholm Palace, the private residence of the Swedish royal family, near Stockholm.

“Denkmann Hall is a beautiful building, but it has some issues — climate control, humidity, water — all things you don’t want to have near the archives,” he said. “We have incredible – unique and rare items. They must be preserved well. It’s an enormous challenge.” 

NEH received 57 eligible applications for the “Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections” category, and Augustana was one of only 17 requests awarded funding. A listing of recipients and awarded projects is available at neh.gov

Provost Dianna Shandy said this prestigious NEH award reaffirms the Swenson Center’s mission of serving as a leading national and international institution for the study of Swedish-American history and relations.

A view of the Uppsala riverfront during the Swenson Center trip to Sweden this past summer.

“Augustana’s commitment to its Swedish roots is demonstrated by this award and our thriving partnerships, including student exchange programs and President Andrea Talentino’s selection to speak during Higher Education Week at Uppsala University in October,” Shandy said. 

Blanck said study results will be considered alongside Augustana’s master campus plan, which will move into development soon. 

Depending on the scope of changes,  Blanck said changes may have a big impact on other occupants of stately Denkmann, which includes the department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. He said the center has made strides in modernizing its collections, and this important work must continue, he said. 

“Today so much is digital and computerized,” he said. “We need to move with the times, and the facilities must be adjusted for those circumstances as well.”

For more information, visit the Swenson Center website HERE.