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Winthrop's archives now available at 'first-rate facility'

If you want to read unique Civil War diaries, look at 200 glass-plate negatives from legendary photographer John Schorb or study cuneiform records from 2400 B.C., Winthrop University's Dacus Library Louise Pettus Archives & Special Collections is the place to find them.

The collection will re-open today in the former Bookworm building on Cherry Road, in time for the new year and for the archives' 50th anniversary. The three-story building had stood empty since last year, when the bookstore that serves students and the community moved to the DiGiorgio Campus Center. It took library faculty months to move more than 6 million items into a new home.

"We've always had a first-rate archives," said Mark Herring, dean of library services. "We have a first-rate facility now."

Gina White, director of archives and special collections, said they had just run out of room in their former location, the bottom floor of Dacus Library on the university's campus.

Staff had considered using off-site storage or finding any available space in the library, but the Bookworm building more than triples the space for the university's archival collections, she said.

"Everyone has had the same reaction: that it's unbelievable," White said, standing at the top floor.

The third floor features research tables and audio preservation space. Looking over the main floor, banners advertising the archives' unique items, including drawings from famed architect Alfred Gilchrist and the Knox-Wise papers, hang from the ceiling over long tables for research. The main floor also features a conference room.

The main floor will also feature various displays throughout the year, Herring said.

On the bottom floor, compact shelving, or shelves that can physically roll out and increase space by at least 50 percent, were installed to hold more items. The compact shelving was part of the nearly $500,000 in upgrades to the Bookworm facility.

Other upgrades include the museum-quality heating and cooling system on the bottom floor, where collections have to be kept at a temperature of 64 degrees with 40 percent relative humidity.

"We're so happy to have this facility," White said.

Plus, the archives have an increased staff, the kind of staff Herring said such a facility needs. The facility is impressive for an institution of Winthrop's size, he added.

"It's one more treasure that Rock Hill has that we don't always remember we have," he said. "It adds to the culture."

He and White hope the community will take advantage of the upgraded facilities. The archives are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and will be open one weekend per month.

For the public to use the facility, they can call Archives at 803-323-2334 to make arrangements and use the intercom outside for access. Winthrop users can swipe their IDs.