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UT Arlington Central Library begins construction on cold storage vault for millions of historic photographic negatives

Friday, August 1, 2014

Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

News Topics: awards, film, humanities

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Construction begins next week on a world-class cold storage preservation vault at The Unviersity of Texas at Arlington Central Library. The facility will house approximately 5 million photographic negatives.

UTA Library cold storage will preserve millions of photo negatives.

The $800,000 project is funded by a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and generous contributions from the Amon G. Carter Foundation, the Adeline & George McQueen Foundation, the Crystelle Waggoner Charitable Trust, the Summerfield G. Roberts Foundation and Union Pacific.

“We are excited about what this cold vault will mean as far as our ability to preserve valuable photographs and audio-visual materials for hundreds of years to come,” said Rebecca Bichel, dean of the UT Arlington Libraries. “The state-of-the-art construction and high level of environmental protection will help us to answer the diverse research demands of our students, faculty, staff and other library patrons today and generations to come.”

UT Arlington joins other academic institutions, major museums, governmental agencies and the film industry in constructing a cold storage facility. They include the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley, the Smithsonian Institution and Library of Congress.

The Libraries’ Special Collections documents more than 150 years of North Texas history and is one of the largest in the country. Among the more notable holdings are the archives of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the J. W. Dunlop collection of historic Arlington images, the W. D. Smith collection of Fort Worth images, and the Basil Clemons collection documenting the oil boom town of Breckenridge, Texas.

Photographs from the Special Collections holdings have appeared in books, documentaries and magazines around the world and are used daily by scholars, researchers, filmmakers, historians and others.

Cold storage vaults typically resemble large refrigerated rooms filled with shelving units. They can be maintained at temperatures slightly above freezing (35°F) to accommodate access and reduce energy costs. UT Arlington’s vault will be more than 680 square feet. Cold storage significantly delays the deterioration rate of negatives.

Brenda McClurkin, head of Special Collections at UT Arlington, said in conventional office conditions, new film negatives begin to deteriorate after 50 years. When negatives are stored in a cold storage vault, their life is extended some 450 years.

“While the Libraries are actively digitizing their collections, digitization alone does not solve the problem of preservation,” McClurkin said. “Digitizing the collection would take millions of dollars and many years. Even if we had the money, the negatives would continue to deteriorate faster than we can scan them.”

The cold storage facility will be located in the basement of the Central Library and is expected to be fully functional in 2015. Contact Brenda McClurkin, for more information.

About UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth nationally for providing a racially and ethnically diverse campus. Military Times ranked UT Arlington one of the nation’s best universities for military veterans, and ranked UT Arlington eleventh nationally among public and private colleges and universities in Texas that provide the best College Return on Investment. More than 5,000 students live on campus in residence halls and on-campus apartments. More than 10,000 live within five miles of campus. Visit to learn more.

This news release was updated on Aug. 14, 2014.


The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.