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New Acadian Archives facility to become reality on UMFK campus in 2003

December 27, 2002


The New Year will bring with it new construction on the University of Maine at Fort Kent campus, as officials make way for a spring groundbreaking on a $1.4 million, 7,584 square foot state-of-the-art facility to house the Acadian Archives.

The new two-story building, which will be constructed on the quad between Powell Hall, an existing student residence hall, and Blake Library, the current campus information resource center, will actually connect the two structures. It will increase by more than ten-fold the amount of space on campus for the Archives.

"UMFK is the region's center for preservation of documents and artifacts which chronicle the unique history of the Acadians who settled in northern Maine more than 200 years ago. The new Acadian Archives building will enhance the University's ability to serve the St. John Valley community and provide us with a state-of-the-art facility for scholars conducting research on the Acadian population of the region," said UMFK President Richard Cost.

The project was made possible by Maine voters who passed a $36.7 million higher education bond in November 2001, which included $3.2 million for UMFK to purchase technology for Nadeau Hall, to renovate Cyr Hall, and to build the new Acadian Archives facility.

A campus committee chaired by Richard Bouchard, director of facilities management, has been working since the bond question passed to prepare for construction of the new building.

Last winter the committee reviewed proposals from various architects, and selected the Portland, Maine-based firm Port City Architecture, who specialize in Private University and Collegiate projects, to design the building.

Since that time, the campus committee and architectural firm have worked closely to determine the building layout and prepare construction plans.

With blue-prints and a building design nearly complete, university officials expect to send the construction project out to bid during the first month of the New Year, and hope to award the job to a contractor by the end of March.

The timeline from that point would include a groundbreaking in mid-May, followed by seven months of construction. The facility would be complete and turned over to the University before Christmas 2003.

"It is going very well. We are on schedule and things are falling into place quickly," said Bouchard. "This will greatly help us with our space needs. Having had a dry spell on campus for so many years, it's nice to see so many construction projects."

The Archives facility will be the second new building constructed on the UMFK campus in three years. Nadeau Hall, which houses the Northern Maine Center for Rural Health Sciences and Northern Aroostook Center for Technology, was built in 2001, and was the first new stand-alone construction on the Fort Kent campus in a quarter-century.

When complete, the new Acadian Archives building will include a conference room, reading room, work room, Archives reference desk, a bank of computers, research materials stacks, and Archives personnel space on the first floor. The second story will consist of a collections area, accessioning room, and administrative offices for university information resources personnel.

The additional space and much improved quarters will be a stark contrast to the current Acadian Archives.

The facility is housed in a cramped 733 square foot space on the second floor of the Blake Library. Bursting at the seams, the current facility is not handicapped accessible, and includes a climate controlled collections storage facility, an audio-visual lab, visitor's area/reading room, an accessioning work area, two small offices, and 78 additional feet of locked reference shelves.

With no dedicated space to process collections that are received, a visitors' area too small for more than one visitor, and no storage space, the activities of the Archives are hampered.

The Acadian Archives was founded in 1990 at UMFK to document, preserve, celebrate, and disseminate information about the history and cultural heritage of Maine's St. John Valley.

The Archives collects manuscripts and audio/visual materials relevant to the history, folklore, and folk-life of the region. It also has a library of reference books and other publications, including U.S. and Canadian census records for the Valley and microfilm editions of local newspapers.

Although the project has not yet gone out to bid, work to make way for a spring groundbreaking has already begun on campus.

To make way for the construction, staff in the Blake Library have begun rearranging the circulation area in the building to accommodate for a new main entrance that will face into to quad, near the new facility, as opposed to the existing parking lot area.

"Everyone on campus has been very accommodating and is looking forward to watching the new building go up," said John Murphy, vice president for administration. "The addition space will greatly enhance our ability to serve students and the community."

Long-range campus plans are to have the new Archives facility, along with the connected residence hall and existing library, serve as the university's information resource center in the future.

That will happen only after UMFK constructs a new residence hall to replace Powell Hall, and add to the existing number of beds. University residence halls have been filled to capacity for the past five years, with waiting lists of students wanting to be housed on-campus.

UMFK is currently receiving proposals on a new residence hall facility, which would be constructed near the University SportsCenter on the opposite side of Pleasant Street from the main campus.

To accommodate demand and the university's rapidly growing student population, campus officials are working on a fast-track to get that facility built.

"We would like to see two groundbreakings in 2003," said Murphy. "A new residence hall would help us maintain our student population and allow us comfortable room for growth."

UMFK currently has an enrollment of 850 full and part-time students, 155 of which reside in one of the two campus residence halls.

President Cost has set a goal for the campus to reach 1,000 full-time students.