Historic U-M Library Reopens After $17M Renovation, Expansion

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After a nearly three-year, $17 million renovation, the Albert Kahn-designed William L. Clements Library on the University of Michigan’ Ann Arbor campus has reopened.

“We’re thrilled to welcome people back to a space that we’re very proud of,” says J. Kevin Graffagnino, director of Clements Library. “There are many alumni who studied here and have probably never had the opportunity to step inside, which is something we really want to change.”

The library — located next to the president’s house on South University Avenue — contains maps, manuscripts, correspondence, books, prints, and early photography from 1492 to 1900. Graffagnino says the collection is particularly strong in material relating to the American Revolution, as William Clements — the building’s benefactor and a U-M alumnus — had many descendants that were key players in the war, including Lord Shelburne, Gen. Sir Henry Clinton, and Gen. Nathanael Greene.

​Graffagnino says for many year following the library’s opening in 1923, entry was exclusive to only about a dozen scholars per year, but over the past few decades, it’s opened its doors to the general public.

Renovations included updates to the building’s plumbing, wiring, and climate control, along with the construction of a two-level underground addition that includes an extra 3,000 square feet of climate-controlled storage space, which will allow most of the collection to stay securely on site.

He says the completely renovated lower level now provides enhanced curatorial offices, collections and preservation work spaces, meeting rooms, and a larger room to be used for class visits, lectures, and larger meetings.

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