MNU Archives Gets Update Thanks to Johnson County Heritage Trust Fund

May 11, 2011

OLATHE, Kan. --- A haphazard collection of black plastic garbage bags and tattered shoe boxes has been replaced with well-labeled, acid-free storage boxes and sturdy shelving with room to grow at the Marge Smith Archives at MidAmerica Nazarene University. A grant of $10,000 from the Johnson County Heritage Trust Fund and Board of County Commissioners made the makeover possible.

The Marge Smith Archives Collection Preservation and Enhancement Project, which spanned October 2009 to April 2011, brought the collection up to archival-quality standards for the long term preservation of materials deemed historically significant to MNU, Olathe and the Johnson County community. While part of the collection was displayed, much of it was not due to lack of space and lack of conservation quality materials. Now the archives have the capacity and organization to host scholars working on research projects because materials are sorted, catalogued, preserved, and stored for longevity; as well as to provide public access to this historically significant resource.

Named for the wife of the university's first president, the archives hold three primary collections. The Dobson Bible Collection includes 40 Bibles, some in foreign languages and Braille. A collection of items documenting the early years of MNU (then Mid-America Nazarene College) through the present, and the recently acquired Vennard College Archives, documenting a now closed Iowa College, give insight to the Midwestern values that spawned two small, private universities as well as the associated growth of the communities surrounding them. Included in the collection are 8000 rare books and a Colonial-era American flag.

Marge Smith, now 92, is thrilled with the makeover and thinks project director, Lon Dagley, computer services librarian and a trained archivist, has achieved what she always hoped for the collection.

"I didn't have the background to do what Lon did," she says. "Several individuals have worked on the archives through the years, cataloging and conserving all the things we saved. I really appreciate what they've done."

Smith says the idea for the archives came as advice from her brother in 1966 after her husband was appointed president of the yet-to-be-built college.

"He said you better get started collecting everything, because if you put it off you can't catch up," she says. "We did it the hard way then, just stacking papers and [items]."

Three times over 40 years Smith fundraised for the archives to add shelving and display cases. She is grateful to the Johnson County Heritage Trust Fund and Board of County Commissioners for this latest infusion of funding to help preserve the collection.

"It's so nice of them to acknowledge that this collection is precious [to the community] and should be preserved."

During Homecoming activities at MNU this October, the university will hold a grand reopening of the archives. For more information on the Marge Smith Archives at MidAmerica Nazarene University, contact Lon Dagley at (913) 971-3566 or ledagley@mnu.edu.