'Important troves of African-American historical materials' in Trouble

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One of the most important troves of African-American historical materials became the subject of national ire and hand wringing this week, when the student newspaper at Howard University reported that the university library’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center -- considered one of the foremost repositories of artifacts and manuscripts related to black history -- could close due to an inadequate budget and a shortage of staff.

The article prompted a stream of upset phone calls, e-mails, blog posts -- including an item in The Root, a Web magazine founded by Henry Louis Gates Jr., decrying the news. It also prompted an e-mail to the paper from Alvin Thornton, Howard’s associate provost for academic affairs, emphasizing that the university has no plans to close the research center.

Thomas C. Battle, the retiring director of Moorland-Spingarn, whose comments had touched off the speculation over the research center’s, told Inside Higher Ed that his comments had indeed been misinterpreted, and that he did not believe the center would close.

Still, Battle said, the center is in trouble. He said it has been understaffed since the early 1990s, when budget cuts and restructuring caused the center to reduce its staff by more than half. Since then, the staff has continued to shrink incrementally, culminating with several key staffers accepting buyouts this year...

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