In 2018, West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) staff discovered a cache of documents about the college’s long history and the surrounding community of Paducah, KY. A Preservation Assistance Grant from the NEH helped the college move the collection to permanent storage in the library and develop an archival program that is preserving more of Paducah’s history.
The college exists today because of a merger between two earlier institutions: an African American teaching school called West Kentucky Industrial College and Paducah Junior College. “Our history is very long and very remarkable,” said Leigh Ann Paxton, the college archivist. “We knew we wanted to create an archive, but the preservation needs were daunting.” NEH funding made it possible to meet those preservation needs and establish an archival program. The college used the funds to purchase basic storage items, like document cases, folders, and a cabinet to store oversize items. It also allowed the college to develop a preservation plan and to train staff in preservation practices. WKCTC’s Archive and Special Collections is currently accessible to students, faculty, staff, and community researchers, and is accepting archival donations from faculty, alumni, and others. Recently, the program partnered with the Kentucky Digital Library (KDL) to digitize archival materials and thus make them accessible to a wider audience. The college’s yearbook collection is now entirely online; it will soon be followed by other projects.
The prestige associated with NEH funding also helped bring greater attention to the archive and its materials. A local magazine recently featured archival materials, as did the NPR podcast Old Kentucky Tales. In doing so, they helped confirm that the archive is an important community resource.