Preserving history

Wright State University launches $6.5 million fundraising campaign to create a new home for priceless archives

Wright State launched a $6.5 million fundraising campaign to create the Wright State University Archives Center to house the Special Collections and Archives.

Amanda Wright Lane, great grandniece of Wilbur and Orville Wright, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough joined Wright State University officials on Oct. 4 to announce a $6.5 million fundraising campaign to create the Wright State University Archives Center.

Discover Your Story: The Campaign for the Wright State University Archives Center will transform the former corporate headquarters of the Wright-Patt Credit Union at 2455 Presidential Dr. into the new home of the university’s world-renowned Special Collections and Archives.

Scholars and aviation experts come to Wright State from all corners of the globe to see the largest Wright Brothers Collection in the world, first-edition works by Dayton poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, the archives of the Dayton Daily News and countless other historic treasures.

“From religious history to women’s history to aviation history, local government records to the records of almost every major arts organization in Dayton, the history of our region, state, nation — even the world — is available for you to read, touch and explore,” said Wright State University President Cheryl B. Schrader.

“But the reality,” Schrader added, “is that we have run out of adequate space to preserve and protect these timeless treasures for future generations. Our Special Collections and Archives is bursting at the seams, and it’s time to create a new home for our one-of-a-kind, world-class collections.”

The proposed Wright State University Archives Center will include:

  • A reading room where students, scholars and visitors may examine historic materials in an up-close and personal way
  • An exhibit gallery housing rotating exhibitions that highlight the depth and breadth of Wright State’s collections
  • A conference room for lectures, meetings and special events
  • A classroom to welcome area school children and students from Wright State’s public history graduate program
  • An oral history recording and teaching lab where students, faculty, researchers and the community can record their stories
  • A media lab for listening and viewing oral histories and watching original film footage
  • A preservation lab, processing room, clean room and exhibit prep room that will give staff the tools and space they need to adequately care for the history of the Dayton region

Artist rendering of part of the reading room and help desk.

The facility will provide the proper storage and climate control to preserve historic materials. It will also serve as a learning laboratory for students in Wright State’s graduate program in public history where future archivists, preservationists and museum curators get hands-on experience in preserving and protecting priceless photographs, manuscripts and records.

“We currently occupy 12,000 square feet of space in two separate buildings of the Wright State University Libraries,” said Dawne Dewey, head of Wright State University’s Special Collections and Archives. “Our new home, directly across from campus, will provide 30,000 square feet of space. It will also give us great visibility from Colonel Glenn Highway and dramatically improve public access and outreach efforts.”

Amanda Wright Lane and David McCullough will serve as co-chairs of the Discover Your Story campaign.

“The vision for relocating Special Collections and Archives is to create a whole new visitors’ experience and reach a much broader audience with our world-class collections,” said Wright Lane. “While the facility and staff will still be dedicated to the traditional work of processing, preserving and archiving important historic narratives, this beautiful new home will allow our team to share stories, organize exhibits and teach as they have never been able to before.”

McCullough utilized Wright State’s Special Collections and Archives when he was researching his latest book, “The Wright Brothers.” He had high praise for the archivists at Wright State.

“Archivists are one of the most important sources of help you will get. In many ways, they are as important as the collections themselves,” McCullough told guests at the campaign launch event. “Wright State’s Special Collections and Archives deserves more space. It deserves more attention. It deserves more care as time goes on. And as it increases in space, so will the collections.”

Artist rendering of the entrance to a reading room, where students, scholars and visitors may examine historic materials.

For Wright Lane, the new Archives Center will provide the public unprecedented access to Wright State’s one-of-a-kind treasures. It will be a place where people of all ages can learn about their ancestors, discover their family history and explore the power of the past.

“We want Pulitzer Prize-winning authors to research their projects with us, just as David McCullough did,” Wright Lane said. “But just as important, we want the community to bring their book clubs and grandchildren here to discover their stories.”

For more information or to make a gift to the Wright State University Archives Center, visit

Wright State became an independent institution in 1967 and has grown into an innovative leader in the Dayton region and beyond, capturing the spirit of the university’s namesakes, Wilbur and Orville Wright, who invented the world’s first successful airplane from their Dayton bicycle shop. It celebrates its 50th anniversary as an independent public university in 2017.

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