The museum is in line for a $1.1 million upgrade, with about half of that funding coming from a federal grant administered by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Mayor Mark Mathews said the museum is already a reliable source for historic information about corporate railroad industry. The expansion only improves that status.
“We need a place to store it all and it will ultimately be a top-notch, world-renowned research facility,” Mathews said.
Richard Banz, executive director of the Southern Museum, said the total project will cost about $1.1 million, with $500,000 coming from a DOT grant that requires $125,000 in city matching funds.
The remaining funds already have been raised by private donations through the Kennesaw Museum Foundation.
The new facility, called the Railroad Education Center Library and Archives, will connect to the rear of the building and is expected to be complete about eight months after the groundbreaking, Banz said.
“The existing archives when it was built 10 years ago was adequate, but we’ve taken on so many more paper collections we’ve needed to expand,” he said. “What this does is it not only preserves important documents, but it allows for much greater access to them.”
The present 50,000-square-foot building already houses about 50 collections, including information about presidents of the Southern Railway from 1872-1967, Civil War-era books, letters and diaries as well as thousands of photographs relating to locomotive history.
“One collection alone, the David Salter collection, contains about 45,000 photo images,” Banz said. “We’re just kind of bursting at the seams of where to put all this stuff. The new research facility will allow better access for people to get to all of this information.”
Banz said the plan is to empty out the existing archive building and convert the space into “research-friendly corrals” with big map tables for those looking to examine larger blueprints and other documents.
Fundraising for the project began in 2008 as part of the city’s Vision 2012 campaign, Banz said.
“We had the economic downturn, which made it more challenging, but we were finally able to meet our goal,” he said.
The council is scheduled to accept the $500,000 federal grant at its Monday night meeting, agreeing at Wednesday’s work session to provide the $125,000 in required matching funds for the project.