This summer, Kentucky American Water donated its considerable collection of company papers and artifacts to UK Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC).
With a remarkable variety of materials, including hand-written ledgers, tap-on and billing records, blueprints, correspondence, photographs, and maps, the collection documents the growth of water services across Lexington and Central Kentucky.
The wide-ranging, vibrant collection is exceptional in its scope and depth and lends itself to many areas of research, including local economic and social history, urban development, and public health.
“This is pivotal history,” said Carl Goodmonson, UK Libraries Director of Philanthropy. “This collection reveals the foundational elements that allow residential and commercial development to occur. Kentucky American Water’s history is inextricably linked to the development of our region. In many ways, their story is our story.”
Materials date back to the company’s founding in 1882 as the Lexington Hydraulic & Manufacturing Company, with the bulk of the collection covering the mid-20th century. Records in the collection allow researchers to trace the expansion of the company’s water services in meticulous detail – often street by street – providing an exceptionally rich look into the development of the city and the region.
The Kentucky American Water collection has been on deposit at the SCRC since the 1980s, when a first group of materials was processed. The gift officially signs over the collection to the ownership of the Libraries, and also includes additional materials.
“We are so happy about this gift,” said Megan Mummey, Director of Manuscript Collections. “Not only will this help us provide better access to the collection, but it will also allow us to make improvements on the original processing.” Work to rehouse and describe additional materials began this month.
Kentucky American Water has been a long-time partner of UK Libraries. A substantial donation in March 2013 provided the means to create the Kentucky American Water Room, a reservable meeting room open to all students. One of the most well-trafficked spaces across the Libraries, the room is equipped with movable whiteboards and adorned with photos of materials from the collection.
“It’s a wonderful partnership. Kentucky American Water’s support has created a tangible benefit to our students, and this gift will be an exceptional resource to researchers for generations to come,” said Goodmonson. “We couldn’t be happier that Kentucky American Water is formally making their story a part of Kentucky’s story by placing their records in the state’s flagship institution. It is a befitting place for materials like these to reside.”
“Kentucky American Water is pleased to entrust the care of numerous items from our nearly 140-year history – including the Lexington Hydraulic & Manufacturing Company’s original ledger that includes signatures of our very first customers – to the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Kentucky Libraries,” said Kathryn Nash, president of Kentucky American Water. “By making this gift, we believe these historic items will be better protected, preserved, and accessible for future generations to study and enjoy. We thank UK Libraries for extending this partnership opportunity to us.”
The collection’s permanent home has a fitting connection to its origins: the Margaret I. King Library, which houses the SCRC, was named after the daughter of Gilbert Hinds King, one of the three original founders of the Lexington Hydraulic & Manufacturing Company.
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