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$6 million gift funds Fine Arts Library transformation

Berkeley, Calif.-based architect Mui Ho ’62, B.Arch. ’66, has made a $6 million gift commitment to overhaul and expand the Fine Arts Library (FAL) at Cornell. Scheduled for completion in 2017, the library will hold one of the country’s most distinguished academic art and architecture collections in state-of-the-art, revamped facilities on the top two floors of Rand Hall, a 1912 campus icon.

“The FAL is absolutely essential to all students and scholars who work with visual material,” said Kent Kleinman, the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. He foresees a luminescent, contemporary research center housing 250,000 volumes, ample digital resources and generous study spaces. “It will be a light-filled, 21st century library, glowing from behind the large industrial windows of Rand Hall – a perfect metaphor for conserving the old while erecting the new,” said Kleinman.

“It is critical that Cornell keeps this world-class collection in a good environment,” said Ho. “These books are important for students in architecture, arts, history and other disciplines on the Cornell campus. Most images found within this collection are not readily available on the Internet, and students, researchers and teachers need to use these books intensely.”

A retired design faculty member from the University of California, Berkeley, Ho emphasized that accessing information is not only a mental act but a tactile and visual experience as well. “The digital age changes how students research their information,” she said. “The physical handling of materials at a real scale and seeing the true color as intended is important – but digital representations will enable broader archiving and distribution of the important work of our alumni and faculty. As technology changes, the way the work is represented will, too.”

Anne Kenney, the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, noted a “groundswell of academic interest” in visual materials at Cornell and said that the recent hiring of a visual resource librarian will strongly complement the resources of the new library.

“The new Fine Arts Library will be poised to compete with the very best art and architecture libraries in the world,” Kenney said. “Having a library that can bridge the physical/digital divide – offering cutting-edge services and deep research collections in tandem – will make the Fine Arts Library one of the major jewels in the Cornell University Library crown and will serve to draw the best faculty and students to this amazing university on the hill.”