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NEH bolsters Center for Louisiana Studies’ restoration of Roy House

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The Center for Louisiana Studies’ Restore the Roy initiative has received a $125,000 boost from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The center is located on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. It received an Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grant from NEH, which announced $30.9 million in grants on Tuesday to support projects in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Dr. Joshua Caffery is the center’s director. He said the NEH grant moves the center closer to its goal: the restoration of the J. Arthur Roy House as its new home. The center is currently located on the third floor of Edith Garland Dupré Library.

The Roy House, situated at the corner of Johnston Street and University Avenue, is the oldest building on UL Lafayette’s campus. Built in 1901, it is the only University structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Renovation of the Roy House and the Restore the Roy campaign began last year, though fundraising efforts began about six years ago, Caffery said.  

“The Roy House is over 100 years old, and we want to make sure it’s here in another 100 years. We’re thankful and honored that the NEH has chosen to support our efforts to bring the Center for Louisiana Studies to this prominent, historic building,” he said.

But the work goes on. Caffery characterized the NEH grant as “a call to arms.” The federal humanities agency will match a third of what the center raises over the next four years – up to $125,000. “That means we need to raise $375,000 to get the entire match,” he explained.

“It’s called a challenge grant for a reason. We’re being challenged, and we’re asking the public and our friends to help us meet that challenge.”

The Center for Louisiana Studies was established in 1973. It promotes scholarly investigation of Louisiana’s people and history. Its research division houses the Archive of Cajun and Creole Folklore, the largest collection of audiovisual materials related to the traditional cultures of southwestern Louisiana.

The center also oversees the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.

Restoration plans for the Roy House include a reading and listening room where scholars and other patrons can access the center’s audiovisual archives, and a bookstore where UL Press titles will be sold.

Moving the center from its current location to one of the most traveled intersections in the city “will improve the center’s accessibility, visibility, functionality and capacity as a hub for the humanities in southwestern Louisiana, and link the campus and downtown Lafayette neighborhoods,” said Dr. Jordan Kellman, dean of UL Lafayette’s College of Liberal Arts. The college oversees the center.

Kellman continued: “The Center for Louisiana Studies is UL Lafayette’s oldest research center. It is a linchpin in the University’s stewardship of the diverse history and cultures of Louisiana. Relocating it to the Roy House gives it a prominent public face and a tangible place in the community. It also makes a statement that we will continue to serve in those roles for many years to come.”

Find more about the Center for Louisiana Studies, the Roy House and the Restore the Roy initiative here.

Photo caption: The J. Arthur Roy House, located at the corner of Johnston Street and University Avenue, is seen in a 1970s photo. (Photo courtesy of the Center for Louisiana Studies)