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Howard University's Founders Library, dedicated in 1939, houses changing historical exhibits as well as a permanent exhibit on the university's history. The library was designed by Albert I. Cassell (1895-1969), who served as the university's architect. It is one of nine key buildings Cassell planned in 1930, along with the hilltop quadrangle. The library is built on the site of the old Main Building, which for much of its history housed all of the university's operations. It occupied this spot from 1866 until its demolition in 1936 to make way for Founders Library. Founders Library succeeds the Carnegie Library, built in 1910 on the hilltop and now used for offices.

The library is the home of the university's museum and the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC), one of the world's largest repositories dedicated to the culture and history of people of African descent. Among the most important foundations for the MSRC are the collections of Lewis Tappan, a noted abolitionist who organized the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and served as treasurer of the American Missionary Association; some 70 bound newspapers and several scrapbooks donated by John Wesley Cromwell; Reverend Jesse E. Moorland's private library on black history; Dorothy Porter Wesley's acquisitions of Africana materials; and the library of Arthur B. Spingarn, an attorney who worked for many years with the NAACP and a scholar of black history and literature.

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