Special Collections Capstone: Data

For the last couple of weeks, I have been working to clean up the data of the 20,000 plus records associated with Special Collections, which were exported from the catalog. The data is pretty dirty and at times overwhelming – but I persevere.  I have undertaken the data clean up in stages, which means I try to more or less stick with one type of action taken on the records. First, I corrected about 2,000 records that were misaligned on the spreadsheet. Now, I am working on provenance. As I make decisions about what the data represents, I have tried to consistently document those decisions for the next person who might decide to look at the records.

Last week, I also had a tutorial on how to use OpenRefine. Jessica Trelogan, UTL’s Data Management Coordinator, led the tutorial. It was a great session, and I highly recommend contacting Jessica if your research is data related. One of the things that I learned in the session is that my data is particularly thorny. I will need to spend some time thinking about its structure and checking in with Jessica from time to time. I also learned how to use OpenRefine to help with my data clean up. While the publication information is particularly challenging in my data set, other pieces of data can be quickly normalized and checked with this tool.

The other issue that I recently worked through concerns the representation of provenance. Due to the nature of the export, my records exported all provenance notes for the works if one of the items was located in Special Collections. If a work (a bibliographic record) had three items (three copies of the same book) attached to it, then my record provided all provenance notes attached to the items. For example, the three hypothetical items may belong to Charles Moore, Colin Rowe, and Blake Alexander respectively. Only the Moore and Rowe, however, are housed in Special Collections. The provenance for Alexander was included though not related to any work in Special Collections.

In the end, I had to decide that the provenance notes for items not associated with Special Collections have to be removed in the final version of the cleaned data export. I made this decision, because the assessment is specifically about Special Collections. No item existed in the data upon which to attach the non-Special Collections provenance notes. The data needs to be one to one to accurately assess the collection. Earlier versions of the export will be retained with all the provenance notes.

It was difficult to make the decision to remove the extraneous provenance notes. In a non-quantitative assessment of provenance, there appeared to be a lot of overlap in the collections of Charles Moore, Colin Rowe, and Blake Alexander. More often than not, the Alexander copy was not part of APL’s Special Collections and had to be removed. Removing the Alexander notes was incredibly hard, because I realize the missed opportunity of analysis with regards to those three collections. In the future I hope to be able to undertake an analysis of the connections between the libraries of the donors across all of APL’s collections.

APL Spotlight Interview: Tony Tomasello

Tony in the Battle Hall Reading Room

Back in 2014, Stephanie Phillips interviewed APL’s interim Architecture and Planning Librarian, Katie Pierce Meyer, who has since accepted the permanent position at APL as the Humanities Librarian for Architecture and Planning. We have not shone the spotlight on anyone else since, and we decided it was time to recognize the amazing work Tony Tomasello does by caring for APL’s physical collection!

Tony is our local book preservation technician, working in conjunction with Wendy Martin’s team at PCL in Preservation and Digital Curation Services. As a preservation technician, he works 19 hours for UTL. He explains rather modestly the nature of his job:

Ah well,  [my role is] the same as everyone’s at the libraries I suppose. Just to see to it that the collection material here is made available to anyone who needs it now and into the future. So more particular just make sure the books are in good shape and can be read without risking its availability for future patrons.

He continues discussing the day to day of his job:

I pretty much just do it – the ones that need the most repair, I give my fullest attention so I pretty much just fix them as they come in. I do the most severe ones first or if someone just really needs the book, you know, if it’s in rough shape I’ll do that one really quickly. Special Collections materials, I can say are my highest priority. They’re the most fragile. They’re the ones that are most at risk for long term use, and they’re probably our most valuable materials as well.*

His interest in preservation stems from his love of the relics and experiences of the past – the connections made through the experience of the books themselves.  Tony explains:

I guess it starts from my character. I have always had a fondness for old things – old music, old furniture, old books, old ways of doing things, riding bicycles instead of driving cars, looking nostalgically back on trains.

While Tony had worked for the library for several years prior to assuming his current role, he jumped at the chance to become our local preservation technician when the position opened. He was initially trained by his predecessor, Lorrie Dong – a Ph.D. graduate from School of Information at UT. When asked how he developed his expertise, Tony notes:

I had excellent teachers. First Lorrie who trained me before she left. She just taught me all the basics, the procedures I still do the most often which are rebacks, end paper replacements, and tip-ins for pages that have come loose or need to be replaced, and doing minor repairs on tears and things like that. Then I got help from the larger preservation department, and they taught me even more procedures like how to make custom housing for books that we’re really not allowed to repair without ruining their value in someway.

Tony also taught himself other skills that he needs to tend to the collection –

Then there are things I picked up on my own – I watched YouTube videos to learn how to sew. The rest of it is doing it, doing as many repairs as I can everyday I’m here.

When asked about his favorite aspect of the work, Tony explains:

Apart from getting my hands on some really old, rare books from time to time, there are certain satisfactions from the job…like being able to work slowly, take my time in a world that mostly rewards speed. I get to take my time and really care for what’s in front of me. And then there’s a certain satisfaction in the math, just measuring things, drawing straight lines. I think there must be something but not really close to the satisfaction that Kepler must have had when he looked up at the sky and saw that the celestial bodies were moving in a way that his math predicted. I get the same satisfaction when I measure out a new case and find that it fits the books.

In his final thoughts, it was evident that conservation and preservation are less a job and more a calling. He concludes:

I have some vague philosophical ideas about the importance of my work – just about maintaining enduring objects that are the basis of our culture that are ignored by the larger part of the populous. I think it’s important to have little monuments – like little physical reminders of the past. I’m glad that I get to have some part in maintaining those objects. He continues: It would be horrible to loose the paper, the board, and the glue, and the sewing, and the little mementos of past people’s work.

 *I asked Dan Orozco to comment upon all the work Tony does for APL, knowing that his contributions are wide ranging. Dan writes of Tony’s work:

It has truly been awe inspiring to see the growth of Tony’s knowledge and abilities at doing book repair.  I was very alarmed at the demise of the Kilgarlin Program at the iSchool. We had an impressive run of conservators come through to practice their craft in this position.  My fear abated when I saw the skill with which Tony takes care of our Special Collections materials. He also does our pest monitoring and dehumidifiers in Special Collections – very important in a 105 year old building.

If this wasn’t enough, Tony can also provide back up for every position at Architecture. He can create reserve lists, undertake ILS scanning, and he knows our collection as well if not better than most.  Recently, Tony created lists in Sierra to oversee a massive weeding project to free up about 300 linear feet in the stacks of the circulating collection.  He has also been here to help with extra events in our reading room, from symposiums to filming chancellor McRaven’s interview to hosting first lady Laura Bush. This young man can truly do it all.

New Books at APL: Bricks and Texas Churches

For those interested in materials, we received two survey books on the history of building with bricks.

  • Hall, William, editor. Brick. Essay by Dan Cruickshank. London: Phaidon, 2015.
  • Campbell, James W. Brick: A World History. Photographs by Will Pryce. London: Thames and Hudson, 2016.

William Hall takes a thematic approach to the topic focusing on concepts like form, light, mass, and scale, while James W. Campbell presents the history of brick, beginning with the ancient world and concluding with What Future for Brick? While both works are extensively illustrated, Hall’s work presents almost as a photo essay.

Texas_steeplesChristensen, Carl J., Jr., artist. Lone Star Steeples: Historic Places of Worship in Texas. Text by Pixie Christensen and Foreword by David Ruesink. College Station, Tx: Texas A&M University Press, 2016.

In the preface, Pixie Christensen begins:

As the six flags that flew over Texas help define its history, the hundreds of Texas churches recognized by historic markers help define the culture, heritage, religion, and architectural identities of the people of Texas. Lone Star Steeples takes the reader on a tour of historic churches across the state. Architectural features, individual stories, cultural markers, and significant events make each church unique and also contribute to the big picture of this big state….

But more than a view of history through church buildings, Lone Star Steeples invites the reader to experience the beauty and integrity of each church building through the eyes  of the artist/architect who envisioned and illustrated the book.
(Preface, ix)

The Christensens documented more than 60 Texas churches. The book is arranged geographically, dividing Texas into 7 districts: West Texas & Panhandle; North Central Texas; East Texas; South Central Texas; Hill Country; Gulf Coast; and South Texas. Each entry includes at least one watercolor, the location, the date, and architect if known. A brief history is also included.

Special Collections Capstone

This semester is my last at the iSchool, which means I am working on my Capstone project. I am sure it comes as no surprise that I have elected to develop a project at the Architecture and Planning Library!

For my project, I will undertake an assessment of APL’s Special Collections so that we might better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the collection. Moreover, I hope that the process undertaken here can serve as model for other collections on campus.

In working with Special Collections, my goal has always been to raise the visibility of the collection, even if it was book by book through the Friday Finds post. I always enjoy sharing the materials that I find within. The project will hopefully raise the visibility of the collection on a much larger scale. Throughout the semester I will post about the project to keep you updated and in the end I will point you to the resources I create about Special Collections!

New Books: APL Studios

Last week I was able to sit in on the studio lotteries to hear about all the classes that will be taught this semester in the School – I am a little jealous that I cannot take some of them myself! While reviewing the new books this morning, I discovered that two of our recent arrivals may be of interest to two of the studios – Wilfried Wang’s studio on Berlin and Margaret Griffin’s studio on tower design in LA.

Ward, Simon. Urban Memory and Visual Culture in Berlin: Framing the Asynchronous City, 1957-2012. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2016.


Gigon, Annette, Mike Guyer, and Felix Jerusalem. Residential Towers. Zürich: GTA Verlag, 2015.


I will keep an eye out for other new arrivals that may be valuable to the work done in the studios throughout the semester. If you need help locating a resource or would like to request a purchase for material we do not have, please feel  free to stop in or drop us a line.

Friday Finds: New Special Collections Materials

We’ve recently added material to Special Collections, and I wanted to share two of the items. They will be on display in the foyer of the Architecture and Planning Library until October. Stop in to see them!

Saltire Society. Exhibition of work by Charles Rennie Mackintosh: architecture, furniture, paintings, specially made scale models: illustrated catalogue. Foreword by Thomas Howarth. Edinburgh: Veitch & Hadley, 1953.


The Price Tower, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, February 9, 1956.
Bartlesville, Oklahoma: H.C. Price Co., 1956.

Hersey and Kyrk Volkswagen Bus

Tracking the Hersey and Kyrk VW Bus

Last year Nathan Sheppard wrote about the collection of drawings by Bill Hersey and John Kyrk and noted the value of analog drawings in a digital age. As an architecture student myself, I share his perspective. But since the drawings are back on the table, perhaps we can dig a little deeper and find out more about the life and work of these unique illustrators.

The drawings arrived in 10 large rolls, with dozens of projects rolled together in each one. Nathan went through these and described the contents by roll, listing about a dozen projects. Over the past few months it has been my task to separate the drawings into discrete projects to make access easier. At the same time, I have tried to identify as many projects as possible, a task made difficult by the lack of notation on the drawings, the unbuilt nature of most of the projects, and the scarcity of published works to reference. I had to rely primarily on visual connections to link drawings to built works and even to other drawings, at times thinking like a designer to recognize when two ostensibly different projects were actually different iterations of the same building.

Hersey and Kyrk Rendering

The drawings the duo produced are undeniably beautiful, although so many of the drawings in the archive’s collections are. What sets the Hersey and Kyrk collection apart from the others is that so far it is the archive’s only collection of a rendering office rather than an architecture firm. Hersey and Kyrk produced renderings for a great variety of architects and brought to life the visions of Charles W. Moore, William Turnbull, and Robert A. M. Stern, to name a few of their repeat clients.

“To convey advance realisations of proposed structures, to aid in crystalizing ideas in the architect’s mind and to interpret the architectural significance of existing structures,” as described by Hugh Ferriss, perhaps the most famous and influential architectural renderer of contemporary American history, are three objectives of architectural rendering.¹ Bill Hersey and John Kyrk excelled at each one. The first objective is why architects hire renderers, since they possess the advanced drawing skills to transform sketches into convincing perspectives or axonometrics. Going above and beyond that task is the hallmark of a good renderer or designer, and Hersey was known to “simply draw something else, possibly something better and perhaps closer to what [the client] really had in mind.”² As for delineating existing structures, Hersey and Kyrk drew famous buildings by the full spectrum of architects, including Thomas Jefferson, Carrère & Hastings, Greene & Greene, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis I. Kahn.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Hersey and Kyrk was how they worked. They owned a Volkswagen bus that they drove across the country to meet clients to work on drawings.² Not only did it take them from coast to coast where their projects were most concentrated, but it also served as a space where they sometimes drew, sometimes cooked (they had equipped it with a stove), and sometimes slept (at odd hours). This freedom prevented them from being tied down to one area and is reflected in the geographic locations of their drawings:

Map of Hersey and Kyrk's projects
Map created with Palladio showing geographic distribution of 93 unique projects with identified locations (dots are sized by frequency). Not represented are 3 projects in West Germany (for Urban Innovations Group) and Charles Moore’s Kwee House in Singapore.

Although architectural renderers often travel to work on remote projects, each office’s body of work is typically highly concentrated in the region where their studio is located. Hersey and Kyrk’s mobile studio allowed them to work with Bob Stern on the east coast while simultaneously working with Turnbull on the west coast and it accounts for how they managed to keep up with Charles Moore’s numerous relocations.

New Orleans is represented especially well: the earliest of 15 identified projects in New Orleans is the CWM Piazza d'Italia competition entryPiazza d’Italia competition entry from Charles Moore (as part of Moore, Grover, Harper) produced in 1975. The entry evolved into a design developed by Moore as part of Urban Innovations Group at UCLA in collaboration with New Orleans architect August Perez III. Hersey and Kyrk’s connection with Moore took them through the Piazza d’Italia’s completion and led on to several commissions for New Orleans projects by both Moore and Perez, most of which were designed for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.

Hersey and Kyrk New Orleans drawing
Greater New Orleans Bridge (now Crescent City Connection) and New Orleans skyline.
Hersey and Kyrk New Orleans drawing
Perez Associates’ renovation and expansion of New Orleans’ historic Le Pavillon hotel.
Hersey and Kyrk New Orleans drawing
Early design for the renovation of the Federal Fibre Mills warehouse (now condominiums) into a pavilion for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.

Hersey and Kyrk’s prolific renderings do not comprise the entire collection. A wine label design for William Turnbull’s winery and their many calendar designs reflect their strong interest in type and calligraphy. Owners of a printing press and multiple cameras, they also produced hand prints and practiced photography. Still, their business was rendering and the rendering business was changing. They were early adopters of new visualization technology and some of their later works contain early digital 3D model printouts; a letter that Bill Hersey wrote to Charles Moore in 1988 reveals the new work flow. Accompanied with it is a selection of images advertising their (better “than ever before”) work:

It was quite a privilege to see how their practice had evolved since 1975, the year they first produced a book advertising their services:

Sadly, the partnership ended when Bill Hersey passed away in 1989. I have found that the drawings here at the archive reflect at least 200 unique projects produced in under two decades. Everything from single family residences to high rises and campus master plans are represented. Although the drawings have been processed, many still remain unidentified and there must be more drawings stored away elsewhere since the majority of this collection is made up of sketches; we only have a handful of fully rendered presentation drawings. Additional drawings bearing Hersey’s signature can be found in the Charles Moore and Urban Innovations Group³ collections and a selection of their drawings can be found on John Kyrk’s website, as well as some of his most recent illustrations.

  1. Ferriss, Hugh. “Rendering, Architectural.” The Encyclopædia Britannica (1929), quoted in Placzek, Adolf,
    Architectural Visions: The Drawings of Hugh Ferriss (New York, N.Y.: Whitney Library of Design, 1980), 12.
  2. Phelps, Barton. “Bill Hersey (1940-1989) [obituary].” L. A. Architect, 1989: 4. ProQuest (292401)
  3. Finding aids for Urban Innovations Group and the William Hersey and John Kyrk archive are not yet available.

Visit to the General Land Office

The Library Staff Council arranged a tour of the General Land Office for the staff of the University of Texas Libraries in late July. Several members of the Architecture and Planning Library and Alexander Architectural Archives had the opportunity to attend.  It was a fantastic tour!

The GLO is a great resource if you are looking for information about land settlement and ownership in the state of Texas. Many of the resources, we discovered, are also available online. They have digitized nearly 40,000 maps. While the maps are for purchase, it’s a quick way to search their collection. Researchers may also search in the Land Grants Database – again many of these resources are available digitally. Finally, I wanted to link to their list of collections and to their list of services, which includes information about  fees associated with licensing and digitization of images. If you have any questions about the materials at the GLO, do not hesitate to contact them – they are friendly and incredibly knowledgeable.

Please note: The photos are of the former General Land Office on the Capital Grounds. The current office is near the Bullock Museum.

Friday Finds: The Books of a Thousand Homes vol. 1

Smith, Henry Atterbury, ed. The Books of a Thousand Homes.  vol. 1. New York : Home Owners Service Institute, 1927.

Front Cover

While doing a little bit of research on  our collection, I came across this title and was intrigued by it – The Books of a Thousand Homes. I thus pulled it from Special Collections this morning. (The book was also reprinted by Dover, as 500 Small Houses of the Twenties.) When I pulled our copy from the shelf, I was delighted by the house on the cover. I also loved that reproductions of blueprints are included in the section, “From Plan Book to Finished Home.”

The AIA Historical Directory of American Architects has a brief biography of the editor,  Henry Atterbury Smith. The Acknowledgement by the President of the Home Owners Institute, preceding the collection of plans and drawings, provides greater background on Smith. He writes:

Henry Atterbury Smith has become internationally known for his unusual and successful work in the development of practical forms of multi-family housing, being the originator and designer of the open-stair type of apartment and tenement housing the masses at low rental. The East River Homes designed for Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, Sr., at a cost of over $2,000,000 to house originally 400 tubercular families, are a monument to his efforts. (Acknowledgment)

While the book is valuable for those researching American homes in 1920s and 1930s, I am curious about the origins and history of our copy. When we think about books as objects, we see them as  distinct from other copies of the work, each with their own histories and stories – though sometimes hidden. For this reason, I am always excited to stumble upon one of the works for which we know the former owner.

The Books of A Thousand Homes at Architecture and Planning:

Several different types of tape have been used to repair the pages of A Thousand Homes, while other significant tears were left untreated.  Someone created a thin bookmark that I missed on my first pass through the book, because it was tucked neatly into the spine. The note on the bookmark reads: 110 comfortable + pretty.  Some of the pages have been torn away and are missing, while  several of the houses have been checked in pencil. A book plate for the Library of the University of Texas has been affixed to the front cover’s end papers and the call number is Dewey, suggesting it was not a recent addition to the collection. No record exists for how this copy came into our collection, however. I can only speculate about who might have been responsible for the additions and subtractions to this work.

New Books: The Letters of Philip Webb

Webb, Philip. The Letters of Philip Webb.  Edited by John Alpin. 4 vols. New York: Routledge, 2016.

I was so pleased to see the edited volumes of The Letters of Philip Webb arrived this week. The letters are organized chronologically in four volumes: 1864-1887, 1888-1898, 1899-1902,  and 1903-1914. There is also an extensive index to help navigate the letters by people, place, or topic.

John Alpin, the editor of the volumes, writes:

This four-volume collection of letters comprises a comprehensive selection from his surviving correspondence, little of which has previously been published. As well as revealing the range of Webb’s professional endeavours and the value he invested in a number of close friendships, the evidence presented in his letters confirms his position as a key member of the Morris circle. (Preface, ix)

I spent a bit of time this morning reading through some of the letters. Many of the recipients of Webb’s letters were familiar names: John Ruskin, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Richard Lethaby, William Butterfield, and members of the William Morris family.  For example he wrote letters to Jane, Jenny, and May Morris while they were away in Italy in 1877.  One of my favorites though is an exchange about the landscape at Kelmscott with Jane Morris (Letter 43 in volume 1, 1871).


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