All posts by austinhixson

New Collections, Maps, and Turtles!

Howdy all, and welcome back for another Mayaland Adventure! I hope everybody enjoyed the Independence Day weekend. The Architecture and Planning Library and Alexander Architectural Archive were closed over the weekend to celebrate, so it’s good to be back.

Recently, along with the volunteering on George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Architecture Collection, I worked with Donna Coates on accessioning a new collection. The process requires understanding the difference between relevant information and data for the archive, and that which is not pertinent to keep.

Some of the material is not kept because we can get copies online or within other resources, which includes items such as government documents or photocopies of publications. These items, though at times are rather interesting, cannot be kept due to limited space. With limited space comes a higher diligence for selecting essentials, and leaving items that are easily accessible elsewhere.

During the process of obtain new collections, we must also work to not get rid of aspects which another archive or department might use. Just because something does not apply to our archive does not necessarily mean someone else cannot use it. This is why we work with other facilities on campus or in town that might have use for the extra material. It is this cooperation that creates a friendly environment in the archival community.

Back in the George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Collection, we got together Friday to discuss the progress thus far, and how each member of the team thought the processing should continue. Ian brought up a good point that for the final sorting the collection should be placed into country categories, followed by alphabetical site sorting. This would allow researchers to acquire access to a specific region, instead of sifting through the entire collection. This is important for the archive as well because it prevents the material from being overly handled.

We also discussed how we would house the Andrew’s photos and writings. The decision we must make is whether to kept everything together, or boxed separately. This item is still up in the air at the moment. It seems, at least from my view that it would be useful to have the groups separate, because individuals would be likely to be looking specifically for photos or documentation, not necessarily both. It also feels more organized.

Prelimnary Map of Central Portion of Maya Ruins of Yaxha, El Peten, Guatemala
Prelimnary Map of Central Portion of Maya Ruins of Yaxha, El Peten, Guatemala

The problem arises, however, with items that are contained in the documentation that fit better within the photos portion. Here would be required to make sure to have detailed notation of each item to create a complete inventory. We also must find a place for all the drawings and sketches present within the collection. This includes maps, stelae and masks, and graffiti. These are just a couple of the questions the team faces as we continue work on the collection.

Before heading out, check out this cool photo I found while sorting. It is the ‘casa de las tortugas’ or House of the Turtles! You can see a rough scale of the building based on the individual standing in front. Enjoy las tortugas, and until next time this is Austin from Mayaland, signing off.

 

Casa de Las Tortugas
Casa de Las Tortugas

Mayaland Adventures

Early last month, on the 2nd of June, I embarked on the exciting adventure of volunteering at The Alexander Architectural Archive in Battle Hall. For a long time I have wanted to work in an Archive, and thanks to the graciousness of the staff, that dream has become a reality. I knew volunteering in the Archives would allow me to be introduced into a career I hope to achieve, while working from the ground up.

Before getting started Donna Coates, the wonderful person that gave me this opportunity, took me through some of the hidden rooms which I would work from. I must preface the next  statement with the knowledge that I am a huge database guy. When growing up I would make spreadsheets of just about anything that I could to get a clear sortable list. So it should come as little surprise that while exploring and discussing the many different aspects of Archives, I became overly excited for the work to begin.

I learned that day I would be focusing on the George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Architecture Collection during the summer, and hopefully into the fall or further. My primary assignment involved going through the numerous boxes and sorting the photos, drawings, and negatives. This has the purpose of creating a more accessible collection which will allow more patrons to know what is available. Each site that George and Gerrie visited was documented with extensive notes and photos. The research would in turn be sorted and placed in site accounts detailing the features and aspects. This work created one of the most comprehensive collections of Mayan site data in history.

George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews collection, photos and sketches
George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Collection, photos and sketches

During the first month of volunteering I have focused on the photos and drawings. In this time I have created nearly 300 folders from about 14 boxes. When I say they took photos, I mean THEY TOOK PHOTOS! Which, personally, I think is ridiculously cool. Each photo that I come across leads me further on the path to understanding George and Gerrie, and their passion for Mayaland.

Along with the photos, other interesting material such as codex drawings, building and renovation sketches, and masks for the Stelae have surfaced. These less-documented aspects of their research gives a unique view of the understanding process which George went through when recreating ancient Mayan features. Great Palaces from sites such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Palenque, to name a few, stand still in time before me as I carefully handle and document each new discovery. The detail that comes through in the black and white photos creates the feeling of a time machine, hurdling you back to the 70s and 80s in the jungles Mayaland. Many of the sites are no longer accessible to visitors, for fear by locals that the constant agitation ruins the ancient structures. This, along with jungle growing back over many of the paths that were once available, make George and Gerrie’s photos all the more important.

Chichen Itza Palace photo with building sketch on mylar overly
Chichen Itza Palace photo and sketch

Above is a photo I think does well to give an idea of the building sketches George created. It is a photo of a Chichen Itza palace structure. On top is the mylar overly which George sketched his detailed drawing of the palace. Though not all the photos in the collection have such sketches, especially those that less than 8×10, many of the large photos about 16×20 in size possess sketches. Along with the drawings that link directly to the photos, George has created numerous sketches that depict typical wall segments and designs.

If you have any questions or would like to know more please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer in  timely fashion. In future posts, I will continue to update you on my adventures in the Alexander Architectural Archives and the work being done on the George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Collection, along with other happenstances which might occur! Til next time, from Mayaland, this is Austin Hixson signing off.