All posts by Jade Snelling

Students working

The Visual Resources Collection Archive–An Archive of Human Capital

Part I: Charles Moore, Harwell Harris, and the Texas Rangers

Since last fall I’ve been processing the primarily photographic archive from the Visual Resources Collection. To date, the archived collection consists of 20 manuscript boxes, 8 binders, 3 oversized flat file boxes, 1 negative box, and other large posters scattered among select flat file drawers. With materials spanning the 1930s to the present, the archive offers a unique glimpse into the history of the School of Architecture. A key component of the Visual Resources Collection’s mission has been research and documentation support for the School of Architecture’s faculty and students, and it is this particular orientation that has generated so many of the on-site photographs that are now part of the Architectural Archives’ growing collections. In Frederick Steiner’s foreword to Traces and Trajectories, a compilation of scholarly output about the history of UT’s School of Architecture, he writes that “[t]he success and advancement of universities depend on people.”1 This aspect of the collection (investment in human capital, that is) has been part of what has made it particularly captivating and rewarding to process.

Charles W. Moore, 1984
Charles W. Moore, 1984
Charles Moore's likeness, medium: pumpkin
Charles Moore’s likeness, media: pumpkin, wire

Renowned architect Charles W. Moore began teaching at the UT-Austin SOA in 1985 as the O’Neil Ford Chair of Architecture–this would be his final teaching post.

Above are several long-serving faculty members, including Peter Oakley Coltman (left), one of the chief faculty members for Community and Regional Planning, Blake Alexander (center), preservationist and namesake of the Alexander Architectural Archives, and Hugh McMath (right), former acting dean before Harwell Hamilton Harris accepted the position of director in 1951.

In 1951, Harris became the first to direct the newly independent School of Architecture (up to this time, it had been administered through the Department of Engineering). Though his tenure at the University of Texas would be short-lived due to in-fighting and his strong desire to return to his own design projects, he left an indelible mark upon the School.2 During his stay, he hired some remarkable teachers that later became part of an informal cohort known as the “Texas Rangers”–known for their emphasis on form, embrace of interdisciplinary modes of art production, and their recognition of the generative capacity of idiomatic and regional architecture.34 Among the “Rangers” were Colin Rowe, Bernhard Hoesli, Lee Hirsche, John Hejduk, and Robert Slutsky (all of whom were hired by Harris and are pictured above); and later, shortly after Harris’s re-location to Fort Worth where he devoted himself to the Ruth Carter Stevenson commission, Werner Seligman, Lee Hodgden, and John Shaw also joined the SOA faculty, and came to form part of the group as well. Though few of the Rangers would stay for long, the curriculum they collectively created shaped the development of the School and their legacy can still be espied in the School’s “foundational” pedagogy.5

 

1. Frederick Steiner, “Human Capital” in Traces and Trajectories (Austin: The University of Texas, 2010), viii-ix.

2. Lisa Germany, “‘We’re Not Canning Tomatoes': The University of Texas at Austin, 1951-1955″ in Harwell Hamilton Harris (Austin: The University of Texas, 2010), 63-65.

3. Smilja Milovanovic-Bertram, “In the Spirit of the Texas Rangers” in Traces and Trajectories (Austin: The University of Texas, 1991), 139-156.

4. Alexander Caragonne, The Texas Rangers: Notes from an Architectural Underground (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995).

5. Milovanovic-Bertram, 64.

The Architectural Archives Make the Leap to Schema

The Alexander Architectural Archives are undergoing some renovations—and not just in the East Wing: the Archives’ EAD-encoded finding aids are being converted to schema-compliant documents. As one of the University of Texas’s smaller campus repositories, we at the Architectural Archives are serving as a test case for a larger university-wide (and broader TARO) effort to adopt the XML Schema standard. During this transitional period, my job has been to fix any errors that result from the batch-conversion process; however, as part of the larger scope of this project, my job also entails modifying certain elements in our finding aids to better reflect current descriptive practices with respect to use policy, sponsorship, and materials stored within Texas ScholarWorks (formerly the University of Texas Digital Repository).

If you’re still wondering what “Schema-compliance” means, XML schemas (note the little “s”) define the grammar of XML documents, since XML by definition has no set tag vocabulary or structure; these schemas fall into different families. The two families that we’re primarily concerned with are the DTD and XML Schema (big “S”). Encoded Archival Description (EAD) is the standard data vocabulary (with a tag library maintained by the Library of Congress) for describing archival records and the schema (whether it conforms to a DTD or a Schema document) controls the ordering and structure of your XML instance. Although XSD (XML Schema Definition) has been around for a while and has been a W3C recommendation since 2001, many of our local UT archives have used DTDs to define the structure and semantics of their XML-encoded finding aids. The reticence to use Schema is owing to the fact that the technology hasn’t necessarily been fully supported by XML parsers and that the EAD schema for use in finding aids was not released until 2012.

Yet the question remains: why convert now?

One motivation for switching to XSD-compliant XML is that it’s namespace aware, meaning it imposes more restrictions and offers more detailed enforcement on values (date, language, and repository encodings, for example). Being namespace aware also means that an XML file can refer to specific structured vocabularies when linking elements—this is what enables large-scale interoperability and data synchronization. The XLink capacities of XSD-compliant documents also allow for more complex links between digital objects. Additionally, the newest EAD tag library (EAD3), which we haven’t adopted yet, gravitates toward deprecating ambiguous elements. These EAD emendations form part of a larger trend toward standardizing archival description: by reducing EAD’s flexibility, we reduce inconsistencies among repositories by discouraging idiosyncratic institutional practices. Finally, looking forward, the EAD tag library revisions and the widespread adoption of XSD as our standard document grammar is part of the movement toward linked data and the semantic web.