Many people shy away from group projects. After all, teamwork frequently suffers when clashing personalities and working methods meet. But when it is successful, collaboration can yield a better outcome than working alone and serve as a learning experience. While much of the work that goes into planning an exhibition is not visible in the final product, the process itself is often very exciting, particularly when dealing with an archive. I wanted to take a moment to share my experience co-curating Maya Architecture.
It was only a few months ago that I discovered the George F. and Geraldine Andrews collection tucked away in the Alexander Architectural Archive. A classmate of mine was looking for a rare photograph of a Maya structure taken before it collapsed. [He found it.] I was trying to get a sense of the Andrews’ documentation of Puuc architecture for my own research. At the time of our visit Beth Dodd and Donna Coates had already started organizing an exhibition for the Architecture and Planning Library reading room to call attention to this unprocessed collection. Aware of the importance of this resource I offered to help, and they gladly accepted.
A collection of didactic materials from an earlier exhibition on George Andrews’ work on Maya architecture acted as the framework for the show. The panels emphasized George Andrews’ photographs and final drawings, but we also wanted to reflect the depth and variety of the Andrews archive.
The three of us met on several occasions to sort through prints, photographs and drawings for the wall cases, moving and adding some, vetoing others. The large glass cases in the library also allowed us to curate objects. One of the perks of assisting on this exhibition was that I had the opportunity to search through the collection with the explicit order to pull some of the most interesting, and obscure, materials housed in the stacks.
Though it was difficult to choose from the thousands of objects, books, drawings (some in progress), negatives and photographs available, we tried to provide a representative example. The exhibition even includes photographs of the collection while it was still in George and Geraldine’s home in Oregon!
The text for the exhibit is a mix of old and new writing. Some of the text came directly from the earlier exhibition, other text was pulled from George Andrews’ publications and artist statement. A number of panels were written specifically for this display.
The organic working process provided plenty of opportunities to talk through ideas and make changes when necessary. The exhibition was truly a team effort. Donna, Beth and I worked closely together, but also had the help of staff members from the Architecture and Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archive. Many people assisted in compiling information, hanging and arranging work, editing, printing labels and posters, and building on the concept of the show.
It was a great opportunity for me to get to know the collection and work closely with the staff in the Alexander Architectural Archive…and a chance to promote a significant Maya resource at UT!
By Meghan Rubenstein, art history Ph.D. student