Category Archives: special collections

Friday Finds: The Octagon Library

The 1927 Volume I of The Octagon Library of Early American Architecture focuses on Charleston, South Carolina.  The volume is Octagon Library Coveredited by two notable Charleston architects, Albert Simons and Samuel Lapham, Jr., and goes into thorough detail on the architecture and history of Charleston.

In the preface, Samuel Gaillard Stoney introduces Charleston as a place that “preserved the tradition of the classic, with its intellectual freedom, its moral tolerance, its discipline in matters of etiquette, its individualism, and the spirit of logic which elsewhere largely perished in the romantic movement” (pg. 11).  Typical of the 1920s South, Stoney refers to “systematized negro labor” and explains that “malaria made the negro the agricultural laborer exclusively,” thereby blatantly ignoring the realities of slavery (pg. 11-12).  He concludes his brief history of Charleston with an explanation that “if these people did nothing else worthy of memorial, they set up in their city records of a society and a civilization, drawn from an older time” (pg. 13).

Simons and Lapham’s study moves chronologically from the founding of Charleston in 1670 to the ante-bellum Octagon Library City Planperiod and includes many photographs of local buildings, sectional drawing plans, and city plans for Charleston.  Despite the French Hugeunot presence in early Charleston, “it is difficult to point out anything that is indisputably Gallic, for what is not English has rather more of a Dutch character” (pg. 17).  The staple crops of the area were rice and indigo, and many in the area amassed fortunes as planters.  Following the American revolution, during which Charleston was heavily damaged as a focal point of the fighting, there occurred “the erection of a considerable number of religious, philanthropic, and social institutions, as well as commercial and domestic buildings” (pg. 103).  There also was more French influence in the architecture, as well as English, and greater ingenuity in the designs (for example, in the oval drawing-rooms, and a focus on size rather than detail).

Of equal interest is a note on the title page of the book from one of the authors: “To the successors of Paul P. Cret from Albert Simons in grateful appreciation of our Cher Maitre.”  Simons also signed the book right above his name.   Cret was the architect of the Tower and campus at UT Austin, drawing an interesting connection between two figures who greatly influenced the cities of Charleston and Austin.

The Octagon Library: Charleston, South Carolina is more pictures and drawings than writing, but the images demonstrate the elements the authors mention and give a better sense of Charleston’s architecture.  Charleston has grown in popularity over recent years, and become renowned for its Octagon Library Doorway Detailwell-preserved buildings, history, and Southern charm.  While other Southern cities have failed to protect their historic homes and buildings, Charleston has capitalized on them. The city also beautifully shows how historic events shape the identity of a place.  The destruction of Charleston during the American Revolution followed by a fire and heavy artillery damages during the Civil War have resulted in Charleston placing an emphasis on protecting its buildings.  Many cities could learn from Charleston’s example.  The inclination toward tearing down old homes to make room for businesses may seem  practical, but integrating those old buildings into the fabric of local society and industry has been financially rewarding for Charleston.  So, why invest in protecting historic buildings?  Just ask Charleston – it’s on fire again, just not that kind of fire.

Friday Finds: Church Bells

ToThe Art of the Church Coverday’s Friday Find is H. B. Walters’ Church Bells, from The Arts of the Church, a book series focusing on “the various arts which have clustered round the public worship of God in the Church of Christ” (pg. vii).  This volume in particular focuses on church bells, how they are made, their decoration, care, and their melodies.

Walters begins with a brief history of bells and their use in churches. He writes that “ancient bells were invariably dedicated with elaborate ceremonies, and were baptized with the name of the saint or other person after whom they were named…so as to be set apart from all secular uses” (pg. 6).  Walters then explains the process of casting a bell, the different kinds of big bells, uses and customs of bells, and specifically the history of bells in England.  The description of the decoration and inscription of bells is especially fascinating – he points out that “we [the English] do not as a rule find them as highly ornamented as foreign bells…but to some the greater soberness of the English method may seem preferable” (pg. 105).  This kind of national pride is present throughout the book.  Walters’ assertions of British superiority are hardly surprising when considering that Art of the Church - Page 1 when the book was originally published in 1908, the influence of the British Empire was beginning to wane and be challenged.

The use has grown beyond churches – bells can be heard on college campuses, in clock towers, and some even hold great historical significance (e.g. the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). They do not hold the same solemnity and religious association that they held when Walters wrote Church Bells, but they are no less iconic and recognizable an architectural feature.  The inclusion of bells in architecture makes a statement about the building too – it is meant to be heard from a distance, to draw people in as they hear the bells. The bells add an audial component to architecture, a primarily visual art; in a fashion, it is the architect and the building inviting those nearby to enjoy the beauty of the sights and sounds.

New Books 1937 Edition

While undertaking research for an upcoming exhibit at the Architecture and Planning Library, Nancy Sparrow discovered an article in The Daily Texan from 1937 entitled, “New Art Books On Architecture Library Shelves” (Vol. 38, February 26, 1937, pg. 1, 3). She sent me a copy of the article, knowing how much I would enjoy reading it. The article listed 10 new titles to the Architecture Library. Curious to know if the books were still part of the collection, I did a bit of looking. I identified 9 of the 10; however, not all remain as part of the Architecture and Planning Library’s collections.

Two of the books are still part of APL’s onsite collections, so I decided to pull them from the stacks.

Hoffman, Malvina. Heads and Tales. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons: 1936. (General collection)

hoffmanThe 1937 article offers a brief description of the work. According to the author: In “Heads and Tales” Malvina Hoffman, American sculptress, tells of her experiences in following her career over the world. It contains photographs of sculpture and of life in various parts of the world, particularly in Africa (“New Art Books On Architecture Library Shelves,” The Daily Texan, February 26, 1937, 1 and 3, accessed 2/6/2917). Hoffman offers a biographical narrative documenting her work on the statues for the Hall of Man in the Field Museum in Chicago.  She writes of her commission –

Sudden vistas of remote islands and mysterious horizons flooded over my imagination – escape from city life, discovery of new worlds, conflict with the elements. Infinite new windows of life seemed to open before me.

What lay beyond those windows is set down in this book, which describes my adventures and experiences of “head-hunting” in the near and far corners of the earth – and how the hundred racial types in the “Hall of Man” of the Field Museum in Chicago were selected and modelled on the road. (Hoffman, Heads and Tales, 3).

Unaware of Malvina Hoffman or her work until today, I undertook a quick search in the catalog and jstor looking for recent scholarship about the artist. You might consider Marianne Kinkel’s book, Races of Mankind: the Sculpture of Malvina Hoffman or Rebecca Peabody’s article, “Race and Literary Sculpture in Malvina Hoffman’s Heads and Tales,” in the Getty Research Journal (vol. 5, 2013, 119-132).

 Lawrie, Lee. Sculpture. Cleveland, Ohio: J. H. Jansen, 1936. (Special Collections)

 APL has two copies of Sculpture, one in off site storage and copy two lawrieheld in Special Collections. The second copy was a gift by Arthur E. Thomas. While copy two was immediately accessible in Special Collections, the first copy is probably the new book identified in The Daily Texan.

Like Hoffman, Lee Lawrie offers Sculpture as documentation of his work. He provides 48 plates and a brief introduction, which he uses to express his opinion about modern sculpture. He concludes –

Also it is not meant that a sculptor cannot be a creator. Although no new ways of designing and modelling are available, the personal characteristics that stamp each sculptor’s work, when applied to an original theme and architectural problem, make it a creation. What will be done when the sculptors have full play with the tremendous and dramatic themes that are to be recorded of our age and scene can only be imagined. The opportunity for this expression will no doubt bring forth works equal to those of the great monuments of the past. (Foreword, pg. 2)

While not familiar with Lawrie by name, I did recognize his work as I looked through the plates – more familiar with the buildings themselves. While a contemporary of Hoffman, I was struck by their stylistically different approaches to sculpture rather than those governed by medium or type.

Friday Finds: Architecture, Nature, and Magic

As always, part of the joy of Fridays are Friday Finds! In the hot seat today is W.R. Lethaby’s Architecture, Nature, and Magic.  The book was originally published in 1892 under the name Architecture, Mysticism, and Myth, though Lethaby rewrote (and renamed) it in 1928 for The Builder. Lethaby - Cover Page This book is a 1956 compilation of the articles from The Builder.  Lethaby writes that “at the inner heart of ancient building were wonder, worship, magic, and symbolism,” forming part of his main thesis that “nature…was the source of much of what is called architectural decoration…[and] thought of magical properties generally had a very wide and deep influence on the development of ancient building customs” (pg. 16).

Architecture, Nature, and Magic is organized geographically, with close attention paid to chronology, as well.  For example, in the chapter on the Far East, Lethaby traces the history of the tope, “a circular monument like a half sphere, or taller, usually having a spire-like erection on the top” (pg. 66-67).  Originally, “topes were either erected to the celestial Buddha or over relics and sacred sites,” while “later topes in farther Asia are understood to be the imitations of the celestial mountains” (pg. 67-69).  Lethaby then moves chronologically and intertwines cultural mythology with the architecture of the region, as well as the evolution of architectural features.  He follows this essential formula in the other chapters, including discussions of Egypt, Western influences, temples, palaces, and more.

Lethaby concludes that “all the arts had their origin in efforts to satisfy the needs of the body and the mind…the greater buildings were not Lethaby - pageonly for ritual purposes, but they themselves were embodied magic” (pg. 147).  He makes a fascinating argument that without this magical element, humans would have been satisfied with architecture only serving their immediate physical needs.

What inspired people to build beautiful structures when a simple one would suffice?  For all its practicality, there is an artistry and focus on aesthetics in architecture that goes beyond the utility of the structure.  This desire for beauty is a human phenomenon, spanning time and geography.  Why?  There is likely no one answer, if indeed there are any at all.  Maybe there is something inexplicable that drew early architects to aim for more than functionality – perhaps their ideas needed just a touch of magic.

New Books at APL: Gifts for Special Collections

Last fall a generous donation was made to UT Libraries that provided APL the opportunity to purchase materials to enhance our Special Collections. Katie and I selected three books to compliment our southern architecture collection that includes Southern Architect and Building News.

Anniston City Directory, 1889-1890: A General Directory of the Citizens, Directory of the Churches, Societies, Associations, and Miscellaneous Information. Sketches of the Rise and Progress of the Leading Industries, Illustrations and a Complete History the Model City of the South. Anniston, Alabama: G. H. Norwood, 1889.

The title of this book caught our eye with its reference to Anniston, Alabama as a model city, especially during this period of history in the South.  While more than half the book is a city directory – which someone has updated and annotated in pencil – the last third is a description of the town with illustrations of several of its buildings. The description includes Anniston’s industries, climate, and praise from various individuals. It would be quite interesting to search Southern Architect and Building News for Anniston in order to understand how the model city is represented or not represented in SABN.

Official Views: Cotton States and International Exposition, Atlanta 1895. Issued by the official photographic company. Negatives by C.D. Arnold. St. Louis: C. B. Woodward Printing, 1895.

Official Views was particularly interesting to us, because APL does not currently own any Southern Architect and Building News from 1895 – though APL does have a few that predate it. While I cannot speculate on how Southern Architect might have covered the Cotton States and International Exposition, the Official Views includes photographs of individual buildings, general views of the fair, the Midway, fairgoers, and peoples or cultures on display. The work consists only of photographs and lacks accompanying text or a plan of the fair. I was surprised that only four state buildings are documented – Georgia, Alabama, New York, and Pennsylvania. Architecturally, the style of the fair appears mixed. Some of the main buildings evoke Jeffersonian architectural ideals, while those on the Midway are fantastical or call to mind far away lands.

W. T. Downing. Domestic Architecture. Atlanta: Franklin Print. and Pub. Co., 1897.

Domestic ArchitectureDomestic Architecture consists of plans and photographs that document the residential work of W. T. Downing, acting as his portfolio. He also included advertisements in addition to the plans and photographs. He writes: “…only firms that have done work or furnished materials for me and whom I can recommend have been permitted to insert cards” (Introduction, pg. 15). I find the inclusion of advertisements, which are predominantly from Atlanta, particularly important, as it helps to document the building network around W. T. Downing during this period. Again, one might compare both the representation of W. T. Downing and each of the advertisements to that of Southern Architect.

Friday Finds: Pencil Points, Vol. XV

Pencil Points - Cover SheetIt’s Friday again, and that means it’s time for Friday Finds!  Today’s featured player from Special Collections  is Pencil Points Volume XV from 1934.   Pencil Points was published monthly from 1920-1943 and became one of the premier architectural journals, including plans, sketches, articles, and letters from architects in the United States and Europe.

The article topics range from architectural history to appraisal instructions.  Recurring segments appear, such as “Ripley’s Recipes” by Hubert G. Ripley, which discusses recipes for cocktails and food alike, as well as “New York and Its Plans” by Francis S. Swales.  “New York and Its Plans” analyzes the layout and architecture of New York City.  Swales makes the argument that “New York was not planned to be a great or beautiful city, but as the biggest land subdivision on earth,” and that changes must be made to the city in order to adapt it to current needs (pg. 353).

In addition to the beautiful etchings and plans, the historical context of 1934 makes the issues particularly fascinating.   Approximately one year after President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office, the recovery Pencil Points - Detail Drawingfrom the Great Depression remained slow but persistent. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies are very much present in Pencil Points.  The Sketch Club of Chicago wrote a piece recommending improvements to the National Industrial Recovery Act, including proposing that “the minimum rate of pay for designers, draftsmen, specification writers, superintendents, and other technical employees shall be not less than $15 per week of 35 hours” (pg. Pencil Points - Watercolor46).   Another piece includes an interview of James A. Moffett, Administrator of the National Housing Act, another staple  of the New Deal, which focuses entirely on the impact of the Act on architects.  Moffett told the editors that “‘the success of the whole undertaking may be fairly said to depend on how active the architects are in furthering the movement to modernize existing buildings and build new houses'” (pg. 373).

Through this historical lens, the importance of architects in bringing back the American economy and jobs becomes clear, as a major aspect of the New Deal was building projects.  With the beginning of the recovery depicted in these 1934 journals, the importance and creativeness of architects (as well as the push to modernize) shine; there is a palpable excitement about the growing job opportunities and potential influence of architects in changing American homes and cities that permeates the 1934 Pencil Points.Pencil Points - Venice

 

 

Friday Finds: Southern Architect and Building News

Southern Architect and Building News is not a traditional Friday Finds – I did not discover it this morning by wandering around in Special Collections. I have been working with this journal run for about a year now seeking funding to have the collection digitized. The challenge with SABN is that the content within the issues has never been indexed. While a patron might be able to find a record of the journal in the library’s catalog, a patron must search through the physical journals to identify any content that might be relevant to his/her research. With that in mind, I am going to share interesting bits of information that I find in SABN from time to time to raise awareness regarding its useful and interesting content.

Flipping through the issues from November 1912 to October 1913, I noticed that Texas architecture and architects were well represented with an emphasis on Dallas and San Antonio. One of the notices that stood out, however, was a short passage about lifting the restriction on wooden shingles in Jackson, Mississippi. The notice reads:

Jackson Can Use Wooden Shingles.

The Jackson, Miss., city council has repealed the ordinance requiring all buildings erected in that city to be roofed with metal or slate. The ordinance originally adopted, after being held up for a year, went into effect two months ago, but there was such strong opposition to it, it has been finally repealed. The opposition contended that it was a detriment to the erection of cheap homes and that its enforcement was to take away the demand for a natural forest resource manufactured in that city. (Southern Architect and Building News 30.1 (1912): 39)

SABN’s content was ever evolving as the journal shifted from trade publication to professional journal. During the 1910s, the journal often included notices about building practices, architects, contractors, suppliers, and new construction underway across the South. While the Jackson, Mississippi notice may seem innocuous it provides context for the use of specific materials for construction in Jackson during the early twentieth century. If the material was digitized with full text search capability, notices like this one could more easily be discovered by researchers.

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.

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!