Then and Now: The Library of the School of Architecture

Throughout its 100-year history, the Architecture & Planning Library has been an integral part of the School of Architecture, providing services and collections for information and inspiration.  In tandem with the School, the library has grown and changed to meet the needs of its users—students, faculty, scholars, and the community.

A new exhibit – Then and Now: The Library of the School of Architecture – gives an overview of the library’s history as it developed from a faculty collection, to an established library in 1912, and then how it moved along with the School to its new locations.  Featured are interesting examples of how services and collections have expanded and stories about how people have contributed to their library and archive.

Artifacts from the Alexander Architectural Archive
Photographed by Parker Doelling

The exhibition – on view in Architecture & Planning Library Reading Room in Battle Hall through March, 2011 – is being held in conjunction with the School of Architecture’s centennial celebration 100: Traces & Trajectories exhibition.

Producing a centennial exhibit is a momentous occasion.  The challenge proves that some things never change: it reflects the efforts of an expert staff, dedicated students, the tireless hours of our volunteers, including co-curator Sarah Cleary.

All items on exhibit are from the vast collections of the Architecture and Planning Library and its Alexander Architectural Archive, as well as images courtesy of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

Visit the Flickr slideshow to enjoy more images from the exhibition.

Beth Dodd is Head Librarian for the Architecture & Planning Library at The University of Texas at Austin.

Special Collections at the Architecture & Planning Library
Photographed by Parker Doelling

Eugene George Papers document historic preservation in Texas

What do the Magoffin Adobe in El Paso, the Moody Mansion in Galveston, and a Revolutionary War battlefield in Yorktown, Virginia, all have in common?

Magoffin House, El Paso Moody Mansion, Galveston Yorktown Battlefield, Virginia

They’re all historic preservation projects undertaken by noted architect and former UT faculty member Eugene George — and they’re all documented in the Walter Eugene George Collection at the Alexander Architectural Archive.

With 12,000 slides, thousands of negatives and photographic prints, hundreds of architectural drawings, and approximately nine linear feet of professional records, the Eugene George Papers are a window into the field of historic preservation in Texas and beyond.

Page from George's photo records
Page from George’s photo records

George’s approach to historic preservation is intensely scholarly, and his voluminous reference files provide a resource for students and scholars interested in all areas concerning historic preservation.  The George Collection also contain a wealth of photographic materials, which add a visual dimension to the record of his activities as a practicing architect, scholar, educator and photographer.  Beginning in 1979, George extensively documented each of his photographs, assigning each a frame number and logging the subject, date, and technical information.  In addition to providing evidence of historic preservation projects in process, the photographic materials are a rich visual resource for architecture, landscapes, and cultures around the world.

Muqarnas Dome at Generalife, Granada, Spain

Look for an updated finding aid online soon, and don’t miss a new digital exhibition in December for more details on George and his career.

Florence sketchbook of Frank Lloyd Wright, 1910

The Architecture & Planning Library recently acquired a limited edition facsimile of the Florence sketchbook of Frank Lloyd Wright, 1910, the manuscript sketchbook by Frank Lloyd Wright which served as the maquette or layout for the famous Wasmuth portfolio of 1910 entitled Ausgeführte Bauten Entwürfe von Frank Lloyd Wright [Studies and Executed Buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright].

This sketchbook has never been published before.  Therefore, it will be a very important addition to our collections and will greatly complement our holdings of several editions of the Wasmuth portfolio.  To learn more about these and other Frank Lloyd Wright materials in our collections read Kathryn Pierce’s entry in Shelflife@Texas.

Florence Sketchbook of Frank Lloyd Wright, 1910
Florence Sketchbook of Frank Lloyd Wright, 1910

Family Weekend 2010

Welcome Families!
Friday, October 15-Sunday, October 17

The Architecture & Planning Library will be open regular hours:  Saturday 12-6 & Sunday 1-7

There are many interesting highlights that you may enjoy including:

  • reading room exhibit
    Maya Architecture: Selections from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews Collection.
  • library entrance foyer
    Battle Hall exhibit case
  • stair well installation
    Journals On(_)line(s)
  • archive entrance foyer
    UT Centennial models of campus, exhibit about the archive, exhibit on preservation efforts in the archive

Enjoy!

Architecture & Planning Library Reading Room
Architecture & Planning Library Reading Room - Battle Hall

Documenting vernacular architecture in Texas

Earlier this summer, I wrote about processing the Wayne Bell papers. Because of my resulting familiarity with his work, I went on to work with the records of the Winedale Historical Center, the historic preservation program in the School of Architecture that Bell directed for many years.
When we interviewed Bell, we asked about the unique challenges of preserving historical sites, especially when a property or features of it have deteriorated beyond repair. His answer? You can preserve by creating a historical record. Throughout the Winedale Historical Center records are field notes, site plans, drawings, photographs, oral histories, and other materials kept safe in the Alexander Architectural Archive, documenting important information about buildings from across central and south Texas.

Zimmerscheidt-Leyendecker House field book
Field book entry, Zimmerscheidt-Leyendecker House

You hope that, with good preservation work, the building will remain. Sometimes, however, disaster strikes. In 1981, just five years after UT historic preservation students worked on the Zimmerscheidt-Leyendecker House in Colorado County, an arsonist destroyed the property. The students’ records are now that much more valuable to maintaining the cultural memory of this home.
By Amanda Keys, processing assistant in the Alexander Architectural Archive and School of Information student focusing on archival enterprise and special collections

Architectural Drawing, Now and Then

“In the School of Architecture at the University of Texas, there are drawings from casts, in pencil and in charcoal. The importance of skill in drawing and of appreciation of true proportion make this character of training as necessary for the architect as it is for any other art student.”
So begins an article that sounds like it could have been written yesterday—drawing is a major component of UT’s architecture program. However, this text was published in November 1914 in a journal called Southern Architect and Building News—long before any computer programs could help with those drawings!

Southern Architect and Building News
UT’s earliest issue of Southern Architect, 1892

As it turns out, the Architecture and Planning Library Special Collections has 106 unique issues from Southern Architect’s 1889-1932 run, more than any other institution. In addition to historical article content, the journals are heavy on advertisements, providing a fascinating look at the building materials and products available at the turn of the century.
With the generous support of School of Architecture alum Steph McDougal and her business, McDoux Preservation, we have begun an initiative to index and digitize the journal. We’re developing a work plan, manual and database, and we’ll be needing volunteers soon! Contact Beth Dodd if you’d like to help us make this valuable resource more accessible.
By Amanda Keys, processing assistant in the Alexander Architectural Archive and School of Information student focusing on archival enterprise and special collections

EDITOR’S UPDATE: For an update on the Southern Architect and Building News project, see https://blogs.lib.utexas.edu/aplhighlights/2016/03/17/southern-architect-and-building-news-update/

Treatment of architectural watercolor rendering of Havana courtroom interior by James Riely Gordon, ca. 1911

For many years now the Alexander Architectural Archive and iSchool lecturer and paper conservator Karen Pavelka have collaborated on preserving works on paper from the archive collections.  Conservation students at the Kilgarlin Center for for the Preservation of the Cultural Record gain experience treating archival works as part of the Paper Laboratory taught by Pavelka. Second year Conservation student D. Jordan Berson describes his process of treating an early 20th century watercolor by Texas architect James Riely Gordon.

To see other images of this installation, visit the slide show on the Architecture & Planning Library flickr page.

Gordon watercolour before treatment
Gordon watercolour before treatment

The goal of this treatment was to stabilize the fragile drawing in order to lift access restrictions and enable safe handling by researchers. It was also desired to reduce detracting visible damage. The object had tears and surface distortion, creases and a damaged acidic mat that was adhered directly to the artwork. It was evident that large areas of additional artwork were obscured by the existing mat. In addition, there were several areas along creases where the paint had been burnished or rubbed completely away, exposing the paper substrate.

The first part of the treatment was to mechanically remove the mat and adhesive residue as much as possible. Where residue remained adhered to the object, it was scraped away as possible by introducing very light amounts of moisture to soften it, then scraped away with a microspatula or wiped away with cotton swabs. This process took many hours. Then the piece was dry cleaned on both sides using soot sponges, and white eraser shavings. Tears were mended and splayed corners were consolidated using wheat starch paste. Thick Japanese tissue mending strips were glued down on the reverse side of creases to reduce planar distortion. Detracting media loss was remedied through inpainting. First a gelatin sizing was painted into the areas of loss, followed by inpainting with color-matched watercolors. Finally, a new acid-free mat was hand-cut using a Dexter mat-cutter. Instead of adhering it to the object as the old one was, a new “T-hinge” design was used that replicated the design of the original mat while enabling viewers to see the long-hidden artwork underneath.

Gordon watercolour after treatment
Gordon watercolour after treatment

To see other images of the treatment, visit the slide show on the Architecture & Planning Library flickr page.

Special Collections – Summer 2010

During the 2010 summer session, the Architecture and Planning Library has initiated a number of projects that will provide greater access to the content located in the library’s special collections. Supported by the John Green Taylor Endowment and through the generous service of volunteers, these projects will promote special collections use by enhancing collection records and marketing its contents.

Graduate students from a number of disciplines are currently working to index individual collections, generate more comprehensive provenance notes, and develop web content that facilitates collection navigation. These projects are part of an ongoing effort to expose the rich and diverse materials held in the library’s special collections.

With over 20,000 volumes, special collections comprise almost 1/5th of the library’s holdings and function as an invaluable resource for scholars in the disciplines of architecture, art and architectural history, landscape architecture, community and regional planning, building technology and construction science.

Curating “Maya Architecture: Selections from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews Collection”

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.

Photograph from “Maya Architecture: Selections from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews Collection"
Photograph from “Maya Architecture: Selections from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews Collection"

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.

Donna and Meghan working on "Maya Architecture"
Donna and Meghan working on "Maya Architecture"

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!

Objects from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews collection on display.
Objects from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews collection on display.

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!

Donna Coates, Beth Dodd and Meghan Rubenstein

By Meghan Rubenstein, art history Ph.D. student

Blog from the University of Texas Architecture and Planning Library