Tag Archives: iSchool

APL Spotlight Interview: Katie Pierce Meyer

Though Katie has been with us for a few months now, we would like to officially extend a warm welcome to her! Katie is the interim Architecture & Planning Librarian, replacing Martha Gonzales-Palacios, who has transitioned to a new role at the University of Oregon.

Those of you that are familiar with the library may know Katie – she’s been ‘with’ us in a number of capacities throughout the last few years! Graduate Assistant Stephanie Phillips sat down with Katie to introduce her to all audiences through a Spotlight Interview.

Katie

Stephanie:  Tell us about yourself! What is your educational background?

Katie: I received my undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Southwestern University; I have a Masters degrees from University of Texas at Austin in Information Studies (MSIS) and a masters in Architectural History from the UTSOA; I am currently back in the iSchool, working on PhD in Information Studies. My research focuses on complexity of contemporary workplace practices and the preservation of architectural artifacts.

S: What is your history with the Architecture and Planning Library? How did you find yourself in this position?

K: My first semester in graduate school, I did a group project at the Alexander Architectural Archive. I loved working with architectural records and convinced them to hire me; I worked at the archives since May 2006, processing architectural collections. Most recently, I was the project manager for the Charles Moore archives. When the interim Architecture and Planning Librarian position opened up, I thought is was a great chance to do more work in the library and connect with the UTSOA students, faculty, and staff.

S: How would you describe this position? What will you be doing?

K: I will provide reference, research support, and library instruction. It has been a busy semester. I’ve really enjoyed teaching library instruction sessions for undergrads and grad students.

S: What are you most excited for in your new position?

K: I am most excited about fostering collaboration between the UT Libraries and UTSOA as well as with the School of Information. I see the potential for exciting projects that bring together the expertise in the libraries, Architecture, and the iSchool.

S: What is your favorite book?

K: Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. My creative writing teacher gave it to me in high school and I try to re-read it every couple of years. It is a collection of short chapters, each on a different conception of time.

S: What are some of the best resources that the Architecture & Planning Library offers students?

K: We are fortunate to have a dedicated Architecture and Planning Library in close proximity to the School of Architecture. The library has a great collection of books and periodicals, fantastic materials in our special collections, and the Alexander Architectural Archive; a great staff, which I consider a resource; and many more!

S: To put you on the spot – what is the most interesting thing about yourself?

K: Probably my travel experiences. I had an opportunity to travel to Sweden with Wilfred Wang and a group of architecture students a few years ago, while completing my Architectural History degree.  I attended a Digital Humanities Observatory workshop in Dublin and did an internship with ICCROM in Rome. I have tried to take advantage of educational opportunities where I get to travel. Oh, and I love ziplining! We went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon, partially because of the ziplining.

Welcome, Katie! We’re so glad you’re here!

Notes from the conservation bench: stabilizing a Gilbert blueprint

As the conservation technician for the Architecture & Planning Library, a normal day for me usually involves repairing monographs and serials from the library’s general collection.  Every once in a while, however, I get to work on special projects for the archive or for an exhibit.  One day in April, Nancy Sparrow, the Curatorial Assistant for the Alexander Architectural Archive, asked me to work on a 1910 blueprint from the architecture office of Cass Gilbert.  Gilbert was located in New York at the time of the drawing’s creation.  The blueprint, coming in at a hefty six by three feet, shows a side elevation of an exterior iron lamp for the UT Library Building.

Nancy needed to send the drawing to the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) to be digitized.  The drawing  was buckling in the middle, had some major tears, and was covered in three different types of tape.  It had to be stabilized enough to be carried to PCL and to undergo the scanning process.  I was excited by the opportunity to brush up on my large format repair skills, so I busily collected the essentials:  a microspatula, tweezers, freshly made wheat starch paste, an assortment of brushes, small weights, lots of blotter and Reemay, and of course, a fairly heavy and strong Japanese tissue. 

Half of the drawing, before I removed the dark brown tape

Before I began, I assessed the damages to the drawing in order to determine the level of repairs needed.  I noted where the major tears were located.  I especially focused my attention on the edges where the drawing is handled the most, and any particularly deep tears that compromised the image itself.   

Nancy was already gently humidifying the middle section of the drawing where it was most severly creased.  While we waited for that treatment to finish, I decided to tackle the tape.  With my microspatula, I tentatively lifted a piece of the dark brown tape whose glue had dried out years ago and was pulling away from the paper.  To my delight, this type of tape came off quite easily without damaging the drawing.  While I was able to remove all of the offending dark brown tape, I decided to leave the other, more adhesive tape on for now.  The humidification went beautifully, and a great deal of the wrinkling was now gone.

I then began working my way across the drawing, right to left, tearing strips of Japanese tissue (as I learned at the preservation department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign’s University Library, the furrier the edges of the tissue, the better!) to the exact size of the tears, brushing paste onto them, and finally applying them with tweezers.  The area is then covered, in order, with Reemay, blotter, and a weight.

Placing Reemay over a tissue mend

I worked my way across the drawing.  After the mends had dried completely, I trimmed any tissue that went past the drawing’s edge.  In all, it took me approximately 5.5 hours to repair the drawing.  The drawing has since been sent to PCL and returned to the archive.  Scanned in four sections, the entire digital image is more than 16MB!

Adventures in Curation

“When George and Gerrie Andrews climbed their first Maya pyramid in the late 1950s, they hardly could have anticipated that a life’s calling was awaiting them.” That’s how I introduced the digital exhibition, “Their Maya Story: George and Gerrie Andrews,” which just went live on the UT Libraries website.

Tikal roofcomb Kabah photo with tracing Andrews family at Tulum

What I “hardly could have anticipated” was the variety of experience I would gain by curating this exhibition. I intended the project to enhance my skills in archival arrangement and description and to allow me to work more closely with digitization, metadata standards, Internet applications, curation, and outreach. And I did all these things, but these are fairly broad terms when it comes to information work. The specifics are where it got interesting.

I learned that you can never really be completely done with processing a series—more records always materialize. I now can scan photographic slides with confidence. Adobe Bridge became a valuable resource as I automated the conversion of dimensions, format, and resolution of digital image files. As I planned the exhibition, conversation with Mayanists gave me a clearer idea of what interested them about the archives. Crafting narrative that works as a whole or in snippets was a new kind of writing challenge. To prepare sound clips, I used Audacity and made my first foray into working with audio. I discovered the ins and outs of Drupal’s exhibit module.

Tikal roofcomb Kabah photo with tracing

In short, I learned about the wide variety of work that goes into planning and executing a digital exhibition. Too often we think of the Web as a shortcut, an easy way to make information accessible to many. And the Web does offer a great resource for increasing awareness of archival collections such as the George F. and Geraldine D. Andrews papers. But presenting information online in an engaging way, one that takes advantage of the flexibility of the interactive model, is a lot of work. As exhibition curator, I can guide you gently in the direction I think you should go and tell you what I think is interesting, but your experience with the exhibit is really up to you. That’s true in a physical museum setting, but even more so online.

To learn more about the Andrews papers, read my previous post, Adventures in Mayaland—or just visit the exhibit! Explore sites ranging from Tikal to Hormiguero, learn about the Andrews’ research methods and legacy, and simply enjoy beautiful images of Maya architecture and the story of a couple that devoted their lives to documenting this history.

Images from top, left to right:
Tikal: The man in the portal helps comprehend the scale of this roofcomb at Tikal (1981)
Kabah: George Andrews often traced over his photos as he attempted to understand the different styles of decoration (undated)
Tulum: The Andrews’ son, Alan, joined them for this trip to Tulum in 1964
Hormiguero: One of the many “monster masks” seen at Hormiguero (1978)
Coba: Stelae such as this one at Coba help scholars better understand Maya hieroglyphs and mythology (1978)

By Amanda Keys, processing assistant in the Alexander Architectural Archive and School of Information student focusing on archival enterprise and special collections

Adventures in Mayaland

On one 10-month trip to Mexico and Central America, they saw 70 Maya sites and put 20,000 miles on their Volkswagen bus. That figure doesn’t count the mileage they covered in trucks, Jeeps, small planes, and on foot. They encountered obstacles ranging from rocky roads to poisonous snakes to bureaucracy.

Who are these intrepid adventurers? George and Gerrie Andrews—and the Alexander Architectural Archive houses their papers. In their 40+ years of work documenting Maya architecture, the Andrews amassed about 50 linear feet in manuscript material, plus thousands upon thousands of photographic prints, slides, negatives, and drawings.

Kabah with Gerrie
One of the structures of Kabah, a Puuc region site in the Yucátan. See Gerrie (near the portal) for a sense of scale.

To make those records more accessible to researchers, I am working on arranging and describing these materials. So far I’ve arranged a series of Faculty and Professional Records, more than half of which consists of George’s correspondence with his architecture and archaeology colleagues. I also have started work on grouping his slides together by site—so far I’m up to about 6,500! (I also have learned that the Andrews visited more than 30 sites whose names begin with “X”—Xelha, Xlabpak, Xpuhil, etc.—which kind of boggles my English-oriented mind.) An enhanced finding aid to the George F. and Geraldine D. Andrews papers is part of my goal for this project.

But that won’t be all. In addition to working at the archive, I’m doing my capstone project to finish my master’s in information studies. To that end, I also am creating an online exhibition about the Andrews papers, hoping to draw attention to these important records and attract more researchers. I’m keeping up a webpage about the project, Building Mayaland, and invite anyone interested in the archival process to check it out.

By Amanda Keys, processing assistant in the Alexander Architectural Archive and School of Information student focusing on archival enterprise and special collections

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.