Early last month, on the 2nd of June, I embarked on the exciting adventure of volunteering at The Alexander Architectural Archive in Battle Hall. For a long time I have wanted to work in an Archive, and thanks to the graciousness of the staff, that dream has become a reality. I knew volunteering in the Archives would allow me to be introduced into a career I hope to achieve, while working from the ground up.
Before getting started Donna Coates, the wonderful person that gave me this opportunity, took me through some of the hidden rooms which I would work from. I must preface the next statement with the knowledge that I am a huge database guy. When growing up I would make spreadsheets of just about anything that I could to get a clear sortable list. So it should come as little surprise that while exploring and discussing the many different aspects of Archives, I became overly excited for the work to begin.
I learned that day I would be focusing on the George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Architecture Collection during the summer, and hopefully into the fall or further. My primary assignment involved going through the numerous boxes and sorting the photos, drawings, and negatives. This has the purpose of creating a more accessible collection which will allow more patrons to know what is available. Each site that George and Gerrie visited was documented with extensive notes and photos. The research would in turn be sorted and placed in site accounts detailing the features and aspects. This work created one of the most comprehensive collections of Mayan site data in history.
During the first month of volunteering I have focused on the photos and drawings. In this time I have created nearly 300 folders from about 14 boxes. When I say they took photos, I mean THEY TOOK PHOTOS! Which, personally, I think is ridiculously cool. Each photo that I come across leads me further on the path to understanding George and Gerrie, and their passion for Mayaland.
Along with the photos, other interesting material such as codex drawings, building and renovation sketches, and masks for the Stelae have surfaced. These less-documented aspects of their research gives a unique view of the understanding process which George went through when recreating ancient Mayan features. Great Palaces from sites such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Palenque, to name a few, stand still in time before me as I carefully handle and document each new discovery. The detail that comes through in the black and white photos creates the feeling of a time machine, hurdling you back to the 70s and 80s in the jungles Mayaland. Many of the sites are no longer accessible to visitors, for fear by locals that the constant agitation ruins the ancient structures. This, along with jungle growing back over many of the paths that were once available, make George and Gerrie’s photos all the more important.
Above is a photo I think does well to give an idea of the building sketches George created. It is a photo of a Chichen Itza palace structure. On top is the mylar overly which George sketched his detailed drawing of the palace. Though not all the photos in the collection have such sketches, especially those that less than 8×10, many of the large photos about 16×20 in size possess sketches. Along with the drawings that link directly to the photos, George has created numerous sketches that depict typical wall segments and designs.
If you have any questions or would like to know more please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer in timely fashion. In future posts, I will continue to update you on my adventures in the Alexander Architectural Archives and the work being done on the George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Collection, along with other happenstances which might occur! Til next time, from Mayaland, this is Austin Hixson signing off.