I’ve been working all semester on a new GRA assignment in the Architecture and Planning Library/Alexander Architectural Archive, and I’m finally ready to let the word out. My task is to develop an exhibit for display in the Battle Hall Reading Room during the spring 2014 semester. See previous examples of Reading Room exhibits here and here. I’ve never worked in a museum or archive before, so the curating process was completely new to me. Here is how it’s happened so far.
After weeks of thinking about it, I chose to combine my interior design background and current focus in historic preservation and look at interiors of the modern movement as a consideration for preservation. First I set a few limits (modern nonresidential interiors, located in Texas only, between 1945 and around 1980). The next step was browsing hundreds of the Alexander Architectural Archive‘s holdings to find images that fit the theme. I also looked for background information on specific projects in the project files for various architects. This was my favorite part of the process. What could be more enjoyable than looking through beautiful drawings all day?
Meanwhile, I completed preliminary research to inform the structure of the exhibit. For this I discovered the reference collection located in the Reading Room. This area houses building code books and general reference volumes like encyclopedias, but it also includes great specific subject reference books related to architecture and design. Books such as A Century of Interior Design, 1900-2000 and Dallas Architecture, 1936-1986 helped me to establish a framework of development of the interior design industry and overall architectural development of Texas during the chosen time period.
I also decided to do outside research on recent historic preservation projects in Texas that gave some consideration to the original interior design. Several of these projects will be featured in the exhibit.
The next step was to outline the structure of the exhibit and select final images to display. Then came the title. The title needed to convey the subject (interior design), design era (modernism), time period (post-WWII), place (Texas), and the intent (consideration for historic preservation) in a concise and catchy package. After brainstorming and rearranging words what must have been hundreds of times, Inside Modern Texas: The Case for Preserving Post-War Interiors rose to the top.
Lots of behind-the-scenes tasks are still ahead to get this exhibit up and on display. Look for Inside Modern Texas some time in March. Meanwhile, don’t forget to go beyond the stacks to the reference collection, Alexander Architectural Archive, and even special collections for your own research needs.