Category Archives: alexander architectural archives

Linking Architectural GeoData

Over the past several years, a team at UT Libraries has been developing the UTLARCH GeoData project, a prototype for a new kind of geospatial database that can map and link together data derived from various collections at the Alexander Architectural Archives. In this post, I will summarize our work to date.

View the UTLARCH GeoData project on ArcGIS Online

The core project team has consisted of myself, Josh Conrad, a graduate research assistant, along with Katie Pierce Meyer, Michael Shensky, and Jessica Trelogan. We have also relied heavily on the amazing data work from UT Libraries staff and students including Grace Hanson, Irene Lule, Alyssa Anderson, Abigail Norris, Katie Jakovich, Stephanie Tiedeken, Beth Dodd and Nancy Sparrow.

Buildings of Texas

The project began in 2018 after the Alexander Architectural Archives received a new collection donation from architect and historian Gerald Moorhead containing the research and editing material for the two volume book series Buildings of Texas, published in 2013 and 2019. This donation consisted of over 20 boxes of paperwork, 12,000 photographs, and, importantly for our project, a series of eight Excel spreadsheets cataloging over 5,000 places represented in the book series. These spreadsheets included addresses, place names, dates of construction and renovation events, as well as architects and other contributors to these building events.

View the original Buildings of Texas Excel spreadsheets in the Texas Data Repository

The Buildings of Texas spreadsheets provide a wealth of data about a wide range of architectural projects throughout the state, including many projects represented in other AAA collections. The AAA projects database and finding aids also store a lot of information about the various architectural projects represented in the collections, but many gaps exist in AAA data, especially geographic information such as addresses and coordinates which were not included on donated items such as drawing sets. With the acquisition of the Buildings of Texas datasets, the intriguing possibility arose of filling in these gaps by linking Buildings of Texas data to existing AAA projects data.

From this seed of an idea, the project concept expanded: why not connect geodata from other AAA collections as well, such as the recently digitized David Williams photography collection and Atlantic Terra Cotta Company photography collection, both now hosted on the UT Libraries Collections portal. Numerous other un-digitized architectural datasets also exist in AAA collections which in the future may be able to be included in this growing linked database, such as the Texas Architectural Survey collection and the historical surveys conducted by architects and historians such as Eugene George and Wayne Bell. Could we include data from outside of the AAA as well?

Linked data model

These early brainstorms coalesced around a plan for new kind of geospatial database that could store and display place data from various linked datasets together on a map. We saw this concept as akin to pre-digital geographic indices such as atlases and gazetteers. We also envisioned this database as a kind of spatial finding aid that researchers could use to find all the items about a place such as photographs and drawings that may be held in multiple collections. Further, if this potential geodatabase will be digital, we could use it to develop map-based digital exhibitions and other kinds of library discovery tools.

We explored a variety of database models for representing this diversity of data. A single data table would not be sufficient. Places represented in AAA collections are complex and involve multitudes of contributing individuals. Our data model would need to be flexible and allow one-to-many relationships throughout. In architectural data, places are often associated with a number of specific events in time such as dates of construction and renovation. Further, each event is often associated with multiple different people and companies such as clients, architects, builders, and other contributors. And, to add further complexity, events are documented by multiple different artifacts, such as photographs and drawings. We wanted to develop a spatial database that could link people and artifacts to places while also being able to store temporal data that could contextualize them within the history of that place.

Below is the Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD) of our prototype data model. Centrally, the core table is the Places table. Places represented in this table are labeled with the name of the collection from which the data originates (place_source_term). In order to map the data with a geographic information system (GIS), we connect each place to its geographic representation, a point, line or polygon located somewhere on earth. The three tables at the top (in red) are the spatial tables, or “feature classes” in GIS lingo, that are required by the GIS. One feature class represents points, one represents lines and one can represent polygons. Place data is often represented with a point, essentially a map pin located on or near the place’s location on earth, but places can also be represented with lines, in the case of roads or trails, or polygons in the case of building outlines, land parcel boundaries, and neighborhood boundaries.

The core places table is then connected in a one-to-many relationship to various attribute tables (in blue) that can store multiple values per place. In the Place Names table, places can have many names, such as current and historic names as well as addresses. In the Place Type table, places can have many different types or uses, such as residences, commercial buildings, public buildings, and landscapes such as parks and neighborhoods. Further, places can be sites of multiple events over time, including but not limited to construction and renovation events, documentation events such as the photographing and drawing of that place, and cultural events such as celebrations and commemorations. Thus, the Events table, as our model’s temporal table, stores the dates and event data associated with each place. From the Events table are connected two more attribute tables: the Contributors table, which stores names of people and companies associated with each event; and the Artifacts table, which stores the data about collection items associated with each event.

Within this spatial and temporal data model, multiple data sources can be combined. However, if two or more sources represent the same place, that place will be represented by multiple unconnected records in the places table, one record for each source. Ultimately we want to be able to match these records so that researchers can view all the data available about each place. Preliminary ideas from our team included the idea of creating a “Unique Places” table where matching places could link to a single shared place record, essentially an authority record that could store a standardized geographic representation for that place. We would also want to create an authoritative “Unique Contributors” table.

The prospect of creating our own authority files brought up the question of how we might work with, or contribute to, existing authority file databases such as Getty Vocabularies, who manages two authority ontologies relevant to us, the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) and the Union List of Artist Names (ULAN). Further, as a means to broaden representation and allow for multivocality and multiplicity, we felt that we should also contribute our authority records to the linked open data community via Wikidata.


I usually think of Wikidata as the database version of Wikipedia. Similarly to Wikipedia, Wikidata is an open collaboratively-edited platform developed by the Wikimedia Foundation using the CC0 public domain license. But whereas Wikipedia is composed of records of various entities and concepts written in an encyclopediatic narrative prose, Wikidata represents unique entities as structured database records with a data model that they call a “knowledge graph”. A graph data model, which I have also heard called a linked data model, a network model, an ontology model, or an object-oriented model, is an alternative data model used by encyclopediatic knowledge databases and newer authority file systems such as Getty Vocabularies, the Library of Congress Linked Data Service, the Virtual International Authority File, the CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model, and Wikidata. In a graph model, data is stored, not in fixed table rows like in traditional relational databases, but rather as a series of “triples” composed of two objects (or “nodes”) and their relationship (or “edge”), and stored in a specialized databases called triplestores. In this more-flexible structure, each unique object can have many different relationships with many other objects. In Wikidata, item records are able to have many different attributes which are each linked to other unique items. The result is a flexible hyperlinked database. The image below shows an example of a Wikidata record containing an attribute that is in turn linked to another Wikidata record, forming a network.

Because Getty Vocabularies and Wikidata both use a linked data model, we are able to match and link records from our different data sources by connecting, or “reconciling”, each record to its authoritative Getty or Wikidata record. However, because Wikidata offers an open-source collaboratively-edited platform, if a Wikidata record for a place or contributor does not exist, we can simply create it on the fly using the Wikidata reconciliation API and Open Refine. This important feature distinguishes it from Getty Vocabularies which is not a publicly editable database (though they do accept new data through partnerships with libraries). Because it allows us to directly manage records, Wikidata can essentially become integrated into our data infrastructure and workflow. In other words, Wikidata can simply become our authority file. In this configuration, our data model is greatly simplified. As shown the ERD above, instead of creating new “unique” tables, the Places and Contributors tables both contain attributes labelled wikidata_qid in which we simply store the Wikidata identifiers (QIDs) that represent each authority record.

Database infrastructure

Because our ultimate goal is to create a geospatial database, we required a GIS database infrastructure. A critical component of this project, one which really made everything possible, was our ability to use the ArcGIS geodatabase and server that UT Libraries ITS has recently installed to support the creation of the Texas GeoData Portal. UTL ITS has been providing the libraries with an incredible data infrastructure from which to build new innovative kinds of discovery, access and digital preservation tools. We are also forever grateful to UT Libraries GIS experts Michael Shensky and Jessica Trelogan for being a part of our core team and teaching us how to navigate the complex matrix of settings and workflows required to host data within this infrastructure.

The GIS infrastructure is essentially composed of three components: a ArcGIS enterprise geodatabase built with Microsoft SQL Server, the ArcGIS Server, and ArcGIS Online. Data tables created on the SQL server are linked to a GIS feature service which can be then added to an ArcGIS Online web map as a set of GIS feature class and tables. Any updates made over time to the core data tables are then automatically updated in the web map.

In order to populate and update the geodatabase over time, our team established a documented data processing workflow that extracts the original data source, transforms it into our linked data model (including reconciling with Wikidata), and loads it into our database infrastructure. This Extract-Transform-Load workflow involves the combined use of the data processing tool Open Refine as well as ArcGIS Pro and can be applied to new datasets in the future.


To date, we have uploaded three datasets into the new geodatabase: the Buildings of Texas Collection, as well as two datasets exported from the AAA projects database representing the Karl Kamrath Collection and the Volz & Associates, Inc. Collection. As part of this process, we have created nearly 7,000 new Wikidata records representing both people and places.

Below is a screenshot of our ArcGIS Online web map and interactive data dashboard. The image shows an example of a house represented in two separate datasets, linked spatially by having the same point coordinates as stored in Wikidata. This house, located at 8 Tiel Way in Houston, was designed by Karl Kamrath. The Kamrath dataset provides data about the drawings he produced for the project which we represent in the geodatabase as “drawing” events using the date at which the house was drawn (as recorded on the drawings). The Buildings of Texas dataset includes data about the home’s construction, which we represent as a separate “construction” event. Together the two events begin to provide a more temporal depiction of this place than each dataset does alone.

The two datasets from the AAA projects database provided us with a workflow template for adding other AAA projects datasets in the future. Digitized datasets extracted from UT Libraries Collections portal metadata are next. Over time we hope to continue refining and filling in the gaps in each of these data sources by developing new editing workflows using the interactive tools in ArcGIS Online. As both the Wikidata and ArcGIS platforms improve over time, we hope to find new ways to link the two more intimately. Currently, for example, ArcGIS Online is not able to asynchronously query external APIs such as Wikidata, so we must continue to store authority data locally. ArcGIS developers has also started integrating graph data models into their products which may allow us to migrate from our relational data model and more-fully embrace linked data practices.

We are excited to be a part of these developing technologies and hope to continue experimenting with new ways of sharing and linking architectural data. Be sure to visit our project dashboard as well as our project StoryMap which explores how linked architectural data can be useful for new research.

Mission Possible

What does an archivist do when the archives are closed?

Mission Espíritu Santo de Zuniga restoration drawing, 1933

Along with institutions across the globe, the Alexander Architectural Archives and Architecture and Planning Library closed our doors in March for the safety of students, staff, and visitors. Usually we spend our days surrounded by the Alexander’s collection of papers and books at Battle Hall, physically tied to the materials we work with. While we miss the stacks (and each other!), the transition to remote-work presented the perfect opportunity to focus our attention on digital projects at the archives. 

Digital work gave us something to keep our hands full, but, more importantly, it gave us a way to continue to make archival resources available to researchers, also facing the challenges of remote work. Contributing to the University of Texas Libraries’ Collections Portal offered the best of both worlds. This recently launched Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) provides a platform for UT repositories to store and describe their digital materials, and share them with the public.

Screenshot of the collections portal

Luckily, this isn’t our first rodeo when it comes to digital projects at the Alexander. For as long as digital technologies have existed, the archival profession has been brainstorming ways to both preserve these technologies and take advantage of them to make archival materials more accessible. In 1999, the Alexander launched an online digital exhibit titled, Spanish Colonial Architecture as Represented in the Alexander Architectural Archive, described as “a collection of digitized drawings and photographs of eighteenth-century Spanish missions and [the] San Antonio’s Governor’s Palace. These records, dating mainly from the 1920s through the 1950s, reflect how the structures looked before various efforts of restoration and reconstruction. Selected from collections within the Alexander Architectural Archive, they include works by Harvey P. Smith, Stewart King, Ayres and Ayres, Robert Leon White, and measured drawings by UT Austin School of Architecture students in the Texas Architecture Archive”.

Twenty years later, this collection of digital scans is gaining new life on the Collections Portal. In my role as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Alexander, I’ve been immersed in a world of arches and colonnades, uploading assets from the Missions exhibit into the DAMS and adding descriptive metadata.

Mission San Francisco de la Espada, drawing of patio

Following UT’s shutdown, the staff at the Alexander shifted our focus to remote projects, including working in the DAMS to ingest an array of items, from floorplans to historic photographs. With over 2,000 combined items from the Alexander Archives and Library, our collection is only growing. As researchers continue to limit travel and conduct their work remotely, access to online resources has become more important than ever. Even as UT begins to implement new safety strategies on campus and we consider plans for reopening the archive, digital portals will remain a vital access point and a way for both institutions and researchers to see archival materials in a new light. When it comes to the digital, we as archivists are in it for the long haul, rain or shine, just like our commitment to preserving traditional paper artifacts. 

We look forward to welcoming you back to Battle Hall in the future, and in the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy browsing our materials virtually via the Collections Portal.


Photo preservation with the Society for Commercial Archeology

Source: Society for Commercial Archeology records, Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin


This post is part of a series on personal collection management. The series provides tips and tricks to Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) members for preserving and organizing their personal collections of photographs and print materials, and digitizing these items.

Personal collections management borrows best practices from collecting institutions like archives, libraries, and museums, scaled down for an individual’s needs. Following a few simple personal archiving guidelines can help preserve your memories into the future, keeping them accessible to the next generation.

In the Spring of 2019, I produced a Records Management plan for the SCA’s administrative records, which are housed at the Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries. These articles on personal collection management supplement the institutional Records Management tool, so that the personal materials of SCA members can be cared for at home, even outside of a formal archive.

Source: Society for Commercial Archeology records, Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin

Let’s Get Started!

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but only if it’s preserved. For many of us, our photographs, film, and slides contain our most cherished memories and familial ties. But, all too often these photographs sit neglected in damp basements, stuffy attics, and crumbling shoeboxes. The tips below will help your photos live their best life.


  • Do not touch the image side of the print directly, to avoid leaving fingerprints and oils from the skin
  • For best practice, wear thin cotton or nitrile gloves


Storage is the foundation of photo preservation. The right storage can be the difference between a photo that lasts a lifetime, and one damaged beyond repair.

  • Store your photos in acid free boxes or envelopes
  • For extra protection, photos can be layered between sheets of acid free paper, or slipped into clear archival envelopes
  • Store negatives in acid free envelopes
  • Avoid storing photos in spaces with wide fluctuations in temperature or humidity, such as attics, basements, or garages. As one blogger puts it: “A good rule of thumb is storing photos where you are also comfortable: not too hot, cold, wet or dry.”
  • Store photos in a well-ventilated area
  • Avoid storing photos or photo boxes in direct sunlight
  • Avoid using paper clips or rubber bands to bundle photographs
  • When storing photos in boxes, avoid “dead space” which will cause your photos to tip and lean. This can bend your prints, and mix them up out of order. Fill the dead space with folded pieces of stiff acid-free paper.
  • Similarly, avoid packing prints or slides too tightly into a box. Give them a little breathing room so that the materials are not stressed or damaged by constantly pushing against one another.

Labeling and Organizing

Labeling your photos may feel tedious in the moment, but it can save you from pain and confusion down the line. Have you ever looked back on an old photograph that you took or one taken of you, and had no recollection of the moment? Or what about inheriting a box of old family photographs, without any idea of who the photos depict or when they were taken? Our memories aren’t perfect, but thankfully, labeling can step in for us.

  • Types of information you may wish to include in the label:
    • Full names of people in the photo
    • Date
    • Location
    • Occasion
    • Photographer
  • Use gentle pressure to label the backs of photographs at the lower border. Avoid pens which require a forceful hand, as the pressure can damage your photo.
  • If labeling each individual photo is too time-consuming, label boxes or envelopes which contain photos that are part of a set. (Best practice is to label the envelopes before placing the material in them).
  • There is no single “correct” way to organize your photos. Chronologically, by person, by occasion? Choose a method that makes sense to you, and will make it easy to find the photo you’re looking for in the future.

Displaying and Sharing Photos

Storing photos for the future is great, but what if you want to enjoy your photos in the moment?

  • If you want to frame a photo for display, consider making a copy, rather than displaying the original. This way you can enjoy your photo everyday, while the original is protected from light damage.
  • Storing photos in an album is generally not recommended. Album materials like glue, cardboard, and plastic, can damage your photos. Instead, scan the photos and produce an album with the digital scans (through services like Shutterfly, Mixbook, or Amazon photos), or make photocopies for an album. The originals can then be left in protected storage.
  • Look for acid-free frames, mats, and albums.
Source: Society for Commercial Archeology records, Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin

Further Resources

Looking for more? This section links to lots of helpful outside resources.

General Advice for Photographic Care

Caring for Photographic Slides

While most of the advice on caring for photo prints also applies to slides, the following resources are specific to slides.

Purchasing Archival Supplies

Where to find acid-free boxes, photo sleeves and more.


Wondering how to take care of a collection of photos that’s already experienced damage? Below are resources for addressing common types of damage or degradation.

Removing tape, removing photos from an album

Hiring a Professional

Have a project too big to tackle alone? Try The American Institute for Conservation’s Find a Conservator feature.

Up Next!

Stay tuned for upcoming articles on digitization and tips on caring for paper materials like postcards, fliers, and clippings.

Alofsin Archive: Design Education

Alofsin Archive Design Education materials rehoused in their new manuscript boxes
Alofsin Archive Design Education materials rehoused in their new manuscript boxes

Hi, I’m Kathleen Carter. As I detailed in my last blog post, I’ve been processing the Anthony Alofsin Archive, the papers of the University of Texas at Austin professor and author of several works on architecture. Currently, I’m in the rehousing stage of the project. I’ve been removing materials from their original boxes and folders and putting them into brand new archival folders and manuscript boxes.  As with anything, these materials will age and may become unusable if not stored properly. By placing the papers into acid-free folders, putting all photographs into protective sleeves, and removing any damaging materials (for example, rusting paperclips), we can ensure that the Alofsin Archive will remain in good condition for as long as possible. To start with, I’ve been working on the materials that Dr. Alofsin collected on the history of design education.


Alofsin's book on the Harvard Graduate School of Design published in 2002
Alofsin’s book on the GSD

The bulk of these materials are about the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Dr. Alofsin was commissioned by the GSD’s Dean Gerald McCue in 1985 to write a thorough history of design education at Harvard for its 50th anniversary in 1986 (also Harvard’s 350th anniversary).  With editor Julia Bloomfield and research assistant Andrea Greenwood, Alofsin accumulated over six hundred pages of documentation on the history of school. These were used to plan the exhibition “The Founding Decades of the Schools of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and City Planning at Harvard, 1895-1935” held at the GSD in 1986. Alofsin also laid down the framework for a multi-volume series about the school. While those books were never published, Harvard later passed the rights of the materials to Alofsin. He used the research to write The Struggle for Modernism: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and City Planning at Harvard, published in 2002.


GSD student Raymond F. Leonard's 1931 thesis, an example of student work accumulated in the archive
GSD student Raymond F. Leonard’s 1931 thesis, an example of student work Alofsin collected

Drafts of both the original volumes and The Struggle for Modernism are in the Alofsin Archive. The research for the 1986 project and other materials on the history of design education accumulated by Alofsin have also found their home in the Alexander Architectural Archives. These records include interviews with GSD alumni and faculty, work by students dating back to the 1930s, charts of the evolution of the GSD’s courses,  hundreds of photographic materials, and even papers from the personal archive of the first GSD Dean Joseph Hudnut.


These materials will all be described in a complete finding aid of the Alofsin Archive and available to researchers to see for themselves!

A photograph from the archive of early GSD students working in the historic Robinson Hall
A photograph from the collection showing early GSD students at work in the historic Robinson Hall

Semester Recap: The Unbridled Beauty of Watercolor Renderings

To kick off a series of blog posts recapping the Spring 2014 semester, we figured we’d start with one of the most visually captivating: watercolor renderings from our very own Alexander Architectural Archive.

Earlier in the semester, Judy Birdsong’s Visual Communications studio paid a visit to the Archive to check out some of our working drawings in order to see how they have changed over the years. This is a completely fascinating progression, and one of my personal favorite things to view when I visit the Archive for my own research needs. However, a few weeks later, students were assigned a project requiring watercolor — and the watercolor renderings the Archive has are an absolutely incredible resource!

I was lucky enough to be given a similar exposure to the Archive’s watercolors by Curatorial Assistant Nancy Sparrow, and I’m here to pass on the unbridled beauty. If any of you happen to have been looking to improve your architectural watercolor skills, the Archive is an unparalleled resource!

Throughout final reviews, a similar version of the same comment often comes to the surface: accurately conveying an architectural idea heavily depends on the way you draw or render your final presentation graphically. With so much focus on computer generated renderings in practice today, watercolors are almost slowly being vaulted into the ranks of a lost art. These stunning examples from the Archive showcase immaculate talent that displays a clear understanding of color, shadow, contrast, and fine detail by the artist.

We hope the following high-resolution images inspire you in some way, whether out of pure admiration, or to pursue a new (or revived!) technique in the renderings you produce yourself. Click on the below photographs to view in beautiful detail!

I was floored by this beautiful rendering of the Flawn Academic Center, located just across the mall from Battle Hall. Nancy and I could not stop admiring the glass…

…as well as the rectangular screen detailing that makes the FAC’s facade so distinguishable on campus. Truly, I could stare at every facet of this piece for hours!

This rendering of the Blanton Art Museum by Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects features a more soft and controlled style versus the more lively and articulated piece of the FAC. I love the gradient of color in the trees and the wax-like reflection of the roadway.

This detail view reveals the attention paid to the tiling under the eaves, the careful shading of the windows, and – my personal favorite – the almost exact reflection of the fenestration in the sheen of the roadway. This is such a unique technique that adds to the character of this piece, and I’m feeling a creative spark inside me just typing this!

We also love this rendering of the drama building, also on UT’s campus. This piece features some of the more lively, broad strokes of the FAC rendering. I, personally, love articulating trees and other plants with markers and watercolor, and this artist used flattering, vibrant green hues to offset the tan and sand hues of the featured building. I also purposely left this image uncropped – the paint strokes at the bottom reveal a glimpse into the creative process!

I cannot stress enough how valuable an experience it is to pay a visit to the Archive to see renderings, drawings, photographs, and even tools used by the greats we house in our collections. Not only are these collections inspiring, but they are reminders that there are endless ways to represent an architectural idea. I believe this last point is the most powerful, especially for students embarking on a career in architecture and design. The profession is inherently creative and open to interpretation – and you have the power to convey ideas in your own style!

Many, many thanks to Nancy Sparrow for bringing these pieces to my attention. We hope you take advantage of the Archive’s treasures for all of the semesters ahead!

New Collections, Maps, and Turtles!

Howdy all, and welcome back for another Mayaland Adventure! I hope everybody enjoyed the Independence Day weekend. The Architecture and Planning Library and Alexander Architectural Archive were closed over the weekend to celebrate, so it’s good to be back.

Recently, along with the volunteering on George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Architecture Collection, I worked with Donna Coates on accessioning a new collection. The process requires understanding the difference between relevant information and data for the archive, and that which is not pertinent to keep.

Some of the material is not kept because we can get copies online or within other resources, which includes items such as government documents or photocopies of publications. These items, though at times are rather interesting, cannot be kept due to limited space. With limited space comes a higher diligence for selecting essentials, and leaving items that are easily accessible elsewhere.

During the process of obtain new collections, we must also work to not get rid of aspects which another archive or department might use. Just because something does not apply to our archive does not necessarily mean someone else cannot use it. This is why we work with other facilities on campus or in town that might have use for the extra material. It is this cooperation that creates a friendly environment in the archival community.

Back in the George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Collection, we got together Friday to discuss the progress thus far, and how each member of the team thought the processing should continue. Ian brought up a good point that for the final sorting the collection should be placed into country categories, followed by alphabetical site sorting. This would allow researchers to acquire access to a specific region, instead of sifting through the entire collection. This is important for the archive as well because it prevents the material from being overly handled.

We also discussed how we would house the Andrew’s photos and writings. The decision we must make is whether to kept everything together, or boxed separately. This item is still up in the air at the moment. It seems, at least from my view that it would be useful to have the groups separate, because individuals would be likely to be looking specifically for photos or documentation, not necessarily both. It also feels more organized.

Prelimnary Map of Central Portion of Maya Ruins of Yaxha, El Peten, Guatemala
Prelimnary Map of Central Portion of Maya Ruins of Yaxha, El Peten, Guatemala

The problem arises, however, with items that are contained in the documentation that fit better within the photos portion. Here would be required to make sure to have detailed notation of each item to create a complete inventory. We also must find a place for all the drawings and sketches present within the collection. This includes maps, stelae and masks, and graffiti. These are just a couple of the questions the team faces as we continue work on the collection.

Before heading out, check out this cool photo I found while sorting. It is the ‘casa de las tortugas’ or House of the Turtles! You can see a rough scale of the building based on the individual standing in front. Enjoy las tortugas, and until next time this is Austin from Mayaland, signing off.

Casa de Las Tortugas
Casa de Las Tortugas

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

William A. Storrer collection donated to the University of Texas at Austin

William Allin Storrer at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY. William A. Storrer Collection.

Noted Frank Lloyd Wright scholar, Dr. William Allin Storrer, has donated his manuscript, research and reference archive to the University of Texas at Austin Libraries. The collection consists of photographic prints, negatives, slides, drawings, papers, books and periodicals that led to his groundbreaking publications: The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: a Complete CatalogThe Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: a Guide to Extant Structures; and The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion. Storrer chose the University of Texas at Austin because of its School of Architecture’s “focus on organic and environmentally viable architecture and because of the presence of Wright scholars Anthony Alofsin and Richard Cleary among its faculty.”

The Storrer Collection joins nearly one hundred other archival collections consisting of more than a quarter of a million drawings and thousands of photographs and related materials in the Alexander Architectural Archive and more than 88,000 volumes in the Architecture and Planning Library.

Marin County Hall of Justice
Frank Lloyd Wright. Marin County Hall of Justice, San Rafael, CA (S.417). William A. Storrer Collection.

Storrer produced the first comprehensive catalog, along with a definitive numbering system, of Wright’s nearly 500 built works. The 3rd edition of the Catalog identifies in photo or drawing every extant constructed project. It also incorporates the maps and directions from his earlier Guide (1991). Storrer’s Companion (1993) provides an additional textual component, plans, and photographs, as well as new documentation on nearly 100 properties that have been destroyed. The range of this documentation makes his publications essential tools for all Wright scholars.

“The Storrer Collection represents the most comprehensive documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s built work that has ever been assembled outside Wright’s own archive,” states Alofsin. “It will provide generations of scholars with an incomparable foundation upon which to base future Wright research and study. Having the Storrer collection in the Alexander Architectural Archive confirms the University of Texas at Austin as the primary location for advanced scholarly research on Wright, America’s best known architect and a major cultural figure of the twentieth century.”

interior of residence
Frank Lloyd Wright. Interior of the John Storrer residence, Hollywood, CA (S.215). William A. Storrer Collection.

“Dr. Storrer’s generous contribution marks a significant opportunity for the School of Architecture,” emphasizes Dean Fritz Steiner. “With Storrer’s appointment as Adjunct Professor of Architecture, the University of Texas at Austin now offers graduate students seeking to pursue advanced scholarship on Frank Lloyd Wright unparalleled expertise and a range and depth of archival materials found at no other institution of higher education.”

Once processed and cataloged, the Storrer collection will be available by appointment within the Alexander Architectural Archive.

Texas Committee for the Preservation of Architectural Records established

The Texas Committee for the Preservation of Architectural Records (TxCOPAR), sponsored by the Alexander Architectural Archive at the University of Texas at Austin, has been established to assist in the location of historical records and the preservation of the architectural heritage of Texas. The web site for the Committee can be found at

TxCOPAR will serve as a resource for sharing expertise on the management and preservation of architectural records, as well as information about the location of those records. To date, over 30 repositories have been identified in Texas. At this early stage, the web site is primarily dedicated to gathering membership information through its online form. The Texas Committee urges those who own or care for architectural documents or those who are interested in locating and preserving architectural records in Texas, to join TxCOPAR.

The Committee follows the model of other regional COPARs that are part of the national COPAR (Cooperative Preservation of Architectural Records) effort. This national effort was established in 1973 and is maintained by the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress as a center for information on architectural records in the United States. COPAR directs researchers to repositories in all states.

TxCOPAR is suitably based at the Alexander Architectural Archive, the largest repository of architectural records in Texas, with more than 250,000 drawings and over 860 linear feet of papers, photographic material, models, and ephemera, representing thousands of projects in Texas and beyond. The Alexander Architectural Archive is located within the Architecture and Planning Library, a unit of the General Libraries. Many important resources are located nearby, including the Texas State Archives, the Texas Historical Commission, the U.T. School of Architecture, and the U.T. Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) with its strong Archives and Preservation and Conservation Studies programs. TxCOPAR, however, is a statewide effort dependent on its members. It is a statewide service committed to the preservation of architectural records in Texas and the sharing of information about the location of these records.

Extensive Maya architectural research archive donated to the General Libraries

The largest, most exhaustive and fully documented visual record of architecture of the Lowland Maya area in the world has been donated to the General Libraries Alexander Architectural Archive at the University of Texas at Austin. The George F. and Geraldine D. Andrews Papers, donated by Mrs. Geraldine D. Andrews, represent the life work of Prof. George F. Andrews (1918-2000) of the University of Oregon, and his wife, Gerrie.

“The Andrews Papers– along with the recently acquired library of Prof. Linda Schele donated by her husband David – makes UT Austin one of the major locations in the world for the study of Maya architecture and culture,” said Harold Billings, director of General Libraries.

In the late 1950s, Prof. Andrews and his wife visited the Yucatan for the first time. For the next 40 years they were to devote their professional lives to the study and documentation of Maya architecture. This extended investigation produced the Andrews Papers, a modest name for a remarkable collection that includes an architectural data bank covering 850 buildings at 240 archaeological sites in the lowland Maya area.

The collection consists of three main components: (1) approximately 3,500 pages of descriptive data covering both exterior and interior architectural, decorative, and construction features; (2) more than 2,500 architectural drawings (sketches, maps, plans, sections, elevations, details, and restored views); and (3) several thousand photographs showing the buildings in their present form, which ranges from partly destroyed to substantially excavated and partly restored.

As Prof. Andrews noted shortly before his death,

“. . . perhaps the most important aspect [of what he referred to as the Architectural Data Bank] . . . is that the data from every building or site considered has been put into the same standardized form, making comparisons of individual buildings, building complexes, specific sites or entire regions relatively simple. For example, features such as base moldings, medial moldings, and cornice moldings can be compared at both inter-site and intra-site scales since the data for all sites is recorded in the same format and drawings have been made at the same scale. . . . anyone interested in Maya architecture from any point of view would find the data bank of considerable value as a basic research resource for comparative architectural studies, investigations of architectural details and construction techniques, or in making areawide studies of stylistic attributes, building forms, or site-level patterns of settlement.”

Prof. Andrews directed his first field project at the site of Comalcalco, Tabasco, Mexico, with the support of the Ford Foundation. He and his wife also served as members of the Sayil, Xculoc, and Xkipch archeological projects.

Prof. Andrews retired from full-time teaching in 1980 and devoted the next 20 years to full-time research and study of the Maya. He was the author of numerous monographs including Maya Cities: Placemaking and Urbanization (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975) and a three-volume collection of his important essays and studies entitled Pyramids and Palaces, Monsters and Masks (Lancaster, CA: Labyrinthos, 1993-1999).

The Andrews Papers are currently being inventoried in the Alexander Architectural Archive. For more information please contact Beth Dodd, Curator, Alexander Architectural Archive, or Nancy Sparrow, Curatorial Assistant, at (512) 495-4621. For general information on the Alexander Architectural Archive consult: