Wednesday, March 7th, the University of Texas School of Architecture’s Spring Lecture Series will feature Chris Meister. Chris recently published his book James Riely Gordon: his courthouses and other public architecture. Chris’ research took him near and far, but he spent a significant amount of time investigating Gordon’s core collection held at the Alexander Architectural Archive. In conjunction with the lecture, which will be held in Goldsmith Lecture Hall 3.120 at 5pm, the Archive will open its doors from 10am to 4pm that day to share some Gordon gems. The open house will also extend after Chris’ lecture, from 6 to 7pm.
The Gordon collection is an amazing resource and Chris has done a fine job scratching the surface for scholarship. Gordon was also an early proponent of copyright, passive energy design, professional associations, and the development of building codes in NYC.
Come enjoy original drawings and photographs documenting the development of the University of Texas Main Building and Tower from design sketches to construction photographs! The Alexander Architectural Archive (ground floor of Battle Hall) will be open from 12:00 pm to 4:40 pm.
11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Birthday Cake
Tower birthday cake and anniversary stickers will be available on the West Mall.
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. A Special Architectural Drawings Exhibit
The Alexander Architectural Archive (ground floor of Battle Hall) will sponsor an open house with a display of original Main Building and Tower drawings by architect Paul Cret.
5:30 p.m. A Main Building Historical Tour
Explore the history, architecture and symbolism of the Main Building and Tower.
Tour lasts about one hour. Meet in front of the Main Building.
Tour does not include the Tower observation deck. Contact Jim Nicar for more information.
The University of Texas Libraries and the School of Architecture will hold a memorial gathering to celebrate the life of Blake Alexander on Saturday, April 28, 2012 from 3-5pm in the Battle Hall Reading Room of the Architecture & Planning Library Forthcoming details will be shared in eNews and on the Alexander Architectural Archive web site.
The Alexander family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Alexander Architectural Archive or the Architecture & Planning Library. Please contact Beth Dodd at email@example.com or donate online.
For further inquiry please contact Nancy Sparrow at 512-495-4621.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our namesake, Drury Blakeley Alexander. Blake was a champion for the education, documentation, and preservation of Texas’ architectural heritage. He was also a pioneer in recognizing the importance of archiving architectural records. The Alexander Architectural Archive grew out of his personal collection and stewardship. The resources he collected continue to play an important role in the restoration of many of Texas’ most important buildings and continues to support the education and scholarship of American architectural history.
To learn more about Blake’s life and legacy, please see:
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.
Many remember Hal Box as an architect, dean, and visionary for architectural education, but Hal was also a great champion of libraries. He had a keen understanding that strong architecture programs are built on solid foundations. For Hal, this foundation included an architecture library, close at hand, where students and faculty could browse and check out books.
In January 2010, we were busily preparing for the School of Architecture centennial. As the school’s library, we were in effect preparing for our own grand anniversary, so I asked Hal if he wouldn’t mind providing an oral history. He graciously agreed and this is how I learned about Hal’s love and respect for libraries.
Hal’s experience with libraries started in early childhood when he attended East Texas State Teacher’s College training school for his elementary education. He lived two blocks from campus and on his walk home would stop at the college library. Hal described this building as similar to the University of Texas’ first library, Battle Hall, with a grand stairway leading to the second floor reading room. Hal spent many hours doing his homework in this space, and received great encouragement from its librarian.
In the late 1950s, as a young professional working with James Pratt, Hal became interested in developing a firm library, explaining “There were no architecture schools in Dallas and the public library didn’t have much on architecture.” Hal gained an early understanding of both the value and cost of an architecture library, as the firm spent a lot of money on journals. They built this library in their conference room and he even had his son catalog it! “That was really the first library I built.”
In 1971 Hal started the architecture school at UT Arlington in a small house off campus. It was about a quarter mile walk from the main library to the studio and the architecture books were shelved throughout three floors, so it was very difficult for them to use. A gift from the father of faculty member Peter Woods- a collection of grand Beaux Arts folios- inspired Hal to transform a small classroom into a library for his school. He obtained a $1,000 grant from the Texas Society of Architects and started to build the collection. His unorthodox collection plan also consisted of each faculty member checking out the maximum number of books from the main University Library and reshelving them all in his new library. The Head Librarian found out about it and called Hal. Hal recalled his response:
“Why don’t you come over and we’ll talk about it. He [the librarian] was just as angry as could be. I told him this is what we’re going to do. Architecture was not like history or English where you check out a book and in two weeks you read it. You want to browse through a whole lot of books, it’s mainly visual, and you had to be close to them because you want to use them while you are in studio. You’re not going to check them out for a week and take them home. You’re going to go over to the library and look up Aalto or Corbu and see how they did something and then proceed from there. Well then, he understood and we continued there.”
Hal secured a new building for the program and made sure that its design included both a library and slide collection. It was his good fortune that the director of the Fort Worth Museum of Art was married to a librarian, so he quickly hired her to oversee the library. “I think it was about that time we convinced the general library to establish a branch library.” (Hal then decided to “hire a young PhD from Berkeley” to help develop the library and slide collection. These collections were so important that despite not having money to bring him in for an interview, Hal hired Jay Henry sight unseen to conduct this work.)
In 1976, during his interview for Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas, Hal and a friend visited the Battle Hall library, which then housed a variety of subjects including architecture and planning. Earlier in 1973, architecture’s collections were transferred to Battle Hall. Hal and his friend compared their experiences as students using the architecture library. Hal’s library had a dedicated librarian and was just doors away from his studio, while his frustrated friend couldn’t find (browse) any architecture books because they were mixed in with other non-architecture subjects. Hal soon learned that there was great discussion of consolidating branch libraries into the Perry Casteñeda Library when it would open in 1977, further dispersing the services and collections from its School.
In preparation of his meeting with UT President Lorene Rogers, Hal made a list of what the School needed, specifying the necessity its own branch library. Hal believe that “the library is more than just a bunch of books, it’s a place with services.” As part of his signing agreement, Battle Hall and Sutton became part of the School of Architecture’s campus when he became Dean. Hal continued to make it a priority to keep the library close by. In 1980, Battle Hall became home to the Architecture & Planning Library branch and the architectural drawings collection, now known as the Alexander Architectural Archive.
During this time, Hal initiated the renovation of the buildings on his architecture campus. Hal decided not to continue with the Battle Hall renovation because among other things, it would have displaced too much valuable stacks space. Even in my last meeting with Hal, he still struggled with the renovation of the University’s first library building.
“Libraries are sources of power… that knowledge they hold is power.” As Dean, Hal understood the constraints of a library budget and that the library did not have its own alumni from which to draw support. Also in his experience, the school could not recruit against Harvard because it didn’t have the research collections to support scholarship.
“One of my objectives, after I realized that this needed to be more than a professional school… [was that] it needed to involve the whole discipline of architecture- so we’re not just training professionals, we’re developing scholars… we’re developing people who will be active within the community. So it really started when we signed our first PhD… [and began] building a collection that would be vital to scholars. It was a very distinct objective to make this happen in the school, and that, just like a scientist… he’s got to have a laboratory. [If we could achieve this] we would be a major source for scholarship, and I think that has happened.”
As a member of the library council, Hal motioned for and pushed through a library fee for each student. He knew that it wasn’t much, but it helped a bit. Hal was also very hands-on with the library and archive. He chuckled when he told me about how he and Molly Malone single handedly moved the drawings from Blake Alexander’s closet in Goldsmith to Battle Hall, in preparation for the Goldsmith renovation. Through his many contacts, Hal was also instrumental in helping to obtain archival collections such as that of Howard Meyer, or Harwell Hamilton Harris, or finding funding for the purchase of the James Riely Gordon collection among others. As Dean, he even funded the early curators and until his death he was serving on the University of Texas Libraries Advisory Council.
More recently, Hal was enthusiastic about new technologies for teaching and research. He enjoyed learning about the great online resources the library offers, while at the same time found that there is still relatively very little published digitally in architecture. As Hal was preparing to close down his office at the School of Architecture, he offered the papers and books he had amassed over the years to the Architecture & Planning Library. We are grateful that we had the chance to thank him and to let him know how valuable many of these books will be to our collections.
From childhood, Hal was inspired by the architecture of libraries and their librarians, as a professional, he valued a firm library, and as a scholar he built his own personal library. For the University of Texas, he started and developed a branch library from the ground up in Arlington and in Austin secured a strong branch research library and archive close to his School. Hal understood and valued libraries from all perspectives. One of his fondest memories was in the library as a University of Texas architecture student in 1946. “Most students concentrated near the recent periodicals. They went there right away when they got a design problem. It was a good place. It was a happy place.”
“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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 celebration100: 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.