Tag Archives: George and Geraldine Andrews Papers

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

Mayaland Adventures

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.

George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews collection, photos and sketches
George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Collection, photos and sketches

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.

Chichen Itza Palace photo with building sketch on mylar overly
Chichen Itza Palace photo and sketch

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.

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

Curating “Maya Architecture: Selections from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews Collection”

Many people shy away from group projects. After all, teamwork frequently suffers when clashing personalities and working methods meet. But when it is successful, collaboration can yield a better outcome than working alone and serve as a learning experience. While much of the work that goes into planning an exhibition is not visible in the final product, the process itself is often very exciting, particularly when dealing with an archive. I wanted to take a moment to share my experience co-curating Maya Architecture.

Photograph from “Maya Architecture: Selections from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews Collection"
Photograph from “Maya Architecture: Selections from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews Collection"

It was only a few months ago that I discovered the George F. and Geraldine Andrews collection tucked away in the Alexander Architectural Archive. A classmate of mine was looking for a rare photograph of a Maya structure taken before it collapsed. [He found it.] I was trying to get a sense of the Andrews’ documentation of Puuc architecture for my own research. At the time of our visit Beth Dodd and Donna Coates had already started organizing an exhibition for the Architecture and Planning Library reading room to call attention to this unprocessed collection. Aware of the importance of this resource I offered to help, and they gladly accepted.

A collection of didactic materials from an earlier exhibition on George Andrews’ work on Maya architecture acted as the framework for the show. The panels emphasized George Andrews’ photographs and final drawings, but we also wanted to reflect the depth and variety of the Andrews archive.

Donna and Meghan working on "Maya Architecture"
Donna and Meghan working on "Maya Architecture"

The three of us met on several occasions to sort through prints, photographs and drawings for the wall cases, moving and adding some, vetoing others. The large glass cases in the library also allowed us to curate objects. One of the perks of assisting on this exhibition was that I had the opportunity to search through the collection with the explicit order to pull some of the most interesting, and obscure, materials housed in the stacks.

Though it was difficult to choose from the thousands of objects, books, drawings (some in progress), negatives and photographs available, we tried to provide a representative example. The exhibition even includes photographs of the collection while it was still in George and Geraldine’s home in Oregon!

Objects from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews collection on display.
Objects from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews collection on display.

The text for the exhibit is a mix of old and new writing. Some of the text came directly from the earlier exhibition, other text was pulled from George Andrews’ publications and artist statement. A number of panels were written specifically for this display.

The organic working process provided plenty of opportunities to talk through ideas and make changes when necessary. The exhibition was truly a team effort. Donna, Beth and I worked closely together, but also had the help of staff members from the Architecture and Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archive. Many people assisted in compiling information, hanging and arranging work, editing, printing labels and posters, and building on the concept of the show.

It was a great opportunity for me to get to know the collection and work closely with the staff in the Alexander Architectural Archive…and a chance to promote a significant Maya resource at UT!

Donna Coates, Beth Dodd and Meghan Rubenstein

By Meghan Rubenstein, art history Ph.D. student

iSchool students digitally archive George and Geraldine Andrews materials

Students in the Digital Archeology Lab

iSchool students digitally archive George and Geraldine Andrews materials

In the Spring 2010 semester, School of Information students completed a project to digitally archive materials in the George F. and Geraldine D. Andrews collection. The project team includes Tim Arnold, Matthew McKinley, Lisa Rivoir, and Kathryn Pierce, who were School of Information students in Dr. Patricia Galloway’s Problems in the Permanent Retention of Electronic Records course.

The team accessed files on 3.5 inch and 5.25 inch floppy disks used by George and Geraldine Andrews in the course of their extensive documentation of Maya architectural sites. Andrews’ field work documenting Maya architecture began in the 1950s. He, along with his wife, Gerrie, conducted architectural surveys at field sites from 1958 through 1997. The two compiled a rich collection of records, including measurements, architectural drawings, sketches, photographs, and descriptive text, documenting sites in the Puuc, Chenes-Puuc, Chenes, and Río Bec regions of the central Yucatán Peninsula. The pair documented approximately 800 buildings at 224 archaeological sites.

The iSchool students used resources in the newly established Digital Archeology Lab in the School of Information to access the older media. The goals of the project were to inventory the floppy disks, take disk images, access the files,and ingest these materials into Pacer, the DSpace digital repository hosted by the School of Information.

The project is the Alexander Architectural Archive’s first foray into digital archeology. One remaining goal of this project is to add the recovered files to the set of digital materials from the George and Geraldine Andrews collection that are being deposited into the University of Texas Digital Repository.

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: http://drupal.lib.utexas.edu/apl/aaa