BAC Library History

Submitted by Robert Adams, Directory of the BAC Library and K.H. Kobialka, CA, BAC Archivist

The Boston Architectural College (BAC) was established as The Boston Architectural Club in 1889 by a group of practicing architects, some of whom were members of the Boston Society of Architects (BSA). According to the original charter, the Club was created “for the purpose of associating those interested in the profession of architecture with a view to mutual encouragement and help in studies.”[i] The Club was also envisioned to include not just for architects but also sculptors, painters, and practitioners of the “allied arts.”[ii]

From its roots, the BAC was intended to be a more inclusive group and over time that essential BAC principle has endured and developed as a vital part of the institutional mission. In the early days of the Club, members tended to be practicing architects in Boston firms who partly intended the Club as a venue for the continuing education of younger members of the profession after work hours.[iii] This level of accessibility may have attracted many first- and second-generation immigrants, who often lacked the resources to attend traditional colleges or to travel as part of their education.

The earliest records of a library at the BAC are the bookplates in the oldest books in the collection, which date to 1890. By 1894 regular Club meeting minutes record the existence of a library committee at the BAC.[iv]

Bookplate from 1890. Courtesy of Memorial Library, Boston Architectural College.

In 1895, a bequest of $5,000.00 was made to the BAC by Arthur Rotch, one of the founders of the prestigious Rotch Travelling Scholarship, “for the purchase of books and collections”.[v]  Initially, the library collection was primarily used by Club members. By the 1890s, the Library Committee had begun to consider the use of the Library to support the work of a student atelier. By the end of the 1890s, the library held over 200 volumes. At the start of the 20th Century, the Club Secretary’s report requests that “some adequate provision be made for the stacking and custody of the books, so that they may not only be accessible, but preserved under conditions more conducive to permanent use.”[vi]

Most books in the collection were European at this time, as American architectural publishing was still in its infancy. Some Club members with the means to travel overseas purchased books for the BAC.

During the first twenty years of the BAC’s operation, the Club moved between rented spaces, purchasing a permanent home at 16 Somerset Street in 1910. Library space in these temporary quarters tended to be limited and informal.

No. 6 Hamilton place was an early rented room by the Club and shows bookshelves in the lower right. Courtesy of the BAC Archives.

During the First World War, over 100 Club members served in the military.  Sadly, three students died during the war and the surviving Club members chose to dedicate a memorial in their name. The result was the creation of Memorial Library. The paneled walls, shelves, memorial plaque, and fireplace for the new library were constructed under the supervision of Bellows & Aldrich, a local architectural firm that had a long association with the BAC.  The dedication of Memorial Library took place in 1922.[vii]

At that time, the bulk of the books found in the library had come from the architectural office of Robert Swain Peabody, as a bequest from his widow. Over time, other noted architects such as Charles Brigham, Clifford Albright, and William Gibbons Preston, donated volumes.

Memorial Library pictured in the 1930s. The center plaque memorializes George Gordon Kellar, George Henry MacElligott, and Wilfred Edward O’Connor who died in World War One. Courtesy of the BAC Archives.

In 1944 the BAC changed its name from the Boston Architectural Club to the Boston Architectural Center. The name change reflected the emerging reality of the BAC as an institution focused more on education than professional membership. The curricular focus, which up to then had been mainly Beaux-Arts (European and Classical) based began to change with the times to become more open to Modernism. The BAC Dean, Arcangelo Cascieri, was an early adopter of Modernist ideas and facilitated the theoretical shift in BAC pedagogy.[viii]

Memorial Library during the 1940s. Courtesy of the BAC Archives.

Big changes came to the BAC in the 1960s. What would later turn out to be the last book purchased for Memorial library: Frank Lloyd Wright: drawings for a living architecture capped the collection at around 2,000 books. By 1962, the Center had lost its permanent home at 16 Somerset Street to the State of Massachusetts by eminent domain, in order to make way for the new Government Center.

They found a new location at 320 Newbury Street in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. Ultimately, it was decided to hold a global design competition for a replacement structure. One of the requirements for the winning design was to include the re-assembly of Memorial Library at the new building. A jury of prominent Boston architectural educators was assembled in order to evaluate the submissions.[ix]

Many of the competition proposals were in the Brutalist style of concrete architecture. The winning design was submitted by Ashley, Myer and Associates. The building opened in 1966 with the reassembled Memorial Library on the top floor.

Boston Architectural Center building, 320 Newbury Street at the time of its completion in 1966. Ashley, Meyer and Associates design. Photograph by George Zimberg. Courtesy of the BAC Archives.

At this time, there was somewhat of an ideological split between Memorial Library and what would come to be considered the “main” library of the Center. Memorial Library became non-circulating. Today it is a wonderful special collection that captures architectural education of a certain era and has not been changed in any way that would diminish its unique character.

During the fundraising for the new BAC building, Edward Durell Stone, a BAC alum, and his friend and colleague Alfred Shaw, made a very substantial donation that lead to the lending library being named in their honor. In 1966 this main library space was built adjacent to Memorial Library. At that time architect and former BAC instructor Howard T. Clinch donated a fund in memory of Winthrop D. Parker for the purchase of books in the humanities.[x] Essentially, the Parker memorial fund purchases formed the basis of the BAC’s current lending collection.

In 1974, Susan Lewis was hired as the Assistant Librarian; a year later she became the Library Director, a title she would hold until her retirement in 2018. During Susan’s tenure, she saw the expansion of not only the square footage of the library, but its collection as well.

Susan Lewis 1980. Courtesy of the BAC Archives.
320 Newbury Street sixth floor with the new modern library on the far left and the original open atrium which was eventually covered and incorporated into the library in 1979. Photograph by Louis Reens. Courtesy of the BAC Archives.

In 1979, the sixth-floor atrium was covered over and the space was acquired by the library, increasing the space by 1,900 square feet. At the same time the Service for Energy Conservation (SECA) was formed at the BAC, in part via a grant from the National Science Foundation. When the grant was finished, a large collection of solar energy books was incorporated into the main library.

Library floor plan during the 1980s.

The 1990s saw the school incorporate Interior Design (now called Interior Architecture) and Landscape Architecture programs into the curriculum. For accreditation purposes the library acquired books and materials to support these programs. 1990 saw the library go through an additional renovation that allowed it to expand to the entire sixth floor. This further increased the square footage to a combined 5,000 square feet.  In 1995 the main library acquired the book collection of the recently closed The Architects Collaborative (TAC).

Susan Lewis & Sarah Dickinson during the 1990 renovations. By 1991 the Library encompassed the entire 6th floor. Courtesy of the BAC Archives.

The Center saw immense growth in the number of students in the aughts. The library also saw similar growths in its collection. By 2005, the print collection had outgrown its physical space and this required the library to send materials to offsite storage. At that point the collection was around thirty thousand titles with five thousand sent to storage. Each year, the library acquires thirteen to fifteen hundred volumes, which requires the library to send the same amount to off-site storage.  Additionally, in 2005 the BAC hired its first Archivist.  The following year the school once again changed its name from the Boston Architectural Center to the Boston Architectural College to better reflect the fact that we are a degree granting education facility, yet still the BAC.

The research and reading rooms of the BAC Library 2010. Courtesy of Robert Adams.
As the decade came to a close, additional large print collections were incorporated from BAC alum John Howard (2004), a large landscape collection from the Bruck family (2005) and the library from the Landscape Institute, formerly of Harvard (2009.) This brought the library to about fifty thousand titles.

The research and reading rooms of the BAC Library 2010. Courtesy of Robert Adams.

The start of the last decade brought both honors and some challenges to the library.  In 2011 the library was noted during our reaccreditation visit from the National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB); we were met with distinction, and received a commends from the Chair. He stated that we were one of the top architecture libraries in the country. This was followed up again with our most recent accreditation visit in 2018 with the review team reiterating his statements.

In 2014, the 2008 recession caught up with the College. The school was forced to consolidate its buildings and this meant that the library had to give up some space for a new classroom. Subsequently, another ten thousand volumes were sent to offsite storage. At that point the library had twenty-three thousand volumes at storage while twenty-five thousand volumes remained on site.

10 thousand volumes were sent to storage to accommodate the construction of a classroom – shaded in white.

New online programs in Sustainable Design, Historic Preservation, Design for Human Health and Real Estate over the last decade saw the library expanding its collection to acquire materials in those respected fields. This includes eBooks, scanning services, and other digital content.

Moving forward, the BAC Library continues to evolve and adapt to the constantly evolving field of design education.  This includes maintaining a library staff presence on both the curriculum and education councils as we revise curriculum and help to create new programs, acquiring more digital content, digitizing our print collections, and mailing library resources to both our domestic and international students enrolled in our distance programs.  Ever flexible, the BAC Library is prepared to continue growing in new directions for the next 130 years.


[i] Boston Architectural Club Charter, December 11, 1889. BAC Archives, RG 035.

[ii] “Architectural Club: It’s Further Organization – Club House Arrangements.” [Boston] Herald, Dec. 1889.

[iii] Taverner. “Here in Boston.” Boston Post, 24 Sept. 1889.

[iv] Boston Architectural Club. Meeting Minutes, 1894-1905. BAC Archives, RG 035.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] “Boston Architectural Club Dedicates Memorial Tablet.” Boston Daily Globe, 26 May 1922, p. 15.

[viii] Arcangelo Cascieri. Oral History recording. BAC Archives.

[ix] Boston Architectural Center. Competition Brief, 1964. BAC Archives, PC 062

[x] Parker Memorial Fund papers, 1966, RG 026: The Dean, Box 34.

How diverse is your collection?

Submitted by Barbara Opar, Librarian for Architecture, Syracuse University Libraries

This is the latest piece in what has become an ongoing dialogue about existing architecture collections, censorship and diversity.

This past April, my initial 2019 ARLIS Collection Development SIG column addressed the Shitty Architecture Men list of 2018 and the reactions of some library patrons and staff to certain materials in our small branch.  See My second column, written earlier this month: includes the results of a brief survey distributed late spring to both the ARLIS and AASL listservs as well as students and faculty here at Syracuse.  Some suggestions to “downplay” those architects include refraining from displaying their books, removing such titles to storage and/ or not purchasing new works on those architects. One recommendation from the survey: “I’d say simply stop buying new materials on this person.”

Should we/Could we?  What are the consequences?  How would this affect our image as a library that prides itself on keeping up with new acquisitions? Would we be limiting access to current projects by some major architects? Many current publications focus on the newest works and those are often the projects selected by faculty for study. One response could be that periodicals address the newest works. At the same time, in most institutions current periodicals do not circulate. So we could be restricting easy access to research by failing to buy new titles.

Another respondent stressed “Invest in alternative voices. Seek out more resources on female architects and people of color, etc.–i.e. give more choices to patrons.”  Diversifying our collections is an excellent strategy. It coincides with one of ALA’s 11 core values. However, this task also requires additional work on the part of the selector. The librarian must research the alternative voices and then determine if there are indeed published resources available to add to holdings. Comparing the holdings of other institutions- such as historically black institutions-is one tactic. Libraries with robust budgets may have also collected more broadly.  Institutions with strong gender studies departments may have more diverse library holdings. Organizations within schools may be able to assist with the research and identify names, topics and/or terms.

That introduces another issue. Students need to know these names.  As a librarian, you can certainly create new book displays around these resources. What about after that? Faculty have to be willing to take the time to create assignments that include a more diverse list of architects. Often we see the same names and same projects appear year after year in coursework. How can you help students expand their understanding of the field? The Library of Congress categorizes general histories of women in architecture as NA 1997. That does not address the issue of individual women architects. What about black architects? The call number NA 2543 covers gender and race! What if students do not know that Merrill Elam is a woman or that Paul Williams was a highly regarded black architect in the 1930s. The use of reference works has somewhat gone out of fashion but should be encouraged (including over Google). Bibliographies and pathfinders too are no longer regularly consulted or being compiled with any frequency. However, they remain important ways to extract such information.

Historical biases, lack of publishing possibilities, and even the academy have led to uneven collections. Diversifying our collections is well worth the effort. “The fix” though will take time and effort.  Collection analysis will not be straightforward.  Tools like the Diverse Bookfinder focus on children and picture books. Reference tools, bibliographies and the other methods suggested earlier in this column will be more helpful. Are there specific publishers to add to approval plans?  In terms of cataloging, though, metadata in itself is limiting. Access and exposure to unique resources requires catalogs to be more explicit and nuanced. Does that labeling create other issues?

So we return to the theme of the Starchitect who is often a white man and could have been on that 2018 list. What should we do? I would side with those who stress we have no right to censor our collections. Our collections need to align with the resources needed by faculty and students for teaching and research. These two points are key. Yet in order to provide new and diverse materials we may have to choose a new and different title over adding more material on an architect on whom we have sufficient material. We must weigh the decision and be sure that we are not compromising collections we do hold. At the same time, we must not be passive selectors. We have a responsibility to seek out diverse resources. Institutional funds might be available to address legacies of bias. Being mindful will eventually improve the scope of our holdings. We must become more proactive in how we address collections holdings and gaps.  Finally, we must help each other to identify new and different resources and improve diversity  across the discipline and our institutions.

Comments and ideas welcome. Email me at 

arch_TECHA_ture: An Interview with Cathryn Copper, Head of the Art & Architecture Library, Virginia Tech

Submitted by Cathryn Copper, Head of the Art & Architecture Library, Virginia Tech. Cross-post with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture blog.

arch_TECHA_ture (“techa” a play on technology and bilbiotheca, Latin for library) is a curation project created by Cathryn Copper that gathers information at the intersection of art, architecture, and design-related fields, technology and education. We sat down with her to hear more.

Hi Cathryn. How did you first get involved in technology and the creative disciplines?

It was partially serendipitous. I did my graduate work at the University of Toronto’s iSchool. There I focused on information systems and interned with a few architecture firms and think tanks. Fast forward a few years, I attended a conference session solely because the presenters were librarians at the University of Toronto. The session was on the use of iPad apps which gave me the idea to research mobile apps for architecture. That idea really took off and opened a lot of doors for me. I noticed a lot of art and architecture librarians were interested in technology but not a lot was being done on the topic.

You describe this as a “curation project” where do you see it going?

I use the term curation project because arch_TECHA_ture offers a quick look at topics at the intersection of design, information, and technology. I always provide links to more information, so readers can make informed decisions on a topic. As of current, I’m gauging interest. If it turns out it’s worth my energy, then I’d like to see it evolve into a more critical platform where we can have healthy discussions on these topics. I’d love to get more voices involved. Then it could truly be a platform to connect with people from across disciplines and launch projects together—still a curation project, but on a larger scale.

Can you tell us more about the educator-as-futurist model you have adopted, and what makes it distinctive?

I use the term “educator-as-futurist” to mean forward thinking. But, there are no expectations and it’s not meant to be extremist. It’s really about being okay with experimentation and failure or the willingness to try something new. What makes arch_TECHA_ture distinctive is that there is no other place on the Internet, that I know of, addressing the intersection of design, technology, and education from the perspective of a librarian, someone that sits on the edge of all three.

As an art and architecture aficionado and tech lover, what are some of the technology trends you see impacting libraries and the design disciplines?

Without hesitation, augmented reality and virtual reality. There is so much potential for those technologies in libraries and the design disciplines alike. For libraries in particular, artificial intelligence. Information can be delivered in much better and more personalized ways and future generations are going to expect it.

What new projects are you working on that are destined to be included in arch_TECHA_ture?

There definitely will be no shortage of content. First, the Art & Architecture Library is experimenting with hybrid collections. We will be testing the use of our physical collections as an access point to our electronic collections through the use of interactive touch screens. Building on the transition for physical to digital, we are exploring 3D scanning technologies, which should be especially interesting to arch_TECHA_ture readers. More long-term projects include applying for a grant to develop augmented reality for libraries, and the development of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus.

What has surprised you most in your research into tech and libraries?

The slowness. There are a million amazing ideas. Only a few come to fruition because of limited time and money. It’s frustrating because I see the potential for libraries to interact with users in much better ways. I’ve been thinking about artificial intelligence in libraries for over a decade, and just this year I attended my first conference presentation on the topic, which was at a macro-level. So, it takes time.

What do you see as some of the big changes in academic libraries over the next five years?

In libraries generally, a shift to collaborative spaces is already happening. Academic libraries have the potential to function a lot like a WeWork, which are shared workspaces for startups. Also, I see more attention on dispersed libraries and library networks. Our footprint can spread much further if we don’t think of a library as one central space. Drone delivery would be cool too, but that’s probably closer to 10 years away. Art and architecture libraries face unique opportunities, in that our users generally want more traditional library spaces, and that’s okay. It adds diversity to the library landscape.

Behind the Scenes of Honolulu’s Oldest Buildings

Submitted by Malia Van Heukelem (Art Archivist Librarian of the Jean Charlot Collection at the University of Hawaii at Manoa)

Each summer the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Graduate Certificate in Historic Preservation Program offers a field school or field seminar. This year it was a two week seminar titled Buildings of the Hawaiian Kingdom led by Dr. Ralph Kam. As a frequent contributor to the Hawaiian Journal of History, and an editor and author of monographs on Hawaiian history during the kingdom era, this was a rare opportunity for in-depth study of the buildings and their stories with a noted local scholar.

Ralph Kam and students studying the buildings in the Merchant Street Historic District

The tour took our small group of just seven students to over twenty historic sites, dating from the first wood frame house built by New England missionaries in 1821 to ‘Iolani Palace, covering most of the remaining structures on Oahu built before 1893. Behind the scenes tours were arranged for many of the buildings with local experts, and a couple of abandoned buildings required written permission to access. We also had private instruction on accessing archival materials relating to the buildings in the Hawaii State Archives, Bureau of Conveyances (land ownership records), and the Land Survey Division where they have tons of old Hawaii maps.

Mission Houses Museum: Frame House, Printing House and Chamberlain’s House
‘Iolani Palace: Hawaii’s last royal residence, operated as a historic house museum

Buildings included several listed on the National Register and a few in a historic district on Merchant Street where many of the exteriors are intact. The range of buildings was impressive: historic house museums which are the former residences of Hawaii’s royal families, to a continuously operated saloon, royal mausoleums, a natural history museum, three of Hawaii’s earliest churches, government buildings, and several successful examples of re-use.

St. Andrew’s Cathedral: Begun in 1867, first completed in 1886, with three successive additions through 1958

Dr. Kam prepared a guidebook covering each of the historic buildings discussed in the course. Additional readings included National Register nominations for the Merchant Street Historic District and for a private merchant building in Honolulu’s Chinatown which was recently renovated for use as an apartment.

Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum: Hawaii’s oldest museum with core collections from the Hawaiian monarchs

Contact the University of Hawaii’s Historic Preservation Program at the Department of American Studies for information on a future field seminar (AMST 674) or field school (AMST 696).

Association of Architecture School Librarians 41st Annual Conference Report

Submitted by Megan Piemonte (Library Assistant, Boston Architectural College), 2019 Student Travel Award Recipient


I would first like to express my gratitude to the Association of Architecture School Librarians for granting me the opportunity to attend their 41st Annual Conference. This was not only my first time visiting Pittsburgh, but it was also my first time attending a professional conference, and it was truly an edifying experience. I am deeply appreciative to those I had the opportunity to meet at the conference, all of whom were incredibly engaging, accommodating, and congenial.

I found the content overall to be both relevant and diversified. Each presentation offered a new perspective while coinciding neatly with this year’s theme: Articulating the Architecture Information Professional’s Core in a Post-Digital Era. I am eager to apply the invaluable knowledge I’ve gained from this experience to my current role at the Boston Architectural College, and I look forward to attending next year’s conference in San Diego.

Pittsburgh’s Built Environment

Following President Chris Sala’s opening remarks and the vendor showcase, Martin Aurand of Carnegie Mellon University moderated a discussion panel on Pittsburgh’s culture and architectural identity. Panelists Christine Mondor of evolve: Environment::Architecture, Rob Pfaffman of Pfaffman + Associates, and art and architecture journalist Charles L. Rosenblum discussed the influence of Pittsburgh’s topography and natural resources on urban design. Major riverways not only abut the numerous mill buildings, but run concurrently with major roadways. As a major hub of industry during the 19th century, remnants of pollution on building exteriors live on as an element of Pittsburgh’s artistic identity. This challenges whether urban revival can be achieved without compromising Pittsburgh’s unique and layered history. This conversation not only provided valuable insight for those of us who were first-time visitors to the city, but it was directly analogous to the many discussions that followed.

Architecture Information in a Post-Digital Era

As information professionals, our careers are intrinsically linked with technology; an aspect which furnishes both exciting opportunities as well as great obstacles. Our first joint session, Architectural Information in a Post-Digital Era, discussed some of these challenges. Panelists Matthew Allen of University of Toronto, Katie Pierce Meyer of University of Texas at Austin, and Ann Whiteside of Harvard University Graduate School of Design, addressed the value of teaching data management practices in the classroom. Many students are unaware of the implications of collecting data and the value of archiving their design processes for future generations. I found the discussion on Software Presentation Network (SPN) particularly fascinating, especially as conversations about the pitfalls of the digital dark age escalate within the information science community.

Maya Gervits of New Jersey Institute of Technology and Gilda Santana of University of Miami extended this conversation in their session on documenting non-traditional collections, specifically oral histories. Their discussion further illustrated the importance of archiving for the future. Personal narratives of faculty members can offer valuable contributions to an institution’s collective memory and provide new perspectives into personal and professional relationships within the community.

Even the vendor showcase demonstrated new developments in research tools in order to best meet the needs of the post-digital patron. Though each representative presented the unique components of their respective platforms, each of the databases demonstrated a powerful implementation of metadata which facilitates a variety of search and browse options for users.

The Architecture Librarian’s Role

Digital storage and preservation are some of the more discernable challenges we encounter as information professionals in the post-digital era. However, many of the sessions also addressed some of the more inconspicuous challenges that arise. Presentations from Nilda Sanchez-Rodriguez of the City College of New York and Kevin Block of UC Berkeley each addressed perspectives on pedagogical methods in architecture education. Sanchez-Rodriguez detailed the many challenges and opportunities as a solo architecture librarian, whereas Block discussed the interminable challenge of encouraging students to utilize library resources.

From an archival perspective, Pamela Casey of Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library discussed the difficulties of navigating legacy data. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (FLWFA), consisting of tens of thousands of architectural drawings, photographs, models, and other documents, was jointly acquired by Avery and MoMA in 2012. While the procurement of a collection of such remarkable stature and breadth is certainly exciting, it does not come without challenges. Some of which include tackling inconsistent metadata standards and lack of adherence to provenance and original order.

Paula Farrar of University of British Columbia addressed the need for accreditation modernization for American and Canadian architecture schools. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) “Library Statistics Report” currently does not include data reporting fields for electronic resources, which in turn prohibits libraries from disclosing accurate expenditure or proudly exhibiting valuable digital resources held by their institution. This illustrates how fundamentally crucial it is for professionals in our field to maintain corresponding visions of the future in order to ensure seamless progression.

Cathryn Copper of Virginia Tech and Clarissa Carr of University of Florida each presented on the benefits of envisioning the future and the value of hybridity for the modern library professional. Copper addressed students’ preference for a smooth transition between digital and physical collections and the advantages of merging traditional library space with the creative studio environment. Carr discussed Esri Story maps: an innovative method by which to organize information and provide users with new perspective while also engaging with them socially.

Our final session on architectural design theses appropriately concluded our conversations on designing for the future. Though technology has advanced exponentially over the past couple of decades, digital and physical storage continue to pose preservation challenges. Rebecca Price of University of Michigan discussed the divergent and uneven practices for preserving 3-dimensional models. Panoramic photography presents a possible solution but is very time consuming, and more advanced 3-D preservation practices may not be built to last. These challenges pose the question of what kinds of standards we can implement as architecture information professionals. 


I found each of the conference sessions to be distinctly pertinent to my education and professional development as both a student of library and information science and a library professional at an architectural college. Much of my coursework at Simmons has been related to data management and digital services, and each of the presentations at this year’s AASL conference contributed directly to fundamental components of these areas of study. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of such meaningful conversations with so many intelligent and innovative individuals. I look forward to maintaining these connections, and I hope to become more involved with this terrific organization.


72nd Annual Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) Conference Report, Providence, RI (April 24-28, 2019)

By Aimee Lind, Getty Research Library (ARLIS SAH Liaison)

The 72nd Annual Society of Architectural Historians conference was held in Providence, RI from April 24-28, 2019. As it was my first time visiting Providence, I wasted no time exploring the city’s historic Downtown and residential College Hill neighborhood by foot. Of course, as a librarian, I couldn’t help but visit other libraries, and Providence has some great ones. I particularly enjoyed seeing RISD’s extraordinary Nature Lab and Visual + Materials Resource Center, as well as the delightful Athenaeum.

RISD Nature Lab,  Edna Lawrence Natural History Collection

Providence Athenaeum

Rhode Island State House (McKim, Mead, & White, 1895-1904)

Industrial National Bank Building (aka Superman Building) ( Walker & Gillette, George Frederick Hall, 1928)


Old Stone Bank Building (C.J. and R.J. Hall, 1854)

Wednesday Evening

The conference got started on Wednesday night with the Opening Night Social Hour, held in the ballroom of the Rhode Island Convention Center, followed by the SAH Business Meeting. SAH President Sandy Isenstadt spoke about the present state and future directions of the organization:

Strategic plan for the decade ahead developed two years ago

  • Global and local approach to promoting the study of the built environment
  • Teaching and scholarship
  • Financial sustainability
  • Nurture next generation of scholars; promote diversity

In evidence at this conference

  • Paper sessions on new regions and issues
  • Inaugural Edward Sekler talk
  • Graduate student resources
    • Book group
    • Lightning talks
    • Mentoring cafe
    • Free professional headshots
  • Addition of poster sessions
  • Session on Vectors of Change, pressing issues coming to the fore
  • Pop Up session on Notre Dame

JSAH made some online issues open access in order to raise awareness of the journal. The issue on the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus has been accessed by 150,000 people.

Buildings of the US & SAH Archipedia continues to lower barriers to access with more scholarly content in a more user friendly format.

Archipedia 3.0 now has:

  • Open access including metadata
  • Mobile friendly
  • Updated legacy materials
  • New back-end /content mgmt system

SAHARA now features highlights with themes.

SAH is providing youth outreach, funding fieldtrips for underserved K-12 students, teaching them to observe and analyze the built environment.

For adults, there were study programs / field seminars /study days:

  • 2018 Cuba
  • 2019 Japan (12 days, led by Ken Oshima)
  • Summer 2020 N. China and Mongolia (led by Nancy Steinhart)
  • Study days at National Museum of African American Culture, DC

A two year grant from the Mellon Foundation is underway to gauge health of architectural history as a degree of study and gather data about the academic status of this study in higher education. Sarah Dreller will be leading this research.

He took the opportunity to review the SAH policy statement

  • Core values
  • Personal conduct
  • Position statements (ACLS)
  • New page on website, Click on ADVOCACY tab

…and then Treasurer Michael Gibson reported on the organization’s finances and fundraising events:

  • Chicago Arts Club Gala raised $139,000
  • Fall fundraiser Weimar, Dessau, Berlin tour sold out in hours
  • July 17th NYC Century Club event honoring Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Finances 2018

  • Successful fundraiser in Paris
  • $110,000 unrestricted donation
  • $70,000 netted from St Paul conference [Clarification:  $70,000 is the net figure prior to expense allocations, which aren’t applied until the end of the fiscal year. SAH actually netted $-3K after expenses and administrative allocations.]
  • Bumpy rise with investments but currently at 5.7 million, 4.5% draw rate from portfolio
  • Half of funds raised for Charnley-Persky House


  • Gill Family Foundation for grad students
  • NEH Open Humanities Portfolio Program
  • Mellon Grant, arch history in higher ed study

Following the Business Meeting, we were treated to an introductory address by Barnaby Evans, founder of Waterfire Providence, who gave a great talk about the history of the city, its architecture, and the preservation movement that has led to such a vibrant downtown.


On Thursday I attended several open panel sessions that included papers on topics as varied as Memorial Libraries as Cenotaphs, the Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs, College Unions, CIAM, Boredom, Installation Art, and the 1964 New York World’s Fair Pavilion of Spain as well as a panel session called Space, Architecture & Cultural Identity: Materializing Asian America.

The entire conference program with abstracts is available here.

Of great personal interest to me was the roundtable on The Preservation of Digital Architectural Records, led by Ann Whiteside, a follow-up to last year’s roundtable:

Ann started off with a Building for Tomorrow update

2018 activities:

  • Building for Tomorrow Forum was held at SAH in St. Paul.
  • At issue: Barriers to collecting for different stakeholders
  • List of strategic directions over the course of the next 5 years
  • Held a Steering Committee meeting in May
  • Spent June-July refining the strategic directions
  • Late summer/early fall – sent out a call for volunteers to participate in several efforts:

Present efforts:

  • In 2018, connecting with Community Standards for 3D Data Preservation (CS3DP) (convened working groups)
    • Preservation Best Practices – Rebeccah Baker (NARA), Emily Vigor (Berkeley), and Will Rourke (UVa)
    • Metadata Standards – Katie Pierce Meyer (UT Austin)
    • Copyright/Ownership – Nicole Meyer (Morphosis), Nancy Hadley (AIA)
    • Access/Discoverability – Katie Pierce Meyer

Work includes – meeting with these groups to understand the work they are doing, and to  provide input about design records specifically.

2019 activities:

  • Creating an Effort Map and inventory of allied digital curation efforts; Volunteers include Rebeccah Bake (NARA), Nancy McGovern (MIT), Birgitte Sauge ( department of architecture at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Norway). They have created a map of digital curation efforts around the  globe, and have identified key contacts at those institutions to talk with about their work.
  • Literature Review group – to update the SAA Design Records Section bibliography (CAD/BIM). Volunteers are Emily Vigor, Matthew Allen (U Toronto), Emily Pugh (Getty), Jessica Qualiaroli (Yale), Kit Arrington (LC). They have updated the bibliography and are in the process of sharing their work.
  • Stakeholder Outreach Plan. This group includes Aliza Leventhal (LC), Pauline Saliga (SAH), Sylvia Welsh (Harvard). This group has developed a list of questions for interviews is software vendors.

Software vendor outreach is a next critical step in our work. IF ANYONE HAS CONTACTS, Please let Ann know asap. This has been the biggest challenge.

  • Presentations have been given at SAH 2018, AASL, 2019. A Roundtable session will be held at SAH in2019, also DLF.
  • Building for Tomorrow has had representation at the LC 3D Data Stewardship Forum in November 2019; Building for Tomorrow is a chapter in the recently published 3D/VR in the Academic Library: Emerging Practices and Trends. 2019. An article on the project was written for Arredamento Mimarlık,  Turkish architecture and design journal.

A lively discussion on these updates followed at the SAH Providence Roundtable. I am including my notes in full at the request of several attendees.

Need for educating design students about thinking about records upon creation

Session with Matthew Allen @ GSD; content: what is being produced? Teaching basic file management

Thoughts from practitioners?

  • Talk to deans of architecture schools
  • Teach archival awareness as an educational component of the degree
  • Make the case for preservation; cut through levels of bureaucracy to acquire and preserve materials

Firms not understanding that scanning once is not enough; preservation is an ongoing, iterative process

Animations: no consistency in software; models: CATIA, Autodesk, Form 2, FinalCutPro, Illustrator etc. files can’t be accessed; need ability to emulate software and computing environment; ideally firms need a dedicated digital asset manager to keep them up to date.

CAD  models etc.– print out hard copies but BIM can’t be printed

Bottom line, especially for state run agencies– what is the cheapest way to do this?

Students are just trying to get project done

Can we keep paper when possible/practical and only deal with digital when we need to? But paper preservation methods require maintenance too.

Some firms have archivist(s) on staff; file structure that project teams have to follow; established practice but generally only the larger firms.

Ongoing process but most concerned about smaller firms– need to be given mechanism and info to preserve.

Could we go to AIA and set up archive bureau so the message is spread? AIA disseminates message and pays to do so; could be part of continuing education credits/criteria for licensing.

Legal problems

  • clients own a lot of what is produced
  • Terrorism concerns with plans getting out

Not just architecture firms, but Engineering and GIS need to be captured/preserved.

Firm websites – web archiving, good way to capture at least basic information on smaller firms?

If only keeping final versions of models, drawings– concern over loss of depth of intellectual content / process.

Saving / organizing email? Even many archivists do a bad job of this. How can we expect others to do better?

So much data! Digital documentation of cultural heritage sites (archaeological) can easily have 10 years of data on one site.

Digital data will eventually be the biggest asset. How to protect data and protect against others being able to access it illicitly.

Are intellectual property rights shifting? In Italy you now need permission to publish photos taken at certain cultural heritage sites.

Drawings vs. models vs. 3D models made by 3rd parties -what is the true model/ record of a structure especially if IP owned by so many shareholders?

Software currently in development will provide IP/GPS location of anyone who accesses it as part of metadata; can self-destruct of not approved.

Concern for protecting moral rights of creators.

Documenting students / competitions- who knows what will be important to future researchers?

By providing existing digital archives for students to work with, would that help them understand the importance?

Harvard Archives keep student work for accreditation purposes; reserve right to use for non-commercial purposes; essentially persistent licence for non-commercial use.

Looking at doing digital design records pilot; where are roadblocks?

GSA standard for BIM modeling

May also need to talk to developers

Port Authority requires that architects/contractors use their hopelessly outdated software- who owns what?

Thursday Evening

That evening, the awards reception was held at the stunning Providence Art Club, followed by the inaugural Eduard F. Sekler talk given by Joan Ockman who spoke at the historic First Baptist Meeting Hall on the Future of Modern Architecture.

Providence Art Club (Sydney Burleigh and Edmund R. Willson, 1885)


On Friday I attended panel sessions on Architectural Drawings as Artifact and Evidence, the Spatial, Visual, and Social Effects of Surface in Architecture, Architecture & Copyright, Transatlantic Encounters: Africa and the Americas and attended a lunchtime roundtable on Pluralizing Histories of the Built Environment.


Regretfully, my travel arrangements and a very full conference program precluded me from attending the closing event at the RISD Museum or going on any of the tours offered, clearly to my detriment. They included:

Sunrise on the Riverwalk

Roger Williams in God’s Providence

The Crest of College Hill

Social Class and Religion in Stained Glass

LGBTQ Providence Walking Tour

Adaptive Reuse on College

Before Antoinette: African-American Sites along Benefit Street

The Stones of Providence

The Architecture of Industry

Benefit Street

Newport’s Best-Preserved Colonial Neighborhood and Climate Change

Bristol’s Architectural Legacy

Gilded Age Newport in Color

Ira Rakatansky: Mid-century Modern in Providence

Rhode Island Vernacular: From the Stone-Ender to the Square Plan House

Brown University: An Architectural Tour

Parkitecture: The Built Environment of Roger Williams Park, 19th Century to the Present

Women Designers in Rhode Island

H.H. Richardson and North Easton, Massachusetts

Cape Cod Modern House Trust Tour

Complexities and Contradictions of 20th-Century Architecture in New England

Eighteenth-Century Newport

Great Spaces: Architectural Landmarks of 19th-Century Newport

Seaside Resort Architecture at Watch Hill

If you were lucky enough to attend any of these tours or have additional items of interest to report on the SAH Conference, please do not hesitate to comment below.

Providence, R.I.— you are a charmer, indeed. I’ll be back!

Architecture Networks Panel at ARLIS Salt Lake City

By Aimee Lind, Getty Research Library

For those of you who weren’t able to attend the ARLIS conference in Salt Lake City at all or were simply unable to attend the Architecture Networks panel, I wanted to share a summary of the content of the session and provide a place for feedback on the potential future form(s) a project like this might take.

The idea for the panel was sparked by conversations with colleagues over the past few years regarding ways we could increase discovery of our own architecture resources, highlight links to complementary collections, identify connections between collaborators, and facilitate creation of and access to metadata at a deeper level in order to bring to light the important contributions of historically marginalized groups within architecture and its affiliated professions. As we pondered how something like this might work, we began to focus on the component parts necessary to construct these architecture networks virtually:

  • rich, authoritative data on the people, places, and events critical to the study of the built environment
  • standardized, controlled vocabularies that can help link this data effectively
  • a flexible underlying system for data management
  • a user-friendly interface for discovery, and, most importantly…
  • individuals willing to put in the work to make it all happen.

I invited a group of esteemed panelists to speak to these essential elements in order to explore the feasibility of developing a freely available, comprehensive, authoritative scholarly resource devoted to the study of the built environment.

Alan Michelson, Head of the Built Environments Library at the University of Washington, discussed the past development and potential future directions of the Pacific Coast Architecture Database.

Margaret Smithglass, Registrar and Digital Content Librarian at Columbia University’s Avery Library, spoke about the challenges encountered while developing the Built Works Registry, as well as considerations for the future of the project.

Robin Johnson, Vocabularies Editor at the Getty Research Institute, detailed relevant authority work done within the Getty Vocabularies (ULAN and CONA, in particular).


Annabel Lee Enriquez, Associate Project Manager at the Getty Conservation Institute, provided an overview of Arches, an open source heritage inventory and management platform, and consider how it might be used for a collaborative project of this type.

Our goals were threefold:

  • to learn about projects, tools, systems, and standards relevant to the study of the built environment
  • to establish what a comprehensive, collaborative resource might look like and whom it might serve and
  • to gauge interest in participation at any level, from individuals contributing data to institutions facilitating larger initiatives

We’d allocated ample time for the engaging discussion that followed the presentation. Happily, many members of the audience indicated that they thought this was a project worth pursuing and several signed up to be part of working group(s) going forward. We hope some of you might like to do the same! Please have a look at the PowerPoint slides. Our goal in the coming months is to identify a preliminary dataset that could serve as a proof of concept for a collaborative grant. Interested? Questions? Please be in touch!

Aimee Lind

ARLISNA 2019 Architecture Networks PowerPoint Slides

71st Annual Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) Conference. St. Paul, MN (April 18-22, 2018)

By Aimee Lind, Getty Research Library

The 72nd Annual Society of Architectural Historians conference will be held in Providence, RI from April 24-28, 2019.

The program is available here:

I attended the 2018 SAH conference in St. Paul, MN and found many sessions, particularly the roundtables, to be extremely relevant to issues facing ARLIS members working with architecture collections.

I’ve included a summary of last year’s conference below. Hope to see some of you in Providence!


SAH 2018 Annual International Conference Report

Saint Paul, MN (April 18-22, 2018)

Despite the fact that spring had still not officially sprung in Saint Paul, MN, the 2018 SAH Annual International Conference was abloom with informative and inspiring paper sessions, panels, workshops, roundtables, and tours.


My conference experience began with a visit to the Northwest Architectural Archives at the University of Minnesota. Northwest Architectural Archives “collects the records of architects, engineers, contractors, landscape architects, and interior designers from a region which includes Minnesota, western Wisconsin, northern Iowa, and the eastern Dakotas. Every type of document generated by these individuals and firms is collected: drawings of all kinds, specifications, job files, and photographs are chiefly sought.The collections span nearly 130 years of work by many notable practitioners.”

Our hosts Barbara Bezat and Cheryll Fong brought out a fabulous selection drawings that followed a theme of Built/Unbuilt. We were then treated to a tour of their impressive storage  facilities followed by a bus tour of some of the historic architecture of Minneapolis and Saint Paul that we’d just seen in original drawings.

Back at the conference venue, the RiverCentre, booksellers displayed publications covering all manner of scholarship in the field of architectural history while attendees enjoyed wine and hors d’oeuvres during the Opening Night Social Hour.

Next up, at the Business Meeting, officials provided news on SAH programs and initiatives, including the announcement of the 2020 conference location of Seattle. Topics of discussion included grants, Archipedia development, graduate student outreach, the SAH Architects Council, SAHARA, the SAH Field Seminar, and the treasurer’s report.

Following the Business Meeting, attendees were treated to the Introductory Address from Kristin Anderson of Augsburg University, and Katherine Solomonson of University of Minnesota: “Saint Paul: Last of the East, First of the West”, which helped us all to better understand the history and architecture of the region.

THURSDAY, APRIL 19th, 2018

So many great sessions and so little time! My highlights of the day included paper sessions on the themes of Burnt Clay (brick and tile) and Affordable Housing Design plus two very interesting roundtables on subjects near and dear to my heart. The first was Digital Architectural Records and Our Future moderated by Ann Whiteside(Harvard Graduate School of Design). This well-attended roundtable included librarians, archivists, architects, and architectural historians, all seeking to solve the problem of how to preserve digital architectural records. A forum earlier in the week netted concrete plans of action which will be reported upon soon. If you’d like to be involved, contact Ann Whiteside.

The other roundtable I attended on Thursday focused on Essential Skills for the Architectural Historian, moderated by Danielle S. Willkens (Auburn University), and Jonathan Kewley (Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England) and asked the question what do instructors teach to future architects? Issues of vocabulary, understanding physical surveys, mastery of archival research, critical thinking, ethics, as well as project management skills were raised, among others.

Despite a very packed schedule, I was fortunate enough to pass many impressive works of architecture on my way to and from the conference venue, including the stunning Saint Paul City Hall and Ramsey County Courthouse (Thomas Ellerbe & Company and Holabird & Root,1932)

the charming Saint Paul Women’s City Club (Magnus Jemne, 1931)

and the Hamm Building (Toltz, King and Day, 1915), with its exquisite terracotta facade and interiors.

FRIDAY, APRIL 20th, 2018

On Friday I attended paper sessions focused on themes of Latin American Religious Architecture, Queer Spaces, and Temporal Junctures, as well as another thought-provoking Architects Council roundtable on Making, Management and Preservation of Archives. Many of the same themes as the Making, Management and Preservation of Archives roundtable came up as Bart Voorsanger, Cynthia Weese, Sandy Isenstadt, and Kenneth Frampton discussed how architects and architectural historians can contribute to this important conversation.

If you’re interested in more detailed notes on any of these roundtables, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Friday evening saw the Awards Ceremony & Kenneth Frampton’s Plenary talk at the stunning Landmark Center (Willoughby J. Edbrooke, 1902).

SATURDAY, APRIL 21st, 2018

On Saturday, I toured downtown Minneapolis, where I had the chance to see the Mississippi River as it passes through the Mill District, the Farmers & Mechanics Savings Bank (McEnary, Dale; Krafft, Edwin, 1942), Foshay Tower (Magney & Tusler, 1929), now a W Hotel, and Cedar Square West/Riverside Plaza (Ralph Rapson, 1973), among others.

Saturday evening saw the closing night event at the historic James J. Hill House (1891) where conference organizers recognized the hard work of the many volunteers who helped make this SAH conference successful.

Until next year!



Coming Soon to a Campus in Upstate New York: The Mui Ho Fine Arts Library

Martha Walker, Architecture Librarian and Coordinator of Collections
Cornell University Library

Rooftop Construction View from Oct 2018 Hardhat Tour. Photo by Susette Newberry

On a beautiful Friday afternoon in late October, a small group of Cornell University’s Fine Arts Library (CUL) staff and affiliates participated in a hard-hat tour of the emerging Mui Ho Fine Arts Library (FAL).

Rendering of the first level of the Mui Ho Fine Arts Library. © 2017 Wolfgang Tschapeller

The renovated facility, designed by Cornell alumnus Wolfgang Tschapeller, will be complete by summer 2019, with staff and materials moving back into Rand Hall before the start of the fall semester.

Construction View from Oct 2018 Hardhat Tour. Photo by Susette Newberry
Construction View from Oct 2018 Hardhat Tour. Photo by Susette Newberry

Although plans have been in the works for years, the physical renovation of the 1911 building began in fall 2017. Library staff are occupying a temporary location in a neighboring facility for the duration of the project, and all but one percent of the FAL’s holdings were shifted temporarily to off-site storage. I’ll note that it has been an interesting 18 months for both staff and patrons. It is also important to recognize what an excellent job CUL’s Library Annex and Shipping staff have done, making twice daily deliveries to the FAL’s temporary location.

Please enjoy these beautiful photographs, taken by ARLIS/NA member Susette Newberry. There will be more information on this project in various library and architecture news outlets. Here is the link to the official project website.