30th / VRA 20th Joint Conference, Hyatt Regency, Union Station, St. Louis,
Missouri - March 20-26, 2002
of Use: Developments in Pattern Book, Builder's Guide, and Trade Catalog
Collections, Their Access and Use
Janine Henri, University of Texas at Austin
Pattern books, builder's guides and trade catalog are often found in the collections of architectural libraries and are an important source of information for scholars, preservationists, homeowners, craftspeople, and others. The session addressed the question of access through the perspectives of the reference librarian, histographer, technician and collection developer.
Margaret Culbertson, Architecture/Art Librarian, University of Houston
Ms. Culbertson, author of Texas houses : built by the book : the use of published designs, 1850-1925, discussed her research process and her adventures while writing the book. She focussed on the history of house design catalogues and their spread throughout Texas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her slides revealed the matches she discovered between published designs and actual built homes in Texas. She showed a fascinating array of houses in the state, clearly based on the same published designs--some changed and others not, depending on the taste of the owner and builder. Her visual tour of Waxahachie, Texas, design houses was especially enlightening.
Al Willis, Collection Development Librarian, Hampton University
Mr. Willis began by tracing the popularity of bungalows, as a building type, as reflected in the popular periodical literature of the time. Through citation counting, he was able to identify the swell in interest in bungalows as a type from 1906 to the mid-1920s, a period of notable prosperity in the United States. In addition to periodical articles about bungalows, Willis then traced the publication growth of "bungalow books." Along with Ms. Byrne, the next speaker, he focussed on books having an North American imprint, published from 1900-1940, having the word "bungalow" in the title, subtitle, or main entry, or having been published by a company who had published a similar book meeting the first three criteria. Initially finding 111bibliographic entities fitting the criteria, he then searched in RLIN, OCLC, the California MELVYL system, and the Library of Congress catalogs and found at least that many bungalow book published in California alone.
He and Ms. Byrne identified 42 California companies producing bungalow books with 35 headquartered in Southern California, largely in Los Angeles. He stated that the bungalow was a particularly attractive housing type for the climate of the area, which was undergoing a population boom. He pointed out that while we now value of these books, largely held in architectural libraries, for their relevance to the study of art and architecture, their purpose was to stimulate the demand for more bungalows. While patterns books were intended to provide ideas for carpenters-builders to follow in design houses, house catalog books and bungalow books had a commercial purposes, the former tosell houses and the latter to sell contracting services and to increase people's desire for such houses. Thus, he concluded that, as interest in construction history and business history grows among scholars, architectural libraries can expect to find a different body of scholars examining bungalow books.
Elizabeth Byrne, Head Librarian Environmental Design Library, University of California, Berkeley
Ms. Byrne continued Mr. Willis's discussion of California bungalow pattern books focussing on what uses scholars might find for these objects. She discussed the books as a means for following the work of specific draftsman, for example, Lewis Blaize and Rex D. Weston; as presenting a chronological history of certain vernacular architectural styles not only in California but throughout the United States; as urban planning documents describing the history of suburbanization and home ownership; as construction documents; as reflections of popular taste in furniture and interior design; and as sources for the study of commercial art, advertising and marketing. She highlighted the design of the pattern books themselves as sales vehicles. They were cheaply produced (so available to lower- and middle-income clients), with testimonials, ads, 2-page spreads, and text and illustrations chosen to entice both the female of the house ("cozy" being a popular description) and the male (with illustrations of masculine dens).
Ms. Byrne then went on to discuss how to find pattern books, both in libraries and in the marketplace. She pointed out that within libraries the subject headings are often rather general, i.e. Architecture, Domestic, that the company names change frequently, and that the editions themselves often do not conform to what we in the library world consider publication editions. In the marketplace, reprints are available through Dover and other companies. Originals show up on Ebay and at antiquarians books fairs and flea markets. However, she warned that as collecting interest has grown and availability has decreased (being relatively scarce objects originally produced as semi-ephemera), dealers have increased prices accordingly.
E. Neville Thompson, National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Librarian, Winterthur Museum
Ms. Thompson traced the genesis of the Winterthur Museum's library collection and its trade catalogue collection in particular, as an outgrowth of both the establishment of the Museum and the establishment of the joint graduate program with the University of Delaware in "early American culture." While the museum collection itself focuses on American domestic interiors between the early 17th century and the mid-19th century, the library collection is much more extensive and collects to contextualize the Museum's objects. Thus, they collect in travel, etiquette, domestic economy, gardening, women's history, and the history of artisanry, among other fields of interest.
Ms. Thompson traced the Winterthur's collection of trade catalogues back to DuPont's interest in buying original hardware to replace less suitable hardware that he found on furniture which he collected. She cited Lawrence Romaine's Guide to American trade catalogues as pivotal in collection development for not only revealing the number of trade catalogues quietly collected in libraries, but also revealing that these were collections not confined to high end catalogs. She stated that Winterthur's trade catalogue collection is strong in furniture and furnishings, houses-by-mail, house plans, millwork, early metal ware and ceramics, garden ornaments, toys and games, and store merchandise and the bulk of the collection has been reproduced on microfiche.
Catherine Cooney, Assistant Librarian, Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University
Ms. Cooney discussed the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of creating a digital collection of pattern books for the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Digital Library for the Decorative and Material Culture. Nineteen items were selected to create electronic facsimiles, among them Mark Catesby's Natural history of the Carolinas and George Brookshaw's Flower painting.
A model for creating electronic facsimiles was being developed within the University that dictated that the facsimiles would consist of scanned page images, uncorrected OCR text, and structural metadata elements. The metadata would be converted and indexed using Open Text Livelink Search and the user interface implemented via CGI programs. The model had been created for serial runs with materials that could be dis-bound and run through a batch scanner.
However, the pattern book collections differed significantly from the base model: the materials could not be dis-bound, needed to be handled with care, contained large scale color illustrations, and needed an interface that reflected the nature of the collection. Therefore, the model had to be adapted; for instance, images were provided in three sizes and text had to be rekeyed because the 18th and 19th century text did not produce clean OCR. Ms. Cooney concluded by discussing whether the work was worth the effort. She pointed to three benefits: the text rekeying provides rich searching of the material; the really large images allow for close inspection of the page; and the inclusion of blank pages create a true electronic facsimile.