30th / VRA 20th
Archives: To Web or not to Web
Sue Koskinen, University of California at Berkeley
Kozbial, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Nancy Thorne, University of Pennsylvania
Ruth Wallach, University of Southern California at Los Angeles
The moderator opened the session by bringing up issues
related to the importance of archiving architectural records that represent:
artistic process of creation
building maintenance record
Questions of preservation and access interact with
possibilities afforded by evolving technologies.
Kozbial, Green and Green Virtual Archives
The Getty Grant Program awarded funding to the Gamble House,
University of Southern California (USC), to implement a two-year project to
create a collaborative, Internet-based, virtual research archive of finding aids
for the Green and Green-related collections at the Gamble House in Pasadena, at
University of California Berkeley's Environmental Design Archives, and at
Columbia University's Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library.
The project will allow for electronic access to full collection
inventories and to 4,619 images (out of 15,000 items) from the extant
architectural records, photographs, and decorative arts objects related to the
Gamble House and to the Green Brothers' work.
Among the many advantages of implementing such a virtual archive is that
researchers worldwide would have access to material that was previously
available only to those able to travel great distances.
Ms. Kozbial gave background information on the Green
brothers (Charles and Henry), and their work in bringing craftsmanship and
artistry into the total building design. Their
work was an antidote to the International Style.
USC holdings include the house; photographs of the contents
of the Gamble House. The Green and
Green archive at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA, includes fan mail
sent to the brothers, 8x10 photographs, architectural and working drawings,
architects' personal papers, and papers of various Gamble House owners. UC
Berkeley has Charles Green's personal papers, architectural drawings of Charles
Green's work, and photographs. Columbia University has the working drawings of
the Green and Green firm.
The Getty grant, comprising $300,000, will fund the
encoded finding aids for the archives and accompanying images
digital copies of 4,619 items so that the originals do not have to be handled
The issues for such a project are:
Technical: Architectural drawings scanned as thumbnails are useless.
How much detail does a user need? How
fast? How big should the files be?
Copyright: Who is holding copyright? Will
we start seeing Green and Green chairs at Pottery Barn, once the images are
available? Do we care if that
Security: Do we want free access to floor plans, which can be replicated?
Does an owner of a Green and Green house care that his/her house will be
copied and built elsewhere?
Scanning selected items: The archives contain approximately 15,000 items, but
only 4,619 of them will be available through the Internet project.
Is this misleading? Does an
archivist have the right to make editorial comment by selecting some items but
Presenting concrete information about the legacy of an
important architectural firm, dispersed among institutions, is a perfect project
for the Web environment.
Shepherd. Architectural Archives in the Digital Landscape
Not too long ago, the development of an institutional
website represented a great advance for architectural archives in their ability
to reach out to new and existing researchers. Now many archives have moved
beyond the basic website to add electronic exhibits, finding aids, and other
collection descriptions, and digitized images to their inventory of online
resources. What can be learned from
these early efforts, and how are expectations and trends for electronic access
evolving? What questions need to be
addressed before planning for such projects?
What standards are available to facilitate the discovery and sharing of
archival resources on the internet? Finally,
where do our users fit into the picture?
The digital landscape is constantly shifting, and continuous
developments in the descriptive schemas are represented by use of digital images
as finding aids which are searchable through databases. How do archives define
themselves within the fragmentary digital landscape? They need to fit into
larger research needs and standards.
Conceptualizing the suitability of architectural archives
for digitization involves:
intellectual and physical control on an item level
readiness of data for the Web
opportunities for collaboration
is easier to start with what is already there, rather than starting anew to
satisfy what the users need
to be more interpretive when digitizing collections
interface design needs to serve all of the above
can/should we give users everything they want/need?
relevant to architectural archives:
XML and SGML. Visual images
embedded in EAD sheets may be hard to findthis is less of a problem with EAD
and more with the systems used to deliver the finding aid and image.
(Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standards) - handles descriptive and
administrative metadata for complex digital objects (XML-based).
increased demand for access
Thorne, A Practical Introduction to the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
This is a four-year funded grant project, now in its third
year of collaboration among four principal architectural repositories:
The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania
Architectural Archives, the Philadelphia Historical Commission, and the
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
At this point, the PAB is free, and offers the following
Architectural and historical information and images for over 30,000
architectural projects, built and unbuilt, by Philadelphia area architects
library of nearly 20,000 images. By
2004 the database will provide images of most existing original architectural
documents of Philadelphia area buildings created before 1900, and representative
images for each twentieth century building included in the database
digital version of the expanded and corrected Biographical Dictionary of Philadelphia Architects, originally
published in 1985. Over 9,500
individuals and firms are represented to date, including architects and related
professionals, such as engineers, landscape architects, builders, etc.
The project pages contain the following information:
historic registration status
to images of extant drawings and photos in Philadelphia area repositories
to the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) digital images
PAB allows one to search by:
county, state, country
street (within Philadelphia)
PAB uses ER Mapper as its image viewer.
It allows one to look at a portion of an image at any one time, so that
the repositories can continue collecting fees for reproduction. The project must
find additional funding for continuous support of the database.
One possibility being explored is subscription-for-access to
Ms. Thorne demonstrated how the project works and types of
information it contains. The URL is http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org.