Libraries Society of North America 31st Annual Conference
Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland - March 20-26, 2003
Thirty Years After:
COPAR and Other Endeavors Toward Preserving Architectural Records
Jacoby, Art and Design
Librarian Emeritus, the University of Connecticut, Storrs
Tom Jacoby, Art and
Design Librarian Emeritus, the University of Connecticut, Storrs, and founder of
Connecticut COPAR (CtCOPAR): "Where is CtCOPAR
Now?: Surviving the Database Move".
C. Ford Peatross,
Curator of Architecture, Design, and Engineering Records in the Prints and
Photographs Division of the Library of Congress and the Center for American
Architecture, Design and Engineering, and honorary member of the American
Institute of Architects (AIA): “What's going on at
the national level?: Defining the appropriate role of COPAR at the Library of
Congress for the new century”.
Dodd, Curator of the Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas at
Austin, and founder of Texas COPAR (TxCOPAR): "A survey of current
T. Wollon, AIA, the Historic Architects' Roundtable, Baltimore Architecture
Foundation (“Dead Architects Society”): "The Historic Architects'
Roundtable: Researching the early architects of Baltimore".
Janine Henri, Architecture & Planning Library, The University of Texas at Austin
session reviewed the history of COPAR (Cooperative Preservation of Architectural
Records) and the status of national and regional efforts to document
The session began
with Tom Jacoby reviewing the founding of COPAR in 1973 in New York and the
involvement of the Library of Congress (LC) with COPAR, including publication of
the COPAR Newsletter between 1980 and 1995.
In 1993 Tom Jacoby participated in a survey of Connecticut architectural
records. This was the beginning of
CtCOPAR. At its founding there was
great enthusiasm for this statewide project, with ten members participating.
Gradually participation has dwindled down to three members, with only Tom
Jacoby and some library volunteers working on the database.
The survey results are now in an MS Access database, temporarily housed
on a server at the University of Connecticut.
After several unsuccessful efforts to secure a permanent home for this
database, plans are now in place to move the database this summer to a server at
the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation after Tom Jacoby has edited it
for final release.
C. Ford Peatross
reviewed the original goals of COPAR: to promote the research value of
architectural record and encourage more repositories to collect them.
This goal is less problematic now that the value of architectural records
has been recognized. Ford Peatross
reviewed the founding of LC’s Prints and Photographs Division.
Architectural records have been deposited at LC since the 1930’s when
the National Park Service started the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).
Later the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) and more recently
the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) broadened the scope of records
deposited at LC. Survey records are
now being digitized, with 15,000 records currently available on the web.
When Ford Peatross came to LC in 1975 he became involved in COPAR while
looking for a better way to answer architectural research queries.
The results of the original COPAR national survey formed the National
Union Index of Architectural Records, a database that was unfortunately
destroyed. Sally Stokes and her
student staff at the University of Maryland reentered the information and copies
are now available at the University of Maryland and at LC.
Ford Peatross reports that the LC web site gets 3 billion hits a year,
many from K-12 users. In 1991 with
the LC’s receipt of a bequest from the estate of architect Paul Rudolph, Ford
Peatross developed a proposal to create the endowed Center for Architecture,
Design and Engineering at LC. The
Center became a reality in 2002 (after the settlement of the Rudolph Estate) and
its first project is the recent Eames exhibit.
Center projects include: a ten year project to commission 5,000
biographies of architects, collecting, processing, conserving, and storing
architectural records as a result of this project; publishing books based on
LC’s architectural collections (with CD-ROMs that include links to related web
sites). Architects currently targeted for collecting efforts include:
Charles & Ray Eames, Raymond Loewy, Victor Gruen, I.M. Pei, and others.
Mr. Peatross concluded with a discussion of the role of COPAR at the
national level and raised some issues that should be addressed by the library,
archives, and architecture community. Institutions
are now placing more and more information about architectural records on their
web sites (images, etc.). Perhaps
it is time for a web-based National Union Index of Architectural Records?
LC will be moving some collections to a new facility in Maryland that
will house books, manuscripts, prints and photographs.
This might be an opportune time for COPAR to work on guidelines for ideal
digital surrogates. Another
national role for COPAR might be as a clearinghouse of information about
appropriate storage for architectural records and related preservation issues
(such as off-gassing of blueprints).
Dodd reviewed her survey of current COPAR efforts.
She found that although COPAR
products (surveys and management publications) are readily available,
information about the COPAR organization and its current efforts is not so easy
to determine. Unlike
30 years ago when COPAR was founded, we can now quickly locate repositories of
architectural records through the web. Using
a variety of search engines, only 16 COPAR hits were retrieved.
Some were for regional organizations, some mention COPAR activities in a
variety of professional association minutes or reports, some were links to COPAR
publications. In contrast, the Architectural Archives site on the UNESCO
Archives Portal (http://www.unesco.org/webworld/portal_archives/pages/Archives/)
28 links to U.S. architectural repositories.
Beth Dodd posted a survey of COPAR awareness on a variety of listservs,
including those for ARLIS/NA, the Society of American Archivists, the
Association of Architecture School Librarians, the Visual Resources Association,
and the National Conference
of State Historic Preservation Officers and National Register Coordinators. Survey responses showed
that 75% of respondents were aware of COPAR (if not up-to-date), 24% expressed a
continued interest in COPAR, and 11% were members of local committees.
13 local COPAR committees were identified, with founding dates anywhere
between 1973 and 2002. Half of the committees are still active.
Responses from three states expressed an interest in starting up a
regional COPAR committee. Half of the contacts for local committees are librarians or
archivists. The largest category of
activity undertaken by local committees is survey work. The results of Beth
Dodd’s survey will be posted on the TxCOPAR web site (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/apl/aaa/txcopar.html).
She concluded that COPAR still fills an important gap for
architectural records. It still
serves as a clearinghouse for information: holdings information, contacts for
placing records in appropriate repositories, management expertise for the
layperson. Although not as
prominent as it once was on the national level, information is frequently
obtained through the local level, via word of mouth and networking.
COPAR can be considered a success since there are now many unaffiliated
groups working in the spirit of COPAR, on similar goals.
A national COPAR committee could still serve to guide and support these
efforts. Beth characterized COPAR
as a “sleeping giant.”
T. Wollon discussed the Historic Architects' Roundtable’s efforts to research
early architects of Baltimore. His presentation was illustrated with slides of Baltimore
architecture and architectural records. The
Historic Architects’ Roundtable was founded 14 years ago.
Members each “adopted” one or two architects whose work they would
research. Approx. 12,000 buildings
have been identified to date. Compilation
of the biographical and records holdings locations information for Baltimore
architects resulted in several general observations as follows:
From the beginnings, architecture was a “city profession:” Baltimore
architects were also hired to work in nearby area counties.
Few colonial period architects are known though some colonial buildings
based on published plans have been identified. Exceptions
are Robert Cary Long & Son (Jr.). Roundtable
members discovered that it was usually an architect that adapted a published
design (not a homeowner or builder). Southerners
came to Baltimore to hire architects because of political & economic
architects began their practice at a young age and learned their profession
through apprenticeships. Roundtable
members have put together a “genealogical chart” showing firms or offices
where Baltimore architects apprenticed. College
architectural education emerges in the mid-nineteenth century.
Two prominent mid-nineteenth century Baltimore firms were those of Edmund
George Lind & John Murdoch. The
Baltimore Chapter of the AIA was founded in 1870 as the third chapter of the AIA
(itself founded in 1857). Architecture
practice became more technical in the twentieth century when buildings became
more complicated with high rises and flush toilets.
A major goal of the Roundtable is to locate as many architectural records
as possible and have them placed into appropriate repositories.
A database of historic Baltimore architects is in progress and will be
mounted on the web this year.
A lively discussion
period followed the presentations. Audience members brought up the need for COPAR to work with
do.co.mo.mo (the International Working Party for
and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighbourhoods of the Modern
Movement) to preserve modern architectural records. The Philadelphia Architects & Buildings database (http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab)
was cited as a model to serve as a union architectural records database and to
continue documenting survey results.
We were reminded that architectural records are often collected as
part of other subject collections (such as the New Haven Railroad records at the
University of Connecticut) and that each state has a State Historic Preservation
Officer that could be our best advocate for statewide preservation efforts.
It was announced that MassCOPAR is working on updating their survey of
architectural records in Massachusetts. They
have been successful at generating income from publications and are preparing to
launch a new web site. It was
suggested that a COPAR listserv should be started and that the COPAR Newsletter
be resurrected in electronic form. A
possible next project for COPAR might be to share information about the
preservation of digital architectural records.
at the session include a brochure for the LC Center for Architecture, Design,
and Engineering, a history of the Historic Architects’ Roundtable (including a
list of 19th century Baltimore architects with well-documented
practices and a section titled “several observations are clear in this
research”), and a map with a directory of COPAR committees and their contacts.
This session was
obviously successful at generating a renewed interest in COPAR.
At its conclusion three volunteers approached C. Ford Peatross proposing
to work on a national COPAR website: Regina Koehler from the Dumbarton Oaks
Library, Ardys Kozbial from the Loeb Library, Harvard Graduate School of Design,
and Beth Dodd. This was welcomed