Architectural Archives are Working to Serve Researchers during the Pandemic

by Pauline Saliga | Feb 24, 2021

In this time when many architectural history researchers are not able to travel to access architectural drawings and archival collections, please be aware that, generally, archive staff are ready and willing to help you with your research needs.  Please email the archivist/library you're trying to reach and be as specific as possible about your research needs.  If at all possible, they will make arrangements to make materials available to you remotely.  Some, such as the University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives Weitzman School of Design, can set up remote "viewings" of drawings. Other institutions, such as the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, are able to serve Columbia University faculty and students through research appoints. Still others, such as the Architecture & Design Collections at UC Santa Barbara and the Ryerson and Burnham Archive at the Art Institute of Chicago, have strong online archival holdings in addition to staff who can help you gain remote access to digitized materials.   

If you are in charge of an archive that documents the history of the built environment and you would like SAH to feature the ways you are currently working with researchers, please contact the SAH Director of Communications, Helena Dean, so we can feature your collection in a future SAH Newsletter.

The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division is handling requests remotely and has asked us to feature three announcements about their ongoing efforts to assist researchers:


1. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division is open for email requests


When you have a question that the architectural drawing and architectural photography collections could help answer, please contact us through the Ask-A-Librarian service at https://ask.loc.gov/prints-photographs. The Prints & Photographs Online Catalog also remains available at https://www.loc.gov/pictures. The Prints & Photographs Division has more than 100 collections that support the study of architecture, design, and engineering through a vast array of original and often unique graphic and photographic documentation. We look forward to working with you!

Our on-site research center is closed to the public until further notice to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 coronavirus. Changes in that status will be posted at https://www.loc.gov/about/pandemic-information/for-public.


2. Rediscovering Drive-Ins with the Vogel Collection


As drive-in movie theaters see increased patronage in 2020, consider how they were designed through the Jack K. Vogel Collection. The Vogel design drawings represent one-tenth of drive-in theaters in the U.S. during the height of their popularity. The rights to the drawings have been dedicated to the public, and a dozen selections from the nearly 2,000 drawings are now online.  The Vogel family still operates the Bengies Drive-In Theatre in Baltimore, MD.  Learn more about this recently-acquired Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division Collection at http://blogs.loc.gov/picturethis/2020/11/rediscovering-drive-ins-with-the-vogel-collection. The Prints & Photographs Division has more than 100 collections that support the study of architecture, design, and engineering through a vast array of original and often unique graphic and photographic documentation. For further information, please contact us through the Ask-A-Librarian service at https://ask.loc.gov/prints-photographs.


3. Ready for Research: Balthazar Korab Collection


The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division is pleased to introduce the Balthazar Korab Collection, which has an extraordinary array of architectural photography. The exceptional high quality images and the lack of copyright restrictions encouraged us to make this valuable collection ready for public access in 2020. More than 2,000 selected images are online. The full archive clocks in at over 540,000 items in a variety of photographic formats that were challenging to safely house and index. The breadth and depth of coverage spans across nearly 10,000 project folders, which primarily document the years 1950-2000 and include over 500 architects in over 700 cities, making the Korab Collection an exciting ground for research and exploration. The research guide Korab Collection: Archive of an Architectural Photographer provides an overview of the collection.  You can see the full list of projects in the finding aid for the archive at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/eadpnp.pp020001.

Balthazar Korab (1926-2013) was one of the most important architectural photographers in the United States in the 20th century and arguably one of the best at employing color to portray the modern building aesthetic as it progressed from the mid-20th to the early 21st century. He was trained as an architect in Paris and spent time in the offices of both Le Corbusier and Eero Saarinen before transitioning to a career as a photographer and settling in the suburbs of Detroit. The Prints & Photographs Division has more than 100 collections that support the study of architecture, design, and engineering through a vast array of original and often unique graphic and photographic documentation. For further information, please contact us through through the Ask-A-Librarian service at https://ask.loc.gov/prints-photographs.

Pauline Saliga
Executive Director
Society of Architectural Historians




Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.
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