SAH News

The APT Building Technology Heritage Library Reaches 2 Million Downloads

by SAH News | Oct 12, 2016
The Association for Preservation Technology (APT) Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL) reached a major milestone in September 2016 with its two millionth download. The BTHL is an online archive of vintage architectural trade catalogs and other technical literature.  

These items come from a variety of institutional and private collections. The Association for Preservation Technology created the BTHL to serve the historic preservation community with rare documents that were not readily available to the public. The BTHL is hosted by the Internet Archive. 

The APT initiative started with just a few dozen items on the APT web site in 2006. Since that time the collection has grown. An agreement with the Canadian Centre for Architecture in 2010 resulted in 3,000+ documents. Since that time the collection has doubled with contributions from Tulane University and several private collectors. 

These documents are being downloaded by thousands of are users for a variety of purposes. Preservation professionals are using these documents as part of their research into heritage buildings and their treatments. Other uses include home owners who are curious about their own structures. One early paint catalog was a key piece of evidence in a trial about a lead paint mitigation fund in California. APT welcomes users to reviews the items that they have downloaded. 

Mike Jackson, FAIA, the co-chair of this project said, "This is an exciting benchmark and shows the broad potential for these vintage documents to have a contemporary importance. The BTHL is a modern portal to the material past.”

The APT is grateful to the sponsors and contributors to this project including the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Heritage Preservation Education Foundation, Tulane University, the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology and numerous private collectors. 

A few selections from the Building Technology Heritage Library:
Wunda Weve Carpet, c. 1950  Beirug Mills, Inc. Greenville, SC

This catalog has great interiors views of homes with the company’s carpets. Many of the pictures even feature the owners sitting, usually in very traditional interiors. However, one particular home did not feature the owner, but did feature this modern icon, Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, CT. 

Carthage Floor Coverings, 1939  Carthage Mills, Cincinnati, OH

Flooring and finishes of all kinds are well represented. Art deco linoleum patterns were particularly popular in the 1930s. 
Vaughan’s Spring Flowers, 1926, Chicago, IL

Landscaping and site materials such as fencing and paving are included in the archive. 
California Door Company, 1923, San Francisco, CA

Millwork, woodwork, windows, and doors are well represented in the collection. This California company featured wood doors in every possible style, from Victorian to Arts and Crafts.

New Homes, c. 1925  Lake Shore Lumber Company, Erie, PA

There are almost 1,000 period house plan catalogs in the collection. These include a few 19th-century pattern books as well as many 20th-century catalogs for “kit homes” such as those from Sears Roebuck & Co. or the Aladdin Company. 
Cole Steel Office Equipment, 1959. Cole Steel Equipment Co., Cincinnati, OH

Furniture and furnishings catalogs extend the collection into the topic of interior design. This office equipment catalogs featured everything from desks to typewriters.


SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
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