Campus News - January 16, 2001
Architectural archive draws a picture of built environment
New Mexico and University building plans to be accessible online
By Carolyn Gonzales
|Schwenk displays an artist's rendering of La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. The designs are part of the John Gaw Meed architectural archive.|
Tucked away in an environmentally and access controlled room in the depths
of Zimmerman Library, long, thin-drawered cabinets, like those used to store
maps, line the walls and create aisles in the cement-floored room. Carefully
stored in the cabinets are entire buildings and the entire University campus
laid flat. They are the architectural drawings and plans housed in the architectural
archives, a collection within the General Librarys Center for Southwest
On the floor is a masking taped diagram with arrows pointing north, south,
east and west. Were underground. There are no windows. Its
the only way we can keep our bearings straight, explains Kim Schwenk,
a fine arts student completing her bachelors degree while working part
time in the architectural archives.
The archives consist of the architectural plans, drawings and, in some cases, models of structures. Housed within the collection are the UNM Facilities Planning drawings. Processing and preserving that collection has been completed, says Schwenk, who adds that access to the collection will one day be available on the Online Archive of New Mexico, an electronic database being developed by UNM, the New Mexico State Library and others.
The Facilities Planning drawings are kept together by building. By keeping
all the plans for a specific building together, we can see the buildings
changes and evolution over time. The library itself has changed extensively
since its original design in 1936, says Schwenk, who adds that the library
has plans for all campus buildings except Dane Smith Hall and the Bookstore.
The Universitys first plat plan in the collection is dated 1896. The
plan was established after Hodgin Hall, UNMs first building, was built.
Schwenk says the library doesnt hold original plans to Hodgin Hall, but
they do have copies. The design and expansion of campus buildings and grounds
is chronicled through the plat plans.
The Bainbridge Bunting collection is easily accessible due to diligent efforts
by Schwenk and others. Bunting was a professor of architectural history in the
College of Fine Arts from 1948 until 1981.
The collection strongly represents New Mexico architecture, says
Schwenk, who adds that pueblo and morada styles are part of this fully cataloged
collection. A guide to the collection also makes finding specific materials
Probably considered the foundation to the architectural archive is the John
Gaw Meem collection. Meem, the architectural artist of buildings like Zimmerman
Library and Scholes Hall on the University campus, contributed his architectural
and personal archives to the library.
The Meem collection was in very good order when I came to work here last year,
explains Schwenk, who adds that all of his projects were ordered by job number,
making accessing the collection easier than most. Schwenk says some of the plans
got out of sequence when they were recently microfilmed, but that they have
now been put in their correct order.
Meem was an amazing artist. His draftsmanship is perfect. He could fully
commit his vision to paper, she says. Two Meem projects that stand out
to Schwenk for their artistry are the chancel for the Church of the Holy Faith
(1953) and La Fonda hotel (1927), both in Santa Fe.
The library plans to have a Meem fellow on board in the spring to go through
boxes of job and personal files and add those materials to the database, says
Schwenk has been working on the collection since December 1999. Since August,
Schwenk has been working with her successor Ellen Evans-Colburn. Working
with these drawings allows me to handle a rare art form. I plan to go back to
the plans from the turn of the century, the 30s and 40s and gain a stronger
sense of New Mexico architecture, says Evans-Colburn.
Both women worked with Judith Murphy, the librarys preservationist, who
taught them conservation techniques. She showed us how to encapsulate
the drawings in Mylar. She explained about sealing the edges for low dust and
moisture exposure. She explained why it was important to keep the collection
in a humidity controlled area and why it was important that the collection be
maintained in a secured space, says Schwenk.
Many drawings still remain rolled on top of the cabinets. Depending on
the paper type, it takes 2-2 ½ weeks to flatten each under weights,
explains Evans-Colburn who speculates it could take up to 10 years to properly
preserve the rolled drawings. She adds, It takes dedication to work down
here. Once youre in the groove, youre grateful for the opportunity.
Schwenk says that many people who request use of the drawings, particularly
those from the Meem collection, want access to the originals. We push
librarians to promote the use of the microfilmed versions of the materials.
They present good detail for copying and the originals are delicate, like leaves
or butterfly wings, she says.
The architectural archive needs to be a priority. It cant be left in the dust again. It is important for fellows from the Center for Southwest Research to continue with the project. Its important for the collection as well as a great experience for the student. We need both funding and people to maintain this collection. I dont want to see it sidetracked again.
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