About the Alexander Architectural Archives
|Campus Address:||Battle Hall 200, Mail Code: S5430 (BTL200 S5430)|
|Location:||Charles W. Moore Room - Battle Hall room 6 (map)|
|Mailing Address:||Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, PO Box P
The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78713-8916 USA
Image source: Student event featuring Ptah. Date unknown. School of Architecture collection.
The Alexander Architectural Archives is one of the largest such repositories in the country. Together, with the Architecture & Planning Library and its Special Collections of rare publications, it forms a nationally recognized architectural research center. On campus, it is considered a Distinguished Collection of the University of Texas Libraries.
Holdings reflect the work and scholarship of architects, landscape architects, planners, designers, preservationists, historians, professors, and businesses in the industry. Emphasis is on the southwest region of the United States, but includes material from England, California, Chicago, and some Latin American countries. Over a quarter of a million drawings, and likewise photographic items, 2000 linear feet of papers, post cards, films, audio visual media, artifacts, and other ephemera focus on design, history, criticism, theory, professional practice, education, case studies, and technology.
The Alexander directly supports enhancing the value, relevance and effectiveness of teaching, research, and public service goals. All students, faculty, staff and citizen scholars have convenient access to literature, information, visual, and digital resources that support professional education in architecture and its related design disciplines. While the Alexander is located in close proximity to the School of Architecture, in historic Battle Hall, its archival finding aids and instructional guides are web- based, allowing global discovery and access via the Internet.
Blake Alexander started what has become known as the Alexander Architectural Archives in 1958, after he directed a team of student architects recording historic buildings in Pennsylvania for the Historic American Buildings Survey. Professor Alexander adapted the HABS format to his own course at UT, requiring students in his architectural history class to measure and draw historic Texas buildings as one of their assignments.
Known as the Texas Architecture Archive, this rapidly expanding collection soon outgrew his office and was moved into a small storage room, otherwise known as "Alexander's closet."
These drawings, by the well-known Galveston architect Nicholas Clayton, had been given to the student by Clayton's granddaughter and became the first professional records to be deposited in his collection.In the mid-1960s, one of Professor Alexander's students arrived with large paper sacks filled with tattered, water-damaged drawings. As Professor Alexander examined them, it became apparent that they had in fact been through a flood - the great Galveston hurricane of 1900.
The Clayton drawings opened up the prospect of seeking original drawings of other important Texas architects whose records needed to be preserved. In 1979, the General Libraries (now the University of Texas Libraries) became the repository of the records, and it was moved to the Architecture and Planning Library and named "The Architectural Drawings Collection."
Other collections became available as word spread of this new resource. The family of Robert Ayres generously donated the records of the San Antonio firm of Ayres and Ayres. About the same time, Professor Alexander contacted a descendant of James Riely Gordon, one of the premier designers of Texas courthouses to obtain his vast collection of documents. Professor Alexander also helped secure the acquisition of the original design drawings for The University of Texas campus by Paul Philippe Cret.
Today, the Alexander Architectural Archives is the largest such resource in Texas, representing thousands of projects in Texas as well as New York, Chicago, California, and Great Britain. Holdings include: over 280,000 drawings, 1,150 linear feet of papers, photographic material (56,000 prints, 22,700 negatives, 214,600 slides), models and ephemera. Professor Alexander was a pioneer in recognizing the importance of preserving architectural records. The resources he collected have played an important role in the restoration of many of Texas' most important buildings and continues to be essential for the study of American architectural history.
In 1997, the Texas Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians sponsored a campaign to name this valuable archive after its founder. The University, in support, recognized that without Alexander's initiative, records of our architectural heritage would have perished from neglect. It is with great appreciation and celebration that the collection he founded is named the Alexander Architectural Archives.
Blake Alexander (February 4, 1924 – December 11, 2011)
Drury Blakeley Alexander was a champion for the education, documentation, and preservation of Texas' architectural heritage. He was also a pioneer in recognizing the importance of archiving architectural records. The Alexander Architectural Archives grew out of his personal collection and stewardship. The resources he collected continue to play an important role in the restoration of many of Texas' most important buildings and continues to support the education and scholarship of American architectural history.
The University of Texas Libraries and the School of Architecture celebrated Blake's long life and accomplishments in a memorial gathering held in the Battle Hall Reading Room of the Architecture & Planning Library on Saturday, April 28, 2012. View a recording of the service.
To learn more about Blake's life and legacy, please see:
- Biography of Blake Alexander, from his archival finding aid
Blake Alexander Architectural Library Endowment
Throughout his long career, Blake found great value in his Architecture & Planning Library. He once boasted that he personally knew each librarian in its history, from its early years as a departmental library until it joined the University of Texas Libraries system. The quality of the students' experience was also important to Blake. He used the library during his school days and naturally continued as faculty in teaching and his own research. He understood that the library and archive play an important role in supporting research and scholarship at the School of Architecture through its expertise, services and collections. He backed this with the donation of his personal library, archival collections, and faculty support. It was with great pride that he could continue his stewardship through the gift of an endowment.
"Blake Alexander lived a productive life as a scholar’s scholar, and he left us with an enduring legacy," says University of Texas Libraries’ director Dr. Fred Heath. "The Alexander endowment will permanently enrich a great library’s contribution to teaching and learning on behalf of every student and faculty member it serves.”
The Blake Alexander Architectural Library Endowment—funded with almost a million dollars— provides for acquisitions, collections support and technological improvements that directly impact the quality of students' experiences at the library and archives. Additionally, funds support professional development activities of the Architecture & Planning Library’s head librarian.
The Alexander family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Alexander Architectural Archives or the Architecture & Planning Library. Please contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or donate online.