A Digital Library of Wright's Material Past

APT Building Technology Heritage Library: A Modern Portal to the Material Past

The Association for Preservation Technology, International (APT) has created a web-based digitized collection of archival architectural and construction trade catalogs, house plan books and related publications. It is called the Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL). This online collection will provide generations of design professionals, building owners, historians, preservationists and others with an in-depth look at building construction material culture. The collection contains materials printed and published before 1964, which are now in the public domain. For anyone concerned about the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright, this archive will provide a new way to look at construction technology, design influences and even products designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. For owners of Wright designed homes, the BTHL will prove to be a treasure trove of period sources for products marketed for the American residential market.

What’s in the Building Technology Heritage Library?

Trade literature aimed at both the commercial and residential markets proliferated during the 19th and 20th centuries. The core of this collection consists of pre-1964 architectural and construction trade catalogs from North American and some from Europe. The BTHL contains catalogs that advertised most of the major building materials and assemblies used during this period for structures of all types, from high-rises to farm sheds. This newly available resource is a modern portal for anyone interested in material culture, with a focus on the built environment.

House Plan Catalogs

The BTHL has a great number of house plan catalogs. Some of these are from companies such as Garlinghouse and National Plan Service, which specialized in this market. Others are “kit home” catalogs such as Sears Roebuck & Co. or the Aladdin Company. These catalogs provide a thorough look at American domestic architecture of the 20th century. When these plan books are combined with building materials catalogs such as millwork, kitchens or interior decoration the view back in time widens.

Who Is Doing This?

The Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL) is an initiative of the Association for Preservation Technology. The Association (APT) is a multi-disciplinary, membership organization dedicated to promoting the best technology for conserving historic structures and their settings. The BTHL library is hosted by the Internet Archive, which was founded to build an online library offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format. These materials are available to the public at no charge.

Why Is This Being Done?

The Association for Preservation Technology recognized the value of period architectural trade catalogs for the historic preservation community. Documents describing building products and assemblies facilitate the understanding, interpretation and preservation of historic places. APT recognized that architectural trade catalogs have not historically been collected by many architectural libraries and had limited availability to practicing professionals. Through this project, APT has located collections across North America, which will ultimately be assembled into a
comprehensive online archive to serve the broadest audience.

Where Do These Materials Come From?

These BTHL materials come from various library, museum and private collections. The Canadian Centre for Architecture is the first major collection contributor. The CCA collection contains more of than 3,000 architectural trade catalogs advertising Canadian, American and European materials. One quarter of this collection includes materials from the 19th
century, which are among the rarest surviving documents. The CCA has been a leader in conserving and making architectural trade catalogs accessible to its patrons. Through its collaboration with APT, the CCA collection can serve a broader, international audience. Additional private and institutional collections are being added.

The Building Technology Heritage Library has been supported by grants from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Historic Preservation Education Foundation (HPEF), the National Center for Preservation Technology & Training (NCPTT), the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and APT International. In-kind contributions have been provided by the Internet Archive, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the Columbia University Historic Preservation Program, and the Chicago School of the Art Institute and APT members.

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