As a Wright homeowner or building steward, you’ve likely heard of the trove of information relating to Wright’s work at the Avery Library at Columbia University in New York City. Now it’s possible to get a real sense of the extent of the Wright Archives drawing collection through Artstor, an online digital library. Avery Library has made accessible, free of charge, images of thousands of Wright’s drawings of individual buildings. These drawings can also be accessed through the Avery’s website. We encourage all Wright homeowners and building stewards to explore Artstor to see images of Wright drawings held at Avery.
Access through Artstor
The Artstor link will take you to a page where you can search the drawing collection. This may be done through a client’s name, a city or a topic. It’s important to include the name “Wright” in your search. You may also want to include an additional search term, such as “drawings.” The advantage and disadvantage of accessing through Artstor is that a search can return many results, sometimes hundreds or even thousands. You’ll may want to try several search term combinations depending on your goal.
On Artstor, a simple search for “Taliesin” brings up 843 drawings and photographs of Wright’s Wisconsin estate. As with most such search tools, it’s worth experimenting with search terms. For example, a search for “Westcott” brings up 150 items, many of which don’t relate to Wright’s Springfield, Ohio, house. A search using “Burton Westcott” or “Westcott Wright” hones in on the 50 Westcott House-related items that are available on Artstor.
Access through the Avery Website
The Avery’s finding aid for the architectural drawings collection provides a clear overview of the collection’s arrangement. Drawings are grouped chronologically by decade and then by project number, and a project list is available to download as an Excel spreadsheet from the collection Summary page. Within the finding aid itself, you can keyword search by project name or location across all of the decades by 1) clicking on ‘view all’ under the term Container List on the left hand side, and then 2) using the keys ‘CTRL+F’ (in either PC or Mac) to search, and adding your term in the search box. For instance, if you were interested in seeing all the Wright projects that include the term ‘rug’, a search brings up 6 hits for rug projects across the decades. Because the Avery finding aid does not include titles or description information for each individual drawing (it only tells you how many are in the collection), it’s not possible to search by specific description of each drawing – for instance, ‘dining room’ or ‘elevation’. However, the Artstor website does include item-level title information for each drawing, so it is possible to search in Artstor using these terms. From the Artstor collection page, enter your search term in the box and click ‘search within results’.
Using the Drawings for Research
Although these images were scanned from black and white photographs and are therefore not high resolution, much can still be learned from them. Were there changes to the layout or details of your building while it was being designed? Was furniture designed for it? Were alterations made during construction? Also, if you plan to go to Avery, reviewing the items relating to your building in advance can help you make the most of your visit.
Avery Library has made accessible, free of charge, images of thousands of Wright’s drawings of individual buildings.
It’s worth noting that the drawings in the Artstor library are not “as-built” drawings. Like any architect, it was not uncommon for Wright to make modifications to a building as the design process moved forward. For example, documents for the Elizabeth and Robert Llewellyn Wright House (1953) include drawings for the second floor with a concrete slab, as well as drawings showing the wood (with some steel) second floor frame that was ultimately constructed. It’s also worth keeping in mind that (usually) minor changes were sometimes made to a building during the construction phase. These changes may not be represented in archived documentation. Though these changes may necessitate additional sleuthing to understand the building as constructed, they are a fascinating window into the process of creating and executing a design.
Through this service, the Avery Library has provided an invaluable, convenient resource for Wright building stewards as well as all of us who study Wright’s work. For more information on the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archive at Avery, visit their collection page for listings of the other archival holdings.
Availability of High-Resolution Images
As we noted in our posting, “Accessing the Wright Archive at Columbia’s Avery Library,” if you need high-resolution (hi-res) images, you need to contact Avery Library Digital Imaging Services
Before contacting the Avery, it is worth checking if hi-res images have already been created. If a hi-res image has been created, the cost to you of an image file will be significantly less than for one where a new image needs to be made.
To determine if a hi-res image is already available, go to the right side of an individual drawings listing and look under “Item Details.” Near the bottom of that list, you will see a heading for “CLIO-URL.” If a hi-res image has been created, it will be noted below this entry, above the entry for “Rights.” If no image has been created, there will be no notation.
Here is what the relevant section of the Item Details will look like if no hi-res image has been created:
And here is what it looks like if a hi-res image has been created:
Posted on March 5, 2021
Updated on February 21,2022
Posted March 5, 2021