North Carolina Architects & Builders: A Biographical Dictionary
The Paul E. Buchanan Award was instituted by the VAF in 1993 to recognize contributions to the study and preservation of vernacular architecture and the cultural landscape that do not take the form of books or published work. Buchanan, who served for over thirty years as the Director of Architectural Research at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, set the standard for architectural fieldwork in America and inspired many VAF members in the rewards of fieldwork.
The 2010 award went to the innovative online site North Carolina Architects & Builders: A Biographical Dictionary. This resource covers a large and ever-growing group of architects, builders, craftsman, artisans, and related individuals who planned and constructed buildings in the state. Originally conceived as a book in the late 1970s, thirty years later the project has materialized as a Web-based digital publication especially well-suited to the material: easy to use, expertly researched, database-driven and expandable.
North Carolina Architects & Builders features a broad array of buildings and people that contributed to the North Carolina landscape, centrally including the vernacular. The award committee found the project remarkable for the accessibility of information and the thoroughness of research on each subject. "The bibliography is impressive," said one committee member, "much more than you see with many architectural database sites; it's clearly academic in its research, yet accessible for all who are interested in learning more about this region."
As a biographical dictionary, the site focuses on the human side of architecture undefined, the people who created places undefined rather than on just the buildings themselves. It connects the history of individual designers and builder to place, imparting a broader historical context of the built environment. In addition to this content richness, the site provides the means to search or browse its contents in a variety of ways, including name, work location, site location, date, building trade, or building type. All buildings in the dictionary are associated with the builder, architect, or craftsman who built them, and connections between buildings and people are easily seen so that further explorations can be made.
The web site was spearheaded by Catherine Bishir, Editor-in-Chief and Curator of the Architecture Special Collections at North Carolina State University Libraries, along with Markus Wust, who served as Project Manager, and Joseph Ryan, the Technical Project Manager. Other project team members included Jason Casden (Lead Developer), Brian Dietz (Image Management), Babi Hammond (Content Editor), Cory Lown (Developer), Jason Ronallo (Technical Product Manager), Shelby Shanks (Project Team), and Tito Sierra (Project Consultant). The site officially launched on June 24, 2009.
The North Carolina Architects & Builders Web site makes easily accessible hundreds of people whose direct links to places might otherwise be lost to history. While only a small proportion of individuals have been undefined or may ever be undefined/identified or linked with specific buildings, the project intends to add content as research continues. This reference tool will never be "complete" or include "everybody" or "everything;" yet as one contributor has commented, "It brings so many of these people into the light of history for the first time."