Building Technology Heritage Library reaches 10,000 documents milestone

07 May 2019 6:01 AM | Christine R Henry

On March 1, 2019 the 10,000th document was added to the APT Building Technology Heritage Library, a free on-line archive of period architectural trade catalogs, house plans books, and technical building literature. The Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL) is a project of the Association for Preservation Technology (APT) and is hosted by the Internet Archive. The 10,000th document was a 1904 tile, and terra cotta, and fireplace catalog from a French Company: -- Emile Muller & Cie.  This document is from the collection of Prof. Miles Lewis of Melbourne Australia, the latest of several private libraries that have been added to this increasingly international archive.  Mike Jackson, the co-chair of this project said “This product catalog is a perfect example of the wonderful resources APT is making available to the public.  It is a beautifully illustrated and comprehensive overview of ceramic tile and architectural terra cotta available in turn-of-the-century France.  This is also a rare document that could only be found in a couple of research libraries and is now available to everyone.”

Why is this being done?

The Association for Preservation Technology recognized the value of period trade catalogs and other technical publications as a primary research tool for its members. There were only a few institutional collections of these materials, which made them difficult to access. APT saw great benefit to a comprehensive online digital archive to serve a broad audience of preservation practitioners, advocates, historians and students.  These materials are in the pubic domain and made available to the public at no charge. The scope of the collection ends in 1963 as materials after this date are still under copyright protection.

Where do these materials come from?

These documents come from various library, museum and private collections.The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) was the first major contributor. As the first partner in the BTHL, the CCA has shown noteworthy leadership in architectural and preservation education.  Two other major institutional libraries that have partnered with APT are the Southeast Architectural Archive at Tulane University and the Avery Library at Columbia University. The BTHL has also digitized numerous documents from private collectors. Two examples include the paint catalogs from the collection of conservator Mary Jablonski Building Conservation and the house plan catalogs from the collection of Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Officer James Draeger.

How are these materials being used?

“The Building Technology Heritage Library’s collection of scanned trade catalogs is an invaluable resource for researchers and practitioners alike.  It is the go-to source for primary resource material related to building technology.  APT was wise to invest the time into creating this valuable collection and we are grateful to our initial stakeholders: the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Historic Preservation Education Foundation, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.”

Anne Sullivan, School of the Art Institute, Chicago

A few comments from our users:

Subject: Pyrobar rehab

“This library is an invaluable resource. Working on a seven story 1923 building in West Virginia I was asked by the architect what this material was surrounding the elevator shaft. I told him it was Pyrobar and provided the US Gypsum Catalog scan showing that it had a two-hour rating. He used this as documentation for the fire marshal. It saved the project the cost of removal of the material and constructing a modern two-hour fire rated drywall wall. They were appreciative to say the least.”

Subject: Serendipity! 

“I was reviewing a terra cotta question with someone in the office, so of course turned to the BTHL. In scrolling through quickly to find a good example to illustrate our conversation, I happened to see a photo of another terra cotta building that we were working on at the time! This serendipity was so lovely, and of course, so helpful!”

Subject: Great Source! 

“I love the early examples of glass block found in this catalogue, it really paints the picture of the material originally being thought of as glass brick. Thanks for putting it online!”

About the Association for Preservation Technology (APT)

APT is a professional membership organization with more than 1,500 members in 30 countries. This project was not begun by a library or archive, but by a professional association whose members are major users of historic architectural trade literature.  The work of practicing preservation professionals often starts with an investigation of historic records.  Records of existing buildings and places are maintained in many locations, but technical documents describing building products and assemblies that are the substance of architectural trade catalogs are not widely distributed. The Association for Preservation Technology was in the forefront of recognizing the value of these materials, and even reprinted a few catalogs of these in book form and in early issues of the APT’s journal, The Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology.  Only a few major trade catalog collections exist in contemporary architectural libraries. This initiative by APT will has created an on-line archive of these historic technical documents, which will make has made them useful to the widest audience.

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