Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Database Management | Consulitng

Documan Consultitng offers database management services which addresses the needs of archivists and librarians that do not primarily collect architectural records, but who need to know how to arrange, describe, house, store, and provide access to one or several collections of architectural records under their care. In addition to project office files, architectural collections contain a variety of oversized drawings-and possibly even scale models-that document the stages of a project from initial sketches through final as-built drawings. Because of the vagaries of architectural office record-keeping practices, what is transferred to an archival repository may include all documentation for a project, or only the drawings. Whether the collections are historical or contemporary, archivists need to know what to expect to find in a collection, how to identify the records, what is important to keep, and how to preserve the records through proper storage and handling. Contemporary architectural offices increasingly generate electronic records, in the form of CAD (computer-assisted design systems). Although a discussion of CAD is included here, the arrangement, description, and preservation of historical paper documents is the primary focus of this leaflet. Architectural records serve different functions depending upon the repository. Museums house them as artistic expressions, historical societies collect them to document the local built environment, institutional archives retain them as building records, and government archives preserve them for their regulatory history. Regardless of their final uses, architectural records present particular needs for care and handling. These documents share four characteristics: physical fragility, unwieldy scale, massive bulk, and, for twentieth century records, electronic fluidity. Drawings created before 1920 rarely present problems of volume or duplication. After World War 11, however, the exponential growth of construction, mass reproduction capabilities, and increasing need to retain documents for liability and regulatory requirements fostered an explosion of architectural records that requires a carefully thought-out documentation strategy. Beginning in the 1960s, architectural firms gradually replaced paper with computer files. Beginning with e-mail and word processing for textual files, architects added digital images, digital drawing files, and three-dimensional models created on computer-assisted systems during the 1980s. The computer programs allowed them to eliminate many traditional working and shop drawings. With the digital model as the definitive record of the design, the architect rarely retains the interim plots and printouts. Backup and file storage present problems for archivists because of the changing nature of the medium (e.g., floppy disks, tapes, hard drives), the software required to read them, and the requisite hardware to run them.


When advances in construction techniques increased the height of commercial buildings, large architectural firms began compartmentalizing their offices into a hierarchical division of labor to organize the design and construction of major projects. Out of this reorganization evolved a process for planning a building and the resultant types of drawings that archivists must now recognize, identify, appraise, dispose of, arrange, and describe. Understanding the chronological and physical process of creating the drawings helps appraisers make crucial decisions concerning retention and disposal. When writing a collection development policy for architectural records, consider the purpose for your collection: Documenting an individual's career, Chronicling the history of an architectural firm, Providing information about a specific building or group of buildings, and Representing examples of architectural styles. When considering retention of architectural records, archivists must ask themselves the question: is every scrap of paper containing a drawing or sketch, or every set of blueprints necessary to keep? The answer is not necessarily. The nature and scope of the collection, as well as the uniqueness of your copies, affect retention decisions. You do not need to keep copies when another repository has the original. Likewise, you can discard extra exact duplicate copies, as well as the diazo print if you have the original of the same image. The older the drawings, the more likely you will want to keep everything to document the creative process of designing the structure. More contemporary drawings, and the plethora of reproduction methods and "actors on the stage" involved in bringing structures to life, require appraisal of the collection for documentation purposes. Factor your collection development policy into your decision-making.


How do you determine what you have? Understanding the purpose of a drawing helps clarify the process by which it was created. The chronological development (or design phases) of a project begins with preliminary (conceptual), and proceeds through development (design), presentation, and working (mechanical, structural, and supplemental-shop or change orders), to record (as-built). In the Art 6; Architecture Tlzesaurus (AAT)~ hierarchy, the visual materials section (VC) covers visual works by medium or technique, drawings by method of 'representation, building plans, drawings by function, drawings by technique, and drawings by subject type. Appropriate terms are included within each level, and the alphabetical listing provides a succinct, yet descriptive, definition of each term. By combining the AAT terminology with identification of process in At-chitectural ~lzotore~roductions,~ you should be able to identify what the document is, determine where it fits in the continuum, and decide if it should be retained. In the preliminary design phase, architects often make spontaneous sketches on unusual media, such as envelopes, stationery, and even napkins. Since this marks the beginning of the process of conceptualization, it is imperative for archivists to recognize this stage of inspiration for its creative importance. Spontaneous sketches are not extraneous doodles. Determining the type of paper used can help date a drawing. The presence of a watermark, color, perforated edges, or imprinted stationery also can assist the dating process. Do note that not all drawings lead to construction. Conceptual drawings include student works, design contests, travel sketches for reference, and polemical drawings used to explain a premise in opposition to current trends. Architects usually sketch their development drawings on tracing paper in order to build on, refine, and delete ideas. Architects use presentation drawings, created by company or independent delineators, to convince a client to approve a project. These beautifully executed drawings, which are often tinted with watercolors, can take the form of plans, elevations, or perspectives that include human figures, nearby buildings, and landscaping. Since the 1970s, large firms have produced computer-generated presentation drawings with an axonometric view that simultaneously shows the plan, section, and interior spaces of a building. Working drawings represent an architect's final plans for a building, moving away from the artistic conception to focus on the functional construction requirements in the form of plans, sections, elevations, and detailing. Notations, symbols, and a legend to explain dimensions and requisite materials are included in the working drawings. Since the early nineteenth century, original drawings have been reproduced on paper, then linen, and now Mylar. Copying the ink on paper drawings required tracing each line with a spiked wheel. A bag of colored chalk was used to transfer the image onto a sheet of paper beneath the original. From the 1880s and into the late twentieth century, architects prepared original working drawings on sturdy linen. Most architects began working on Mylar in the 1990s. Linen and Mylar originals are reproduced photomechanically as blueprints.

The current drawing sequence is Architectural, Structural, Mechanical, Plumbing, and Electrical Drawings. Corresponding letters (A, S, M, P, E) are used as prefixes with a prescribed order for the drawings within. Prior to this systematized structure, architects grouped general tracings (floor plans, elevations, and structural and ornamental details), and consecutively numbered each sheet. They skipped several numbers and resumed the sequence with framing drawings, and then continued the pattern of skipping numbers between plumbing, mechanicals, and electricals. Record drawings, which also are called as-built drawings, of a completed project often resemble presentation drawings. Since the late nineteenth century, architects frequently photographed completed projects, and published the photographs in architectural journals.


Archivists who arrange collections of architectural drawings generally rely upon the same principles used for arranging manuscript and archival collections, with some distinct differences. Describe the collection by project or subject to the series and sub-series levels. Consistency in descriptive terminology prevents ambiguity and fosters accurate retrieval of information. Terminology control consists of three components: vocabulary, format, and authority. Vocabulary control regularizes the selection of terms to describe objects using generic concepts (perspective drawing, landscape, church). Format control standardizes ordering, syntax, and punctuation (McKim, Mead & White instead of McKim Mead and White). Authority control standardizes the proper names of people and corporate bodies, subjects and built works, and geographic locations. Select vocabulary control terms from a standard thesaurus relevant to the subject. A catalog description must address both intrinsic and extrinsic attributes of architectural drawings. Intrinsic attributes constitute the physical makeup of the document, including its method of representation (e.g., elevation drawing), medium and technique (e.g., ink on Mylar), and the presence of scale and/or a legend. Extrinsic attributes include the name of the person who made the drawing, corporate entity responsible for commissioning the project, subject of the drawing (church, detail of window, etc.), building name, and geographic location of the building. Catalog the subject as it is depicted, and not the actual built work. For instance, the Theater Building drawings may become the Longstreet Theater. Be sure to recognize the difference and add the appropriate subject headings. An electronic database designed to describe architectural drawings uses terminology control elements in prescribed fields to ease retrieval of specific documents. One advantage of a database is the ability to conduct Boolean searches of several keywords, dates, and concept. Using Encoded Archival Description (EAD) to describe an architectural collection provides a standardized structure for describing the components, whether at the series or item level. EAD encompasses and expands the descriptive elements of a more detailed descriptions of a finding aid.


Unlike most of the usual textual documents in archival collections, architectural drawings present special needs for storage and conservation treatment.  Protect architectural drawings from ultraviolet light exposure caused by both artificial light and sunlight. When not in use, turn drawings that may fade or discolor in light face down. Do not use cotton gloves when handling architectural drawings; they will impede ability to select and turn sheets of paper. Use an archival board cut larger than the item as a support when moving fragile drawings. Remove an entire folder from a drawer or box before attempting to retrieve a particular drawing. If the required folder is not stored on top in a drawer, remove all of the folders above that folder. Grasp the fold side of large folders with one hand, and the open side with your other hand to keep drawings from falling out of the folder. Since metal flat files, paper, and Mylar are heavy, when deciding where to place stacks of map drawers in a particular storage area, make sure the flooring is adequate for the weight-bearing load of architectural records. In addition, be sure to place the maps drawers in a storage area where you can fully open the drawers to remove folders. Architectural drawings are not as easily reformatted as other paper documents. The type of reprographic process, of which there are many, will determine the appropriate reformatting technique. You must thoroughly plan how to reproduce certain images. If you are considering scanning to create a digital copy, will the document fit on the scanner? If you want to photograph the image, will it fit on the copy stand? You might have to photograph or scan sections of large drawings, and reassemble them with a program like Photoshop. Limit the number of times you expose a document to any reformatting process. It is better to create one high-quality master image from which you can create derivative copies, rather than subject the document to repeated copying in different formats and resolutions. Since diazotypes fade easily (and off-gas alkaline vapors that are harmful to blueprints, and retain sulfur that damages silverbased prints), reformat them onto a stable archival medium before the intellectual content disappears then destroy the originals. Consider reformatting samples of pre-1930 deteriorating original drawings for informational access, while retaining the originals for their artifactual value. Write a strategic plan that identifies and lists all drawings which require conservation. Include a plan of action, budget, and timeline in your strategic plan, which will help shape reformatting priorities.

For preservation: Since microfilm continues to be the standard for archival preservation, use the microfilm as the master image from which to scan a digital copy. For reference: Drawings copied for researchers do not need to meet preservation standards. 105 mm microfiche provides excellent resolution, fits large images in one frame, and can reproduce in color. For publication: A higher-quality photograph or scanned image (at least 300 dpi) is required for reproduction in a book, journal, or exhibit.