Society of Architectural Historians 2021 Annual International Conference April 14–18 in Montréal, Canada

Architectural practice has evolved to encompass a wide range of practices and approaches, from photography to theoretical exploration. At the same time practitioners are increasingly reliant on technologies such as computer-aided design (CAD) or the techniques of data science. As a result, contemporary architectural archives contain a diverse range of materials and formats, both physical and digital. As both the nature of such archives and archival practice has changed, has the practice of architectural history changed in response? Are architectural historians prepared to confront either the diversity and scale of the materials and formats that comprise architecture and design archives, or the changed nature of archival access in the digital era?

Answering such questions requires collaboration across stakeholders, a group that includes designers, archivists, historians, and technologists. To identify opportunities for such collaboration, this session will explore how changes in archives are influencing the production of architectural history. How is the materiality of archives changing? How can or should digital objects operate as evidence on which to base historical narrative and/or argumentation? Are there specific strategies that might be necessary for conducting research in an archive that might contain tens of thousands of drawings or a preponderance of digital materials? What about the choices archivists make about what to digitize, which can make particular practitioners or collections more or less visible?

The goal of this session is to better understand the state of the field of archival research so as to articulate the particular difficulties associated with contemporary architecture and design archives, as well as new approaches researchers might employ in accessing such collections. We welcome papers that address a wide range of archive and practitioner types, across various geographic and historic contexts and from researchers who have worked in archives that presented unique challenges.

Session Chairs: Emily Pugh, Getty Research Institute, and Ann Baird Whiteside, Harvard University Graduate School of Design