Meet George Smart, a Modernism fan now obsessed with assembling the largest open digital archive of 20th century U.S. architecture magazines.

... “A Google search for ‘Modernist homes’ only came up with a few of the most iconic masterpieces, but that was about it,” recalled the now 57-year-old [George] Smart in a congenial Southern lilt. “That’s when I decided to build my own resource library—or what my wife describes as the beginning of an 11-year seizure.”

Although his father had been an architect, Smart hadn’t really thought much about architecture until then. Regardless, later that year, with no previous expertise or training in architecture or architectural history (or in web design, for that matter), he developed a website focused on Modernist homes in the Raleigh area. But his domain swiftly expanded as the site’s coverage went from local, to state-wide, to national. In 2009, Smart converted his projectUSModernist, into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to document, preserve, and promote modernist residential architecture. 

“We want to ensure that these livable works of art remain available to future generations,” Smart said.

In 2013, a Charlotte-based realtor offered to donate a large truckload of old magazines to Smart, sealing his fate as a serious curator. With help from volunteers, Smart started scanning publications using old sheet-feed scanners that he purchased on eBay until a sympathetic vendor agreed to take on those arduous tasks a few years later.

Today, Smart manages the largest open digital archive of major 20thcentury American architecture magazines. The registry features roughly 6,000 complete issues spanning dozens of titles, from well-known periodicals such as American Architect, Arts & Architecture, and Sears, Roebuck and Co., to industry-specific trade magazines. In all, there are some two-and-a-half million downloadable pages—roughly 750 gigabytes of content—dating as far back as the late 1800s.