Avery Library Receives CLIR Hidden Collections Grant for American View Books
NEW YORK, February 21, 2013 –

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is pleased to announce the receipt of a CLIR Hidden Collections grant to support cataloging of the unique and extensive collection of American View Books in the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library.


American View Book: Historic Yorktown Virginia Historic Yorktown Virginia. (Yorktown: J.S. DeNeufville, 19--)

Avery’s American View Books Collection provides pictorial documentation of cities and towns throughout the United States. The collection is comprised of 4,800 items published in a variety of formats, including printed books, photographic albums, and novelties. Together, these items present an evolving illustrated history of the American-built environment from the mid-nineteenth century to the twentieth century.

“The view books present a sweeping view of the changing American landscape. The images chart the growth of rural areas into towns and cities, the advance of the railroads across the country, and the rising popularity of county fairs and national expositions,” said Carole Ann Fabian, Director of the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library. “The primary achievement of the view book is the documentation of architecture and urbanism in an expanding American landscape.”

Hundreds of thousands of images of buildings, streetscapes, monuments, and parklands from every state provide historical snapshots of the evolution of the nation. In addition, accompanying detailed texts describe the growth of local industries, the construction of major buildings, the development of transportation networks, and the characteristics of regional architectural styles. Many of the buildings pictured are shown from different points of view or before and after alterations.

"The type of publication that will be cataloged under this grant is of immense interest to all those who study American architecture, urban history, and cultural history and for those who work in historic preservation and planning,” said David Brownlee, Frances Shapiro-Weitzenhoffer Professor and Chair of the Graduate Group for Art History & Archive at the University of Pennsylvania.  “We are on the verge of being able to recreate and tell the stories of our cities with unprecedented detail and accuracy."

The $75,500 grant will support a major bibliographic goal: to define and produce a highly descriptive cataloging template for this document type that includes not only standardized format and subject headings, but also significant geographical data within the MARC format. This mix of topics, named persons, dates, and locations will provide multiple levels of access to users across a broad range of educational and experiential levels. 

Geographic descriptors within the view books include the region, state, city, and local locations such as street addresses and building names. Embedding these geographic descriptors within structured independent fields or subheading indicators in MARC records allows geo-coding data to be generated and harvested. That data can then be packaged for discovery within a mapping interface.

"The viewbooks are an invaluable resource for the study of American vernacular architecture, and they also provide a mini-history of photography, said Carolyn Yorke Yerkes, Curator of Avery Classics at the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library.  “Albumen prints, chromolithographs, photogravures, engravings--you can find all of these in the viewbooks. Cataloging this material will make available to scholars a wealth of previously unknown information."

Often intended as souvenir books for tourists, view books were produced by local organizations such as Chambers of Commerce to create visual keepsakes of cities, towns, parks, and rural communities and include examples of every form of structure: houses, churches, factories, storefronts, bridges, tunnels.

The Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library is one of the most comprehensive collections relating to architecture and the fine arts in the world. Avery collects a full range of primary and secondary sources for the advanced study of architecture, historic preservation, art history, decorative arts, city planning, real estate, and archaeology. The Library contains more than 600,000 volumes, including 40,000 rare books, and approximately 2,300 serials. Avery’s Drawings and Archives collection includes more than 2 million architectural drawings and records. For more information, please visit the Avery website.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 11 million volumes, over 150,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 500 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.

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AM 2-21-13