Photos of Historic North American Banks Donated to Avery Library

NEW YORK, March 10, 2005 - Parnassus Foundation has donated a complete set of its acclaimed photographs of historic North American bank buildings to Columbia University's Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library.

“This superb collection is not only visually stunning, but it also adds a significant new element to Avery’s vast range of research resources on North American civic architecture,” explained Gerald Beasley, Director of the Avery Library. “It is a key acquisition that allows us to rethink the potential of Avery’s photographic holdings.”

Conceived and initiated by Parnassus Foundation's Raphael Bernstein (Columbia University BS 1956, Engineering; MBA 1959), the commissions were undertaken in 1987 and 1988 by 11 distinguished American and Canadian photographers chosen for their creative abilities and the quality of their vision. Subjects range from the oldest surviving purpose-built bank in the United States (Bank of South Carolina, 1797) to postmodern skyscrapers (Cesar Pelli's Norwest Center, Minneapolis, 1988).

The photographers are preeminent in their field. Edward Burtynsky, for example, was recently in the news for receiving the first annual TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Prize, also presented to rock star Bono and medical technologies pioneer, Robert Fischell. Other photographers whose work is also included are: Robert Bourdeau, Marilyn Bridges, David Duchow, Serge Hambourg, James Iska, Len Jenshel, David Miller, John Pfahl, George Tice and Catherine Wagner.

The 225 photographs that resulted from the commission were the basis for a touring exhibition and accompanying book Money Matters: A Critical Look at Bank Architecture (McGraw-Hill). Only three complete sets of these photographs exist—the two other sets are held at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Parnassus Foundation was formed in December 1986 by Raphael and Jane Bernstein for purposes that include the encouragement of original creative work in the arts and humanities.

The Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library is one of the most outstanding and 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 archeology. The Library contains more than 400,000 volumes, including 35,000 rare books, and receives approximately 1,000 periodicals. Avery’s Drawings and Archives collection includes one million architectural drawings and records. The Library is home to the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, an operating program of the Getty Research Institute, which is the only comprehensive American guide to the current literature of architecture and design.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

03/10/05 JD