Project History

Spanish Missions in Texas and Mexico represents the latest iteration of an online exhibition that originated in 1999 as the Alexander Architectural Archives’ first digitization project.

During the late 1990s, conservators and preservation professionals on campus were meeting to discuss imaging issues as they related to various formats, access and system maintenance. Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa, Digital Programs Manager at the General Libraries began working with digital imaging systems specialist John Stokes, of JJT Inc. to conduct digitization testing. This is what prompted the Missions digitization project.

The Alexander was exploring ways to respond to increasingly high demand for missions related documentation found throughout the repository. This was coupled with a desire to collaborate with the profession and contribute to ongoing restoration efforts many miles away. As a first foray into digitization, archival work processes had to shift to item level management, description, conservation treatment, and intellectual property rights. Architectural drawings also contributed to the format testing conducted by Stokes. After selection was completed, a manifest was developed using a FilemakerPro database with unique identifiers serving as future file names. In the summer of 1999, Renee deVille, a graduate student in the Preservation and Conservation Studies Program at the School of Information, conducted condition assessments that resulted in minor treatments and annotated reports. Concurrently, great efforts afforded additional guidelines for architectural metadata and description, resulting in 262 scans with associated metadata (248 drawings, 14 photographic prints). Without a digital asset management system or infrastructure for public access, staff provided large image files through the mail on digital optical discs.

It wasn’t until 2004 that campus developed UTOPIA, an ambitious initiative designed to provide a platform to curated digitized collection content. An early contributor, the Alexander submitted the site Spanish Colonial Architecture: as represented in the Alexander Architectural Archive. Subsequently, an Architecture portal was established and a suite of other curated sites were added including: Blakes Choice, and Texas Architecture: a visual history. When UTOPIA was dissolved in 2007, these websites were transferred to the Architecture & Planning Library’s webpage where they were maintained until the University of Texas Libraries refreshed its website in 2019. The new site offers a consolidation of online exhibitions across all University of Texas Libraries’ collections using open-source technology. In 2020, efforts began to migrate the architecture exhibitions to the new Spotlight platform. This site was authored in the spring of 2021 under the care and curation of Alison Brislin.

This online exhibition was generously funded in part by the Blake Alexander Architectural Library Endowment and The Young Boozer Family Foundation.

-written by Beth Dodd, May 7, 2021