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