2017 Spring Library Fellows Project

Visualizing Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building

Description: Recently purchased for the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, the Reiman Collection contains more than 150 previously-unknown architectural drawings of the Woolworth Building by Cass Gilbert's office, including elevations, floorplans, mechanical drawings and details. These working drawings complement those in other public collections, notably at the New-York Historical Society and the Library of Congress.

When it opened in 1913, the 60-story (792-foot) Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan offered the latest technological innovations in the tallest building in the world. Gilbert modeled his design on medieval guild halls and London's Houses of Parliament creating a headquarters for F.W. Woolworth Company's chain of 5-and-10-cent stores. Gilbert included the most up-to-date technologies: direct elevator access to two subway lines, wind bracing, electrical power generation, heating, and cooling. The Woolworth Building changed New York's skyline and fascinated the general public and modern artists-like John Marin-who saw it as the dynamism of contemporary urban life embodied.

The Fellow will employ Scalar to develop a new multi-media study of architecture for students and researchers beyond Vanderbilt. With this platform, the Fellow will assemble resources contextualizing the Woolworth Building architectural plans recently acquired by the Fine Arts Gallery.  Currently, there is no one place where students and researchers can compare drawings for the Woolworth Building as the drawings are held by several repositories. The Fellow will incorporate descriptions and photographs of the building, as well as film footage of it taken over time. In Scalar, the user can be pointed to resources in various repositories and consult a variety of related representations easily. Scalar, an open-source platform, encourages the unique aspects of digital writing like nested, recursive, and non-linear formats and supports collaborative authorship and reader commentary, making it a unique publishing tool. Each project has a stand-alone URL, so materials will be accessible online, through the VRC LibGuide and the FAG website and database. The project will also be posted to the Society of Architectural Historian's online, public encyclopedia of American architecture: SAHArchipedia.

Duties:

The Fellow will create a Scalar book involving a select number of the over 150 previously-unknown plans of the Woolworth Building in the UFAG collection, including images, metadata, and materials from other collections.  Travel to other collections will be supported by a Downing Fellowship travel grant from the History of Art department.  The Fellow will produce: simple scalar pages for each drawing and 2-3 fully-detailed, examples that link to the UFAG collections database object records, other collection’s drawings, and other media and materials from the 2013 Centennial celebrations of the Woolworth building.

Skills Needed:

  • Strong critical thinking, visual analysis, and communications skills
  • Interest in architectural history, history of engineering, American history
  • Interest in exhibitions and digital humanities
  • Demonstrated historical research ability

Skills, or To Be Developed:

  • Project management skills
  • Scalar/database development skills
  • Web design
  • Graphic design
  • Assessment skills
  • Writing for the web and for exhibits

Mentors: 

Kevin D. Murphy, Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities and Professor and Chair, History of Art
Mary Anne Caton, Library Programs and Exhibits

Team:

Millicent Fullmer, Director of Visual Resources
William Sealy, Associate Application Developer, Visual Resources
Joseph Mella, Director, Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery
Margaret Walker, Art Curator Assistant, Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery
Gail Fenske, Professor of Art History, Roger Williams University
Prof. Lisa Reilly, School of Architecture, University of Virginia

Dates of Employment: spring 2017 semester

Contact:
Kevin Murphy, Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities and Professor and Chair, History of Art

Please follow the Application Process to apply for this fellowship. Applications will be accepted through October 21, 2016.

See other Spring 2017 fellowship opportunities

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