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Albert Kahn Associates records, 1825-2014 (majority within 1900-1945)

166 linear feet (in 180 boxes; textual materials, photographs, and audiovisual materials) — 90 portfolios (photographs) — 22 scrapbooks (sample architectural materials) — 131 oversize volumes (books) — 12,731 drawings (in 45 drawers and 114 tubes; architectural drawings) — 111 MB (online)

Albert Kahn was a Detroit-based architect, active from 1896 to 1942. He founded the firm, Albert Kahn Associated Architects & Engineers, which is today known as Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. He was best known for his industrial design work, including the Ford Motor Company's Highland Park and River Rouge plants; numerous commercial buildings in Detroit such as the Fisher Building, Detroit Athletic Club, and General Motors Building; and much of the University of Michigan's Central Campus, including Angell Hall, the Clements Library, and Hill Auditorium, as well as the Willow Run Bomber Plant near Ann Arbor, Michigan. After Kahn's death in 1942, his architectural firm, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., has continued to be a worldwide leader in the design of factory buildings that enhance the manufacturing process. The Albert Kahn Associates records are composed of materials produced by Albert Kahn the architect, as well as materials produced by his firm, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., and include correspondence, company files, photographs, published materials, and architectural drawings.

The Albert Kahn Associates records offer researchers the opportunity to study the correspondence, transcripts of speeches, photographs, and architectural drawings of the preeminent, American, industrial architect, Albert Kahn, and his firm, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. On March 21, 2003 (the 134th anniversary of Albert Kahn's birthday), Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. (AKA) donated this collection to the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan to ensure the conservation and accessibility of these records. Through this gift, AKA has shown its commitment to preserving the legacy of Kahn, whose factories on five continents influenced the development of industrial architecture and whose commercial, residential and institutional buildings define the character of Detroit and the University of Michigan today. The collection encompasses 166 linear feet (in 180 boxes) of correspondence, transcripts of speeches, newspaper and journal articles, company files, audiovisual materials, photographs and slides, as well as 90 leather portfolios containing photographs of completed buildings, 22 albums of sample architectural materials, 131 books, and 12,731 architectural drawings in 45 flat-file drawers and 114 oversize tubes.

The narrative and visual materials in the collection illuminate the breadth of Kahn's career and highlight the work of his architectural firm, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., which continued to develop projects after his death, and remains a living institution. In pairing the textual materials with the photographs and architectural drawings associated with Kahn's projects, this collection offers a rich perspective on the master architect himself, illuminating his personal views on his own architecture and its place in a changing and often tumultuous world.


Arthur W. Haydon diaries, 1865-1879, 1888-1915

1.5 linear feet (34 volumes and 1 folder)

Student at the University of Michigan, 1865-1867, later Decatur, Michigan, sheep breeder. Diaries describing student life at the University of Michigan, 1865-1867; later diaries include brief comments on weather and mundane daily events and activities; and photographs.

The Arthur W. Haydon collection consists almost exclusively of diaries kept by Arthur from 1865 to 1878 and 1888 to 1915. The diaries are simply collections of Arthur's thoughts. The earliest entries are more fulsome than those for his later life.

Of particular interest are the two volumes, 1865-1866 and 1866-1878. The first of these was written while Arthur was away at school in Ann Arbor. He attended the University of Michigan for two years, 1865/66 and 1866/67. The entries show Arthur's love of school. Not only does he describe his days with great detail and emotion, but the style in which they are written reveals a young man who truly enjoys life. There are no diaries for the years 1879-1887. After 1878 there is a volume for each. The prose becomes much simpler. Haydon describes the weather for the day, the chores he performed, and the everyday events of his life, Only occasionally are the diary entries for these years revealing of Haydon's thoughts and emotions.

In addition to the diaries there is a folder containing miscellaneous newspaper clippings he saved about events important to him as well as a few family mementos. The photographs are of his house and farm buildings.


Gunnar Birkerts and Associates records, 1960-2014

87 linear feet — 10000 drawings

Architectural firm founded by Gunnar Birkerts, headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Textual records, architectural and engineering drawings and photographs document fourteen of the firm's major buildings including the Federal Reserve Building (Minneapolis, MN), Corning Glass Museum (Corning, NY) and the University of Michigan Law School Library Addition.

The Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection offers researchers a rich perspective on the work of one of the masters of American modern architecture whose career spans the second half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. The initial accessions of Birkert's material encompassed 69 linear feet of the firm's textual records, which are associated with 14 of Birkerts' distinguished buildings, and 7158 original drawings and prints documenting the evolution of the architectural design process for each project. In 2008, the records and drawings of 74 more projects were included in the collection, bringing the total amount of textual material to 82 linear feet and the number of drawings to over 10,000. Altogether, these visual materials detail many of the expressive elements for which Birkerts' architecture is renowned, including his bold forms, simplification of detail, innovative selection of surface materials and dramatic use of indirect light. Although six of the buildings in the original collection of 14 projects are located in Michigan, along with the offices of the firm, nine other structures were built in New York, Indiana, Mississippi and Minnesota, testimony to the national scope of this architectural practice. The following buildings were selected for inclusion in the collection by Birkerts and Bentley Historical Library staff because they represent the significance, diversity and evolution of the architect's work:

  1. Haley Funeral Home (1960-1961)
  2. University Reformed Church (1960-1964)
  3. Freeman Residence (1964-1966)
  4. Lincoln Elementary School (1965-1967)
  5. Tougaloo College Master Plan, Library and Dormitories (1965-1972)
  6. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (1967-1973)
  7. Duluth Public Library (1969-1980)
  8. S.U.N.Y., Purchase, Dance Instructional Facility (1970-1976)
  9. Corning Municipal Fire Station (1973-1974)
  10. Calvary Baptist Church (1974-1977)
  11. University of Michigan Law Library Addition (1974-1981)
  12. Corning Museum of Glass (1976-1980)
  13. Ferguson Residence (1980-1983)
  14. St. Peter's Lutheran church (1981-1988)
  15. Additional Projects (added in 2008)

The initial accessions Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection are arranged in 14 series, each of which contains the business records and architectural drawings for one building. The finding aid begins with a description of the narrative records in chronological order in each series. An item-level description of the architectural and engineering drawings follows, grouping drawings in folders according to design phases, as described above. The finding aid lists the titles of drawings, when they exist, as well as title bar information including original dates, revision dates, numeric sequencing and, in some cases, names of consulting engineers. A description of the medium and support of each drawing is also given.

The 2008 accession to the collection includes of documentation of 74 additional projects consisting of 3,000 drawings and 13 linear feet of textual materials and photographs. The documentation for these projects is generally not as extensive as for the fourteen in the original accessions and the finding aid does not describe them in as great detail. They have been grouped together as single series titled "Other Projects" and the individual projects are listed in alphabetical order by project title

One of the collection's greatest strengths is found in its emphasis on the architectural design process, offering researchers a broad, visual representation of the evolution of each building through the "Schematic Design," "Design Development" and "Construction Document" sequences. Because Gunnar Birkerts and Associates meticulously saved each drawing associated with the firm's projects, this collection provides an exceptional view of the daily design process, as solutions were sought which defined the architectural character and individuality of a structure. Each of the 14 buildings in the Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection is conceived as an individual series, which contains the textual and visual documents associated with the project. Within each of the 14 series, the architectural and engineering drawings are arranged chronologically by design phase, beginning with "Schematic Design," when the owner's program is analyzed and sketches are drawn to illustrate the scale and relationship of the project's components. Researchers interested in viewing the earliest conceptual drawings associated with each building are encouraged to consult the finding aid of the collateral Gunnar Birkerts Collection, which amasses the sketches by the architect's own hand for most of his projects. Digital images of 284 of these conceptual sketches can be seen online in the Bentley Historical Library Image Bank through Gunnar Birkerts, Conceptual Drawings. An understanding of the beginning stage of design for each building is best obtained by studying the conceptual and "Schematic Design" documents in both the Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection and the Gunnar Birkerts Collection.

The second "Design Development" stage in each building series includes more precise site plans, floor plans, elevations and sections which further define the dimensions, mechanical/electrical systems, building materials and architectural character of the project. This phase often ends with the production of artistic presentation drawings which are used to obtain the client's approval of the design. Although the collection contains a large majority of original sketches and drawings on tracing paper, vellum, linen and mylar, many blue-line and sepia prints have been retained in each series if they are substitutes for missing originals or if they are annotated and thus show the ongoing search for solutions in the evolution of the design process.

Each series in the collection also records the third "Construction Document" phase, during which the final working drawings are developed before being sent to contractors for bids. These drawings are the graphic representation of the written "Specifications," included in the textual records of every series. The "Construction Documents" for each building, which were often revised to show changes after construction began, may be of significant value to historic preservationists or future owners seeking to restore the building to its original condition or adapt it to a new use.

The Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection is also significant in its pairing of the visual documentation described above with the textual records of each building, which describe the decisions and actions of the firm during the design and construction process. Thus, scholars can read the program information, specifications, addenda and memoranda associated with the architectural drawings during each chronological stage of the building's design. Written contracts, correspondence, transmittals and field inspection reports further inform historians about the relationship between the firm and its clients, contractors, consulting engineers, landscape architects and sub-contractors, documenting in rich detail the business affairs of a nationally known architectural firm in the second half of the twentieth century. Of particular value within the narrative records of each building series is the "Architect's Conceptual Statement". These statements offer design and history students an opportunity to understand the interchange of objective and subjective influences on Mr. Birkerts' creative process and the solutions which define the architectural character of each building.

The Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection is also of exceptional value to scholars because it represents the end of the era of hand-drawn architectural documents. By the end of the twentieth century, many architects have begun to use the computer in the development of design and construction drawings. However, this collection of the original 14 buildings contains only drawings which show the flow of the creative process from the brain, through the hand, to the paper. Even drawings which are marked "void" are retained because, like annotated prints, they show the evolution of the design as the search for architectural solutions begins to define the building. Whereas the use of computer-aided design would undoubtedly delete many intermediary design drawings from a collection, this aggregation of hand-drawn documents shows the artistry and complexity of the creative process. The beauty of the architect's pencil line on delicate tracing paper, smooth vellum and opaque mylar is preserved here for future generations of scholars, just as its use in the late 1990s is being abandoned by many architects.

In 2015, Gunnar Birkerts donated a large collection of 7,840 color 35 mm slides, associated with the design and construction of 123 projects, documenting through photographs the work of his entire career. This additional collection is encompassed in the series titled, "Photographic Slides of Projects."


Herbert F. Baker Papers, 1904-1930

5 linear feet — 1 oversize volume

Republican state representative, 1907-1912, speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, 1911, state senator, 1919-1922, and official of the Farmers' National Council, the National Gleaner Federation, the Michigan State Grange and other farm and insurance organizations; includes correspondence, clippings, photographs and scrapbooks, concerning his political and business activities.

The collection spans the dates 1904-1926 and contains five linear feet of correspondence, clippings, photographs and scrapbooks concerning Baker's political and business activities.


Leonard W. Wells photograph collection, Circa 1906-1923 (majority within 1906-1910)

0.3 linear feet

Timekeeper for the construction of the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel. The collection is comprised of photographs and photographic postcards featuring pictures taken by Wells of the various stages of construction of the tunnel, which opened in 1910 and allowed for a more efficient method of transporting rail cars between Detroit and Windsor.

The Leonard W. Wells photograph collection consists primarily of photographs of various sizes, separated into four series: Approach to Tunnel; Construction Sites and Workers; River Construction; and Other Photographs. These divisions are meant to indicate the content of scenes found in the collection. The collection also contains photographic postcards, all of which are located in the Construction Sites and Workers series or the Other Photographs series. Most of the images depict various views along the railway path, stages of the tunnel's construction, or groups of construction workers. One photograph features the first sinking of a tunnel tube section on October 1, 1907. Although the majority of images show the construction of the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel, the locations found in other images may be outside of Detroit or Windsor. The Biographical series contains additional information about the life of Leonard W. Wells.


S. Vern Taylor papers, 1833, circa 1860-1914

1 linear foot — 1 oversize folder — 1 oversize volume

Graduate of the College of Engineering of the University of Michigan in the class of 1911, later Detroit businessman. Papers and photographs relating to student life and activities.

The collection consists of programs and newspaper clippings largely concerning student life at the University of Michigan. The photographs are portraits and snapshots of Taylor, family members and friends; photographs of the construction of Barton Dam in Ann Arbor, Michigan; photographs of University of Michigan student surveying projects; and photographs of University of Michigan students, groups, and activities. In addition, there is an arithmetic notebook, 1833, of H. Green, student at the Detroit Academy. This item was probably collected by Taylor or perhaps in the possession of a family member.