Identifying Campus Buildings: A University Archives Project
This blog post is contributed by Kristen Blake, Class of 2020.
My name is Kristen Blake and I am a senior in the Biological Sciences BA program with minors in Anthropology and Zoology. I have been working as an Archival Assistant at the D.H. Hill Jr. Library since my first semester in August 2017. I have always loved libraries and museums and thought working at one would be a perfect fit for me. Turns out I was right, and I have gotten to do some very memorable projects with the Special Collections Research Center as a result. So far, my favorite is a campus building identification project I helped with during the 2019-2020 school year. It allowed me to utilize library resources as well as expand my knowledge of NC State University’s campus. It is so easy to overlook how beautiful a school is as a stressed-out student, but this project helped me really appreciate just how much care and unique thought goes into crafting the physical campus of NC State.
This project involved examining 16 mm photographic slides of the main and Centennial campuses that had been transferred from the Office of the University Architect to the University Archives. When the slides arrived at the library, most were not identified by building, and they came jumbled up in boxes. My job was to identify what building or location was in the image and organize the slides accordingly. The photos ranged in date from the 1960s to the early 2000s. I did not arrive on campus until 2017, so many of the images were of buildings and places that were before my time, but that just made the project an enjoyable challenge to solve. Using Special Collections’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, campus maps, Google Maps, asking questions, and my own on-campus student knowledge, I was able to identify the majority of the structures in the slides. I also realized just how similar some of the designs are from building to building. For instance, Polk Hall and 111 Lampe Drive (formerly Daniels Hall) are buildings that are identical from the outside. The only way to tell them apart is to read the inscriptions above the entryways. This required me to use a magnifying glass on the actual slide along with Google Maps to find the same inscription on the building. Sometimes the Google Maps image was too blurry, or a slide would only contain an outdoor space or partial image of a building (maybe a door or window). To deal with this, I paid a lot of attention to my surroundings on campus. I took pictures of problematic slides, so I could be on the lookout for their features when I was on campus. I now have a very intimate knowledge of the windows on individual NC State buildings, which is odd but I am kind of proud of it.
However, the most helpful resource for this project was the Rare and Unique Digital Collections website. Campus has changed drastically since the 1960s, and some of the buildings in the slides have been torn down. The website's facets allowed me to search for the decade when the photograph was taken. From there I could go through the archival images and find the building in question to see its name, what it looked like, and where it was on campus, enabling me to identify it. The website was also useful in searching for specific features on individual buildings if a slide required it. With its help, it was possible to organize the jumble of slides by building and location into a useable library resource. When the project was completed, the slides were added to the North Carolina State University, Office of the University Architect Records and made available to researchers. Creating order is always satisfying, and that makes this project even more rewarding for me.
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