When visitors enter the Art Institute of Chicago from Michigan Avenue and ascend the Grand Staircase, they arrive in gallery 200; Architectural Fragments. According to AIC’s website, “Home to the first skyscraper . . . , Chicago has been the center of American architecture since the late 19th century. The skyline still teems with buildings designed by such legends as Adler, Burnham, and Sullivan, but this gallery at the top of the Grand Staircase houses treasures from these architects’ great buildings that are no longer standing. . . Chicago’s storied past comes alive!” The preservation and study of architecture is one way that a city’s cultural history can be maintained.
The Archives of the City of Kingsport has also attempted to maintain the city’s architectural history, not by salvaging architectural elements, but through the preservation of historic photographs and by its most recent outreach activity, the “Rediscover Kingsport Scavenger Hunt.” Participants were given a printout of 15 different downtown features and were asked to identify the exact location of them.
We hope that this and similar events will promote interest in downtown Kingsport’s past and present. Meanwhile, the archives is here to assist those who want to research the history of a particular building or home.
The Archives’ recent FunFest activities inspired me on my summer trip to Bordeaux, France. I immediately admired the wonderful architecture of this ancient river port, formerly walled, city. I began taking pictures of architectural elements with the intent to create a collage to help me remember my time in Bordeaux. I thought sharing just a few of the images might inspire others to visit their hometowns, to look at the town’s structures in a new way, and to begin preserving their own memories by taking photographs of architectural elements.
Including a photograph from a favorite trip, childhood hangout, or ancestral home in a journal is a wonderful way to document family history. The photographs can also serve as the basis for an oral history interview or written narrative. However you use these architectural photographs, take them while the buildings are still with us. Taking pictures of architectural elements is also the perfect excuse to set off on an archiventure!
Art Institute of Chicago images: Lions (1893) by Edward Kemeys; Ironwork (1903-04) by Louis H. Sullivan
Kingsport Images property of the Archives of the City of Kingsport
Bordeaux images property of the author