Yale University Summer Internship 2015

The Yale Bulldog intern scheme was established in 2005 in collaboration with Yale University in Connecticut. The scheme normally admits two interns for two months in the summer – one to work at 66 Portland Place working with Library Education department and one at the Drawings & Archives collection held in RIBA’s architectural partnership with the V&A.

This summer Steven Roets joined members of the RIBA curatorial team and this is his story….

My Experience at the British Architectural Library

My name is Steven Roets and I am a junior at Yale University double-majoring in Art and Ethics, Politics, and Economics.  This past summer I had the pleasure of working as a Curatorial Intern with RIBA through the Yale British Bulldogs Internship Program. I was based at the Victoria and Albert Museum with the Drawings and Archives Collection.

In my two months with RIBA I organized, housed, and catalogued three architectural archives: the Erith and Terry Manuscript Collection, the Alan Lee Mortimer Drawing Collection, and the Adrian Gale Drawing Collection.  The largest of the three, the Erith and Terry Manuscript Collection, was composed of 175 manuscript boxes.  Without existing documentation I had to decipher how former portions of the collection had been catalogued and organized and then plan how to integrate all three portions of the collection into one cohesive archive.  I devised a system to bring all of these pieces together which respected the provenance of the archival material while also accounting for its type, individual projects, and the architects associated with each project.   I then created a guide to the entire archive describing its organization, contents, scope, and significance, which allows easy and informed access to the collection.  The collection of Mortimer drawings consisted of plans and elevations for a variety of buildings in Uttar Pradesh, India, including significant government and educational facilities.  Gale’s drawings came mainly from his work in the United States, specifically his work in the office of Mies Van der Rohe.  My experience with these drawings was especially rewarding, as they included plans for Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  These last two collections were fully organized by project, catalogued, and rehoused for improved accessibility.

Aside from my three main projects, I also rearranged and consolidated the storage of two other collections and improved the cataloguing information for the letters of Sir Herbert Baker.  Finally, I assisted with collection management and transportation – including work at the collection out-store, as well as performing routine office duties. Working in an archival collection gave me a better understanding of museum and curatorial work. The archive in particular was a great venue for me to use my organizational skills in thinking about the intertwined nature of manuscript materials and how a researcher needs to use and access a collection. Looking back on my entire experience I really began to realize how interconnected our societies have become. While the collection’s items often pertained to British architecture, the collection contained objects from all around the world. These items have been loaned to organizations in many different countries for various exhibitions, creating both personal and institutional connections spanning thousands of miles. British architecture has a truly global scope and plays an integral role in the built landscape worldwide.  Through its work, the Drawings and Archives Collection ensures that a vast wealth of architectural history and documentation is easily accessible to researchers and the general public, thus promoting conversations about architecture’s significance and enabling further inquiry.  I am proud to have worked towards these two goals during my time at the RIBA.

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An example of the Adrian Gale drawings that Steven helped catalogue. This image is for the 1986 renovations which Gale assisted with for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kentuck Knob at Dunbar, Pennsylvania (1953).