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Building Technology Heritage Library 10th Anniversary Publication

On October 24, 2020, the Association for Preservation Technology International released a special publication marking the 10th anniversary of the Building Technology Heritage Library.

The Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL) is a free online archive of period architectural trade catalogs, house plans books, and technical building literature. The BTHL is a project of Association for Preservation Technology (APT) and is hosted by the Internet Archive. APT President Gina Crevello acknowledged this achievement as one of APT’s great pursuits. In her words, the BTHL has “preserved and digitized historical records that might otherwise have been lost, but are now available to benefit the global community of preservation professionals. APT is truly proud of this significant achievement!” Mike Jackson, the BTHL Chair, noted that “this publication not only tells the story of the Building Technology Heritage Library, but it is a visually delightful compilation of architectural trade literature.”

Cover of the Building Technology Heritage Library 10th Anniversary Publication.

Cover of the Building Technology Heritage Library 10th Anniversary Publication.

Why is this being done?

APT recognized the value of period trade catalogs and other technical publications as a primary research tool for its members. There were only a few institutional collections of these materials, which made them difficult to access. APT saw the benefit of a comprehensive online digital archive to serve a broad audience of preservation practitioners, advocates, historians, and students. The documents mostly pre-date 1964 and are in the pubic domain and available to the public at no charge.

Where do these materials come from?

These documents come from various libraries, museums, and private collections. The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) was the first major contributor. Two other major institutional libraries that have partnered with APT are the Southeast Architectural Archive at Tulane University and the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. The BTHL also digitized numerous documents from private collectors. Two examples include paint catalogs from the collection of Jablonski Building Conservation and house plan catalogs from the collection of the former Wisconsin Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer James Draeger.

How are these materials being used?

“The Building Technology Heritage Library is an invaluable resource for researchers and practitioners alike. It is the go-to source for primary resource material related to building technology. APT was wise to invest the time into creating this valuable collection and we are grateful to our initial stakeholders: the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Historic Preservation Education Foundation, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.” –Anne Sullivan, School of the Art Institute, Chicago

A few comments from our users:

Subject: Pyrobar rehab
“This library is an invaluable resource. Working on a seven story 1923 building in West Virginia, I was asked by the architect what this material was surrounding the elevator shaft. I told him it was Pyrobar and provided the US Gypsum Catalog scan showing that it had a two-hour rating. He used this as documentation for the fire marshal. It saved the project the cost of removal of the material and constructing a modern two-hour fire rated drywall wall. They were appreciative to say the least.”

Subject: Serendipity!
“I was reviewing a terra cotta question with someone in the office, so of course turned to the BTHL. In scrolling through quickly to find a good example to illustrate our conversation, I happened to see a photo of another terra cotta building that we were working on at the time! This serendipity was so lovely, and of course, so helpful!”

About the Association for Preservation Technology International (APT)

The Association for Preservation Technology International (APT) is a multi-disciplinary membership organization whose mission is to advance appropriate traditional and new technologies to care for, protect, and promote the longevity of the built environment and to cultivate the exchange of knowledge throughout the international community. APT members, who hail from more than 30 countries, include preservationists, architects, engineers, conservators, consultants, contractors, craftworkers, curators, developers, educators, historians, landscape architects, students, technicians, and other persons directly involved in the application of methods and materials to maintain, conserve, and protect historic structures and sites for future use and appreciation. The international, interdisciplinary character of APT—with its outstanding publications, conferences, training courses, awards, student scholarships, regional chapters, and technical committees—makes it the premier worldwide network for anyone involved in the field of historic preservation.

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