The Project, Goals,Phase 1: the Collection, Phase 2: The Site

 

The Project

 

This Caroline Drucker‚s final project for Cities 306 "Places in Time" taught by Jeff Cohen at Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in collaboration with the Philadelphia Free Library's Print and Picture Department.

 

In 1922, Frank Hamilton Taylor donated 243 images of Philadelphia buildings to the Philadelphia Free Library.While not all the photographs were taken by Frank H. Taylor, each image has been mounted on cardboard and many have been retouched, presumably by Taylor's hand for commercial purposes. The photographs illustrate Philadelphia's urban structures and economy at the turn of the last century, as well as adding to our knowledge of the life and works of Frank H. Taylor.Many of the buildings documented no longer exist, yet the potential these photographs hold for research for Architectural Historians as well as other researchers was severely impaired by their location.Filed throughout the voluminous Philadelphiana collection without any formal records, the integrity of the collection was destroyed.  My task was therefore to find the images and create a database and website for them.

 

Goals

 

The possibilities that this collection offers in terms of research about Philadelphia‚s Architectural History are exciting.  Throughout the semester, the class has been doing reading on the process of documentation and Architectural History.  While many of the theoretical aspects of this sort of work loomed in the back of my mind,  as this is my first attempt at such a project I wanted to create something that was easy to navigate and easy to build upon.  Secondly, I wanted to get as much extra information about the photographs (time and resources permitting) to increase the likelihood of someone taking advantage of the collection should it be useful to their work.

 

 

Phase 1: The Images

 

The first phase of this project entailed sorting through the entire Philadelphiana collection (save categories in which the likelihood of finding Frank H. Taylor photographs is extremely small e.g. civil war, mummers). After (hopefully) all of the images were extracted, each was recorded with as much information as possible and given a Unique Identifier number.The majority of the information in the final list comes from the images, though some additional information was gained from the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings project and the Philadelphia Office Building Directory of 1899 and King's publication.I should like to do more research on the individual photographs,however time does not permit me to do so. The records are as follows:

 

Name:Usually the title written on the back of the image. All of names were given by a former curator at the Free Library. These names all pertain to the subject of the photographs such as: RR Sooy's Chop House.There are several occasions where it is clear that the name given to the photograph is not the primary subject of the image. In these cases,I have omitted a name or substituted the address as the title. However all of these titles still exist in pencil on the back of the images should someone want to use them.

 

Location:Often times the full location of the image was written on the back, sometimes only an intersection was given, sometimes only a street number and sometimes no address at all. I have tried to find as many addresses as possible in the resources listed above.

 

Architect:Jeff Cohen was kind enough to sit with me and help identify many of the architects for a majority of the buildings.Other architects have been found by research on the building in the resources listed above.

 

Building Type: I based my judgment for the categorization of the buildings on the name of the building and its general appearance.  Due to the little information given about the buildings, there may be some errors in classification.For example, I am sure that many of the buildings were primarily manufacturing,  though they appear to be office buildings.In addition, many of the buildings had several functions, in these cases I tried to choose the most prominent function based on the exterior of the building or its name.

 

Built:The date of the buildings construction, found on the building‚s facade.

 

Appears In: This denotes where images of the building can be found. I discovered that many of the actual images appeared in the Philadelphia Office Building Directory of 1899, and noted the page.  The poor state of the OBD made it impossible to continue looking for images. All of the references to King‚s Views and publications other than the OBD were created by a former curator at the Print and Pictures Department of the Philadelphia Free Library.

Notes:This denotes the rare occasion when Taylor has sketched on the back of the images, or it is discernable who the photographer was.

U. Identifier #: These numbers were arbitrarily given to the images.

 

*I regret not differentiating in the table what information was supplemented by what source (e.g. Jeff Cohen or the PAB) and the actual data written on the back of the image.

 

Phase 2: The Site

The second phase of this project was creating this website.  The website‚s architecture follows a simple frame based on browsing of the Frank H. Taylor Collection of Images. Rather than create a search engine, or force the reader to browse through 243 entries, I subdivided the list in three ways that I thought would be helpful to those most likely accessing the collection, who I defined as people researching Philadelphia History and Architecture.

 

The first classification was Building Type. I subdivided it into 4 categories based on the most popular forms of Building Type: Banks, Hotels, Stores, and Office Buildings. The rest of the entries were put into a Miscellaneous page, where building type is the first column of the chart. The second subdivision was based on location following the traditional layout of Center city (Vine to South, River to River) and dividing it along Broad and Market streets. Each quarter of Center city (NE, NW, SE, SW), buildings located Outside Center City and the buildings whose Addresses are still Unknown were given their own page. The final subdivision was the Browse by Architect category. Though the majority of architects are not known, I included all entries on this page to highlight all of the missing data. Hopefully, more information about these buildings will slowly surface. These three main subdivisions are all accessible from the main page. A list of all of the buildings by Unique Identifier and picture credits can be found on the front page by clicking on Collection and Credits. For most of the lists, I included anchors, so that the user can skip to specific parts of the document depending on their search criteria.

 

The Site also offers information about Frank H. Taylor, a section for Feedback and this page.  The biography of Frank H. Taylor aims to give a context for the collection, beyond the use of the images in commercial publications. The Feedback page is important for two reasons a) constructive criticism is always welcome and b) so that individuals can forward any information that may be missing.

The design of this site hinges on easy navigation. At the top of each page is a large banner that is shared by every page of the document unifying the whole site, while also informing the user where he or she is. At the bottom of every page are links to the main page and to one step up in browsing. After hearing that the Print and Pictures Department has chosen to use the Frank H. Taylor Collection as part of its Digitization project, I decided to only scan several images to use in this site, choosing ones that I thought were representative of the collection. This was a very difficult decision, as there are dozens of images that are remarkable. In the end decided on a few images, that I thought would look good on this website.

 

The main page is set up to both act as a site map and introduce the user to the collection. I have tried to make function match form to increase the legibility of the site‚s „gatewayš and the site itself. The focus of the page is the short description of the site flanked on the left by the three main browsing options, two of which use images to concretize their function. On the right hand side there is a link to a Frank H. Taylor biography supplemented with one of his drawings atop a plain box filled with links to the administrative parts of the site. Acting as a background for the main page is a photograph from the collection, acting as a subtle indication about the nature of the images. The rest of the pages are designed first and foremost with the browsing of the lists in mind.

The site is clear and easy to use,reasonably aesthetically pleasing and hopefully will not take too long to download for those on modems.