Newsletter | Jan/Feb 2015

Honor Your Achievements - IAWA

by Inge Horton

Recently, I was asked by an OWA member to put together information about donating drawings and other records of work for donation to the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA) at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. I was a little surprised as I often wrote articles for the OWA newsletter urging OWA members to donate documents of their work to the IAWA. I gladly comply with the request since more and more of our early members are retiring or dissolving their offices. And since I sent six large boxes of files from my own research of early women architects to IAWA, I now know firsthand of the emotional difficulty of letting go of something that is dear to one’s heart. However, I feel that it is important and necessary to do as I have heard many stories about drawings and files being destroyed by the children or executors of a deceased woman architect. They often did not know what to do with the records or are overwhelmed with other tasks related to the inheritance. One of the horror stories is that of a prominent woman architect in San Francisco who, about twenty years ago, had all her drawings destroyed in a rage after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Please do not follow this sad example, honor your professional legacy, fill a gap in architectural history, and proudly promote yourself by donating records of your work to the IAWA or any other archive such as the Environmental Design Archives at UCBerkeley or at another alma mater. At the IAWA, you will be in the good company of women who reviewed their work and selected projects for donation. At the end of this article you can review a list of Bay Area architects who already donated documents to the IAWA. Or visit their website and you will see a display of truly international colleagues.

Before I focus on frequently asked questions and repeat the text of my previous article, I will share a letter from Aaron Purcell, Director, Special Collections, University Libraries, Virginia Tech, with the newest developments of the IAWA. He wrote that the IAWA has new collections archivist, Samantha Winn, (540) 231-7486 or her email at, who will be our contact person.

Wendy Bertrand at IAWA (Inge Horton)

He also mentioned that the Special Collections Department is working on a drop-off site for donors to deposit their electronic files. When I talked with Samantha Winn, she added the following comments:

"Regarding the drop-off site for electronic records, we recently set up a small website to transfer materials. We request that donors who are interested in submitting digital files contact us first so that we can discuss the details of transfer and long-term care. After we have met with the donor, we will be happy to share the URL for the drop-off site and the access code required to upload files. Alternatively, we are able to receive electronic files stored on optical media, thumb drives, external hard drives, etc.

Electronic records have very specific archival concerns, and the department is exploring how we can meet those needs in the future. As an example of one obstacle presented by electronic records, I have a small number of architectural drawings from a drafting class in high school. It would be quite a feat to view them today since they were created in AutoCAD 2000 (a program I no longer have) and stored on floppy disks (which my computer cannot even read!) This truly is a new frontier for archivists. For the past few years, our staff have been working with other archivists at the national level to tackle some of these challenges - it is an area that I am particularly passionate about.

With respect to transferring physical records, we are often willing to travel to the donor to review the records in person (depending upon our availability). Donors may choose to request a site visit if there are serious concerns about the condition of the records, but in the vast majority of cases it is not necessary."

    Who should donate her work? You, you, you and your partner! Whether you have practiced for nearly fifty years, such as Kathleen Cruise, a graduate of Virginia Tech and donor of her work, or are just starting out in the profession, you are invited to be part of the IAWA. The IAWA accepts work of architects (licensed or not) and related design professionals such as interior designers, landscape architects, urban designers, and environmental or city planners. Collaborative work from women in large firms or in partnerships is also accepted. For example, the IAWA received a large collection of Steven and Cathy House of San Francisco which you may review at the IAWA website.

    When should you donate your work? Now, now, now! You do not need to wait until you have retired or reached the age of eighty. And, please, don't wait until you're too sick to consider donating your collection and what to include and what not. Architects are always busy; however, your work is an important part of the architectural and social history and should not be hidden from public view. When you are ready, contact the archivist Samantha Winn. She will be happy to discuss the material you wish to donate, the process to make a donation, and the issues involved. You may contact her at (540) 231-7486 or online at

    Most importantly, deed your collection in your will or living trust to the IAWA and clearly express that you wish to donate certain records of your work to the Archive, attn: IAWA Archivist, University Libraries, Virginia Tech, P.O. Box 90001, Blacksburg, VA 24062-9001. Attach a donor form and make it as easy as possible for your executor to follow your wishes.

    What should you select for your donation in the IAWA? Some IAWA collections are small and some are big, such as Sigrid Rupp’s collection see the line at Most IAWA collections include a sampling of your work, maybe 5-20 projects which embody your career. In discussion with the Archivist, you may select several projects of which you are proud or which show your artistic or technical development or savvy. Please also include a resume or vitae to provide some context.

    The Archive prefers to receive the original drawings. The documents may include “flimsies” or conceptual sketches, working or presentation drawings, specifications, artwork, photographs, office and research files, correspondence, articles about the architect or her work, articles by the architect, PR brochures of your firm, and anything else which documents your work. They also accept digital files; however, you should first consult with the Archivist to make sure those formats are supported. For a detailed discussion regarding donation procedures please refer to the IAWA website or contact Samantha Winn at (540) 231-7486 or email her at

    How should you pack and transfer your collection? Here are some pointers which the IAWA provided:

      Drawings may be sent rolled.
      Please use sturdy boxes in good condition and use heavy-duty strapping tape.
      Keep the records in the order in which they were used in your office and document or record this order (collating files into boxes and sequential numbering of the boxes is an easy way to record this original order).
      It is helpful to make a list of the box contents, with dates. When you need to find something later, this list will be invaluable. Place the list in each box and also mail them separately to the IAWA.
      Note the presence of any sensitive material (i.e. SSN’s, personnel information, confidential information, or any other type of sensitive information you or your organization may work with).
      Leave a little wiggle room in the boxes; don't overstuff them. Be sure the folders are standing upright and that they are not bowed or flopped-over.
      Please send your collection to the following address and include a copy of the address also on the inside of each package:
      Special Collections MC 0434
      Newman Library
      560 Drillfield Drive
      Virginia Tech
      Blacksburg, VA 24061

    Carriers of your mailing: From my recent experience of sending six boxes to the IAWA I recommend that you research potential carriers such as the US Post Office (which seemed to be the most affordable), FedEx, UPS or others and select the one you feel most comfortable with. You are sending irreplaceable materials unless you made copies before packing them. As a minimum safety provision, obtain a “Track and Confirm” number or better insure your packages.
    The IAWA has limited funds available to reimburse you for the shipping cost but will appreciate any donation for shipping or accessioning of your collection.

    What happens to your collection once it has been donated to the IAWA? Once the IAWA receives a collection, it is housed securely under environmentally stable conditions, accessioned, inventoried, and made available to researchers through our online database of collections. The processing may not happen right away but the collection will be identified to be easily retrievable. At the time of the donation, the donor usually signs a deed of gift legally transferring the material to the University Libraries of Virginia Tech which stores and houses the IAWA Collections. This enables the Archivist to allow photocopying by researchers, the use of materials in teaching or presentations, and the display of selected items in web exhibits.

    During the Annual Meeting of the Advisors of the IAWA the Archivist or a board member may prepare an exhibition of newly donated collections. The late Professor Milka Bliznakov, founder of the International Archive of Women in Architecture, also established a program to encourage the use of the collections in the IAWA by funding an annual prize of $2,500 recognizing research that advances knowledge of women's contributions to architecture and related design fields. See website

Milka Blizankov, founder of IAWA at Milk'a' house. She is on the left. Wendy Bertrand is seated, and the other person is unknown to the Editor (photo by Inge Horton)

    If you anticipate that you will need some of your drawings for an addition or alteration it would be easiest if you keep blueprints or other copies. However, the Archive is able to provide you with reference services and duplication of material and drawings if the need should arise.

    Where is your name? Below is a list of women designers from California who donated their records to the IAWA and of three associations of women architects and design professionals. I want to encourage you to donate records of your work so that your name can be added.

    List of Bay Area architects who donated their work: (My apologies for any omissions)

AULENTI, GAE, (Asian Art Museum)

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