An interview with AA Archivist Edward Bottoms
17 June 2015 AA Archives, 32 Bedford Square   To find out more about the recently set up AA Collections blog that provides a platform for the AA Archives, Photo Library and Library to share and promote their collections, we spoke to AA Archivist Edward Bottoms to learn more about how the blog came about and the ways in which it could promote the unique and ever-expanding collections of historic material that we have at the AA.   Why did you decide to set up the AA Collections blog? Well, the AA Collections blog is a collaboration between the Archives, Photo Library and Library which aims to promote our historic collections.   In terms of deciding to set up the blog, I have been very much aware, over the last few years, that whilst the Archives have been receiving many exciting new acquisitions there is always a significant delay (sometimes well over a year) before the items can be properly listed in our catalogue. A researcher working on the Smithsons, for example, might come and look at their drawings but then go away without having realised that we also hold (as yet not fully catalogued) the manuscript to an unpublished novel by Alison Smithson... Indeed, as we still have a very significant back-log of uncatalogued drawings (dating back to the 1860s!) I felt that some alternative medium was needed to communicate what we held and encourage people to engage and use this material.   I therefore envisaged the blog as a kind of ‘notice board’ allowing researchers to stay informed about relevant new materials but also as an elegant means by which to introduce an element of serendipity within the collections- highlighting interesting projects, new discoveries, photographs, writings, etc...   [caption id="attachment_4323" align="alignnone" width="360"]Dolan Conway & Brian Mitchenere, AA 5th Year, 1968. ‘Computer Community’. AA Archives. Dolan Conway & Brian Mitchenere, AA 5th Year, 1968. ‘Computer Community’. AA Archives.[/caption]   Who contributes to the AA Collections blog? Rico Borza from AA Digital Platforms and Bobby Jewell from Membership have been incredibly helpful in designing the actual blog and providing the impetus to get everything started. Valerie Bennett and Byron Blakeley from the Photo Library, Eleanor Gawne from the Library and myself from the Archives are the main contributors. Over the last few months postings have been very diverse, covering a broad range of subjects including new photographs from the AA Camera Club, a study of the AA Library’s several 18thC editions of Vitruvius Britannicus, and a 45rpm record recently presented to the Archives (part of a 1968 student project looking forward to the digital age of communication!).
How do you envisage the blog expanding in the future? It would be nice to have occasional guest contributors who would perhaps look at the collections from oblique angles and see things which we, the staff and custodians of these collections, do not necessarily notice... If any students are interested, come and see me!!   I am also hoping that the blog reaches out to AA members and alumni to use and discover the AA Collections, and the hope is that by advertising new acquisitions we will in turn, attract new donations of materials, student projects, drawings, photographs, etc. At present, finding and contacting individual alumni is a very lengthy process and the blog represents a fantastic way to reach out to many more people...   [caption id="attachment_4324" align="alignnone" width="360"]AA Camera Club, 2015. Église Saint-Pierre, Firminy, France. Photograph by Ritika Daswani. AA Photo Library AA Camera Club, 2015. Église Saint-Pierre, Firminy, France. Photograph by Ritika Daswani. AA Photo Library[/caption]
How do you anticipate it will change the perception and use of the Collections? I certainly feel that the blog will help the collections appear more immediate and that it will stimulate people to make greater use of what are really incredibly important holdings. The AA has, of course been at the centre of architectural education in this country since 1847, driving many of the changes within the profession,. Students here are extremely lucky to have these wonderful collections available as a research resource... In fact, I can’t think of any other UK architectural school which can offer its students free access to such historically rich and unique collections. Hopefully the blog will encourage our students to take full advantage of such opportunities!   [caption id="attachment_4321" align="alignnone" width="360"]Plate 38. Mereworth Castle, Kent. Section, from Vitruvius Britannicus, Vol. 3, 1725. AA Library Plate 38. Mereworth Castle, Kent. Section, from Vitruvius Britannicus, Vol. 3, 1725. AA Library[/caption]   For more information: Main image caption: James Cheyne and Thomas Donelley, 1966. National Benzol. AA Archives. AA Collections Blog Follow the AA Collections on Facebook  Edward Bottoms on AA Conversations