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American Women: Resources from the Prints & Photographs Collections

Architecture, Design, and Engineering Drawings

Vinnie Ream, architect. Architectural drawing for the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. Perspective rendering. 1876-1878. Architecture, Design & Engineering Drawings. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Outside of the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey measured drawings of already built structures (see section on HABS/HAER/HALS), the division's greatest strength in terms of architectural drawings is in the original designs contained in its Architecture, Design, and Engineering Drawings (38,500 drawings, 1600-1989, bulk 1880-1940). A strength of the collection is drawings relating to Washington, D.C., sites and architects. They include plans for shopping centers and apartment houses as well as for more monumental structures.

Women Architects and Designers

Women's names rarely appear as architects and designers in this collection, perhaps because the work of women designers went uncredited by the firms for which they worked. The collection does include:

  • several interior designs by Maria Ramona Drayer (b. 1920)
  • some structures designed by Mary Craig (1889-1964)
  • designs for several sculptural works by Vinnie Ream (1847-1914)

Browsing the index for “creators” in the catalog records for Architecture, Design, and Engineering Drawings yields additional names of women architects, each of whom was responsible for one or more drawings for commercial or residential structures. For example:

  • Katherine Gibbs
  • Elsa Gidoni (1901-1978)
  • Julia Finch Gilbert
  • Verna Cook Salomonsky (later Verna Cook Shipway, 1888?-1978)
Maya Ying Lin, architect. Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Competition drawing. 1980 or 1981. Architecture, Design & Engineering Drawings. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The work of more contemporary women designers is reflected in competition drawings for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, including the winning submission by Maya Ying Lin (b. 1959).

Women's Spaces

Women's spaces are also represented in the drawings. For example, a search for "women" in the collection yields listings for a Young Women's Christian Association dormitory, a farm women's market, and a women's medical ward.

Women's participation in the design process is also documented insofar as women's names appear as clients for design projects. Among the more familiar clients the collection includes are the following:

  • Mary Lord Harrison (Mrs. Benjamin Harrison), who commissioned drawings for alterations to the White House (ADE—UNIT 2838)
  • Lady Bird Johnson, who had drawings done for several renovation projects during her husband's career in Washington, D.C.
  • sculptor Vinnie Ream, who had Thomas M. Plowman draw up plans for a duplex in downtown Washington, D.C. (ADE—UNIT 2900)

Searching the Collection

Catalog records for most Architecture, Design and Engineering Drawings can be found in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog where the collection has its own listing. Generally, the drawings are cataloged in groups ("units") relating to particular sites. Digitized images accompany some descriptions, particularly for individual drawings for which reproductions have been purchased. An unpublished finding aid, available in the reading room, provides itemized listings of the full contents of the units.

Because of the size and fragility of the drawings, advance arrangements must be made to view some materials.

Sample Images