MAS Context Spring Talks 2015
Exploring the Ryerson & Burnham Archives at the Art Institute of Chicago


Ryerson & Burnham Archives, Art Institute of Chicago, 2015. © Iker Gil.


On Saturday, April 25, 2015, MAS Context organized a visit to the Ryerson & Burnham Archives located at the Art Institute of Chicago. Mary Woolever, Art and Architecture archivist, and Nathaniel Parks, assistant archivist, provided an overview of their archival work, as well as highlight key and rare works from the collections. They also discussed the influential Chicago Architects Oral History Project, a collection of oral histories that, since 1983, has been documenting the contributions of architects to Chicago during the twentieth-century.

The Ryerson & Burnham Archives’ collections are notably strong in late nineteenth- and twentieth-century American architecture, with particular depth in midwestern architecture. Architects such as Edward Bennett, Daniel Burnham, Bruce Goff, Bertrand Goldberg, Ludwig Hilberseimer, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright are represented in a broad range of papers. Major architectural events, such as the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, The Century of Progress International Exposition of 1933–1934 in Chicago, and the World’s Fair of 1939 in New York, are also represented in an individual archive.

You can browse the Ryerson & Burnham Archives at

For more information about the Chicago Architects Oral History Project, please visit the official website

We are extremely thankful to Mary Woolever and Nathaniel Parks for taking the time to share key items of their archives, and to all of you who attended the event.

Below are a selection of images of the event:



Mary Woolever discussing the work of Marion Mahony Griffin. © Iker Gil.



Mary Woolever reading a letter by Frank Lloyd Wright. © Iker Gil.



Nathaniel Parks sharing a holograph draft of the Plan of Chicago by Daniel H. Burnham. © Iker Gil.



Manufacturers Building, Traveler, World’s Columbian Exposition, August 11 1892, Chicago, Illinois. C.D. Arnold, photographer. © Iker Gil.



Admission ticket, World’s Columbian Exposition c.1892-1893, Chicago, Illinois. © Iker Gil.



Employee pass, World’s Columbian Exposition c.1892-1893, Chicago, Illinois. © Iker Gil.



Concession coupon, World’s Columbian Exposition c.1892-1893, Chicago, Illinois. © Iker Gil.



W.M. Peirce Anderson, Diploma medal from the Société des Architectes, 1900. © Iker Gil.



Daniel H. Burnham and Co, Flatiron Building, New York City, 1902, Leather postcard, Early 20th Century. © Iker Gil.



Howard van Doren Shaw, Travel sketchbook “Objects in the Volksmuseum, Kopenhagen, Paris, Dusseldorf, Munich, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Dresden, Leipzig, Berlin, Lubeck, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Bremen,” 1913. © Iker Gil.



Greater Sydney Development Association, Castlecrag Album, c. 1926. The brochure advertised the buildings and amenities in the new Castlecrag suburb of Sydney, Australia. Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin had purchased 650 acres of underdeveloped land in 1921, and established the Greater Sydney Development Association to sell individual lots as well as their architectural services. © Iker Gil.



Louis Henri Sullivan, A System of Architectural Ornament, 1922-1924. © Iker Gil.



Hochhausstadt (“Project for a Highrise city”), east-west and north-south street views, 1924. Ludwig Hilberseimer, an urban planner and instructor at the Bauhaus in Dessau (and later at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago) conceived the Hochhausstadt (Highrise city) as an exceedingly ordered city. The plan calls for multiple levels of transportation – one for auto traffic, another for pedestrian traffic – with identical high-rise structures organized in uniform blocks along the grid created by routes of transportation. The starkness of the plan and dehumanization of the environment later caused Hilberseimer to remark that it was intended solely to resolve the problem of traffic planning. © Iker Gil.



Bruce Goff, Three Exaggerations: 1.Going – 2.Going – 3.Gone!, 1933. © Iker Gil.



Bruce Goff, John Garvey house, color drawing, 1954. © Iker Gil.



Bertrand Goldberg, Unicel Prefab Freight Car, c.1952, and Marina City, Rental brochure, c.1963. © Iker Gil.



Bertrand Goldberg, Marina City, Rental brochure cover detail, c.1963. © Iker Gil.



The Harold Washington Library Center, The Chicago Public Library, 1988. © Iker Gil.



Competition entry by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, The Harold Washington Library Center, The Chicago Public Library, 1988. © Iker Gil.

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