January 15, 2021

Digitizing the Fuller Collection


Digitizing the Fuller Collection

Lucy Campbell and Barbara Opar, column editors

by Sarah Yasuda, Library Clerk, Boston Architectural College

In 1966, the Boston Architectural College (BAC) celebrated the construction of its new, brutalist-style building with an entire week of exhibits, lectures, dinners, and conferences. At the close of the exhibit, the BAC Library acquired original papers, booklets, and pamphlets by and about Buckminster Fuller from an anonymous donor. Since then, the small Buckminster Fuller collection has lived in the BAC Library’s vertical files. In the spring of 2020, as many universities and colleges transitioned to remote learning, the BAC Library staff also shifted to remote assignments. Working with BAC Library Director Robert Adams, staff began digitizing the Buckminster Fuller collection. Like many other libraries, access to library books and resources were challenged by closures. This project was a timely opportunity to make a small collection from the library accessible online for students and faculty at the BAC. 

The project involved light archival processing and organizing to prepare items for digitization. For ease of access, staff compiled loose items and documents into series components and digitized them as PDF files. The digitized items were then linked to vertical file records in the BAC Library catalog. Consisting of papers, transcripts, correspondences, and pamphlets, the collection provides the BAC community with primary source materials and additional resources highlighting Buckminster Fuller’s entrepreneurial pursuits and his creative mark in architecture. 

An American architect and designer known for his “geodesic domes,” Fuller brought unique and innovative designs to the 20th century. One of the most notable items in the collection is an original copy of Fuller’s patent on his geodesic dome structure. The document includes wonderfully illustrated diagrams and construction details.    

 [Photo courtesy of George Zimberg, BAC Library]

Fuller’s other notable work, the “Dymaxion Map,” is beautifully illustrated in his essays, World One: Waterocean and World Two: Airocean. The Dymaxion Map is a flat map that presents the entire flat surface of the Earth as one big island in one ocean without distorting the relative land areas. 

[Photo courtesy of George Zimberg, BAC Library]

The digital collection also provides other avenues for students and faculty to learn about Buckminster Fuller’s work. Through transcripts of lectures and speeches, his autobiography, Bucky, and correspondence letters dating from 1954 to 1959, the collection offers an inside look at his journey as a futuristic designer and thinker. 

This digitization project was one of many undergone at the BAC Library in 2020 that illuminated ways that libraries successfully increased accessibility to collections closed off by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Previously, the BAC Library’s vertical file cabinets required library staff members to open cabinets with a key upon request. Digitizing these items not only improved ease of access for library users but also advertised the presence of resources that otherwise go unnoticed. With library services limited to online reference assistance and pickups, these new online collections can strengthen research and instruction support for the BAC community. 

Access the BAC Buckminster Fuller Collection, here


Michelle Sturges
Membership Manager