- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - If you are curious about a historic building anywhere in Oregon, step up to its curb, whip out your cellphone (or tablet), click on buildingoregon.org, and you may find historic photos, dates, architects’ names and details about architectural style.

The mobile-friendly, map-based website is one more way that history is coming alive in the burgeoning digital landscape.

Users can see historic structures that are still present, such as the 1925 Hayward Field East Grandstand, or those that exist only in photograph and memory, such as the 1938 Civic Stadium.

“People’s connection to history is often through the built environment,” said UO librarian Ed Teague, who launched the underlying collection of 22,000 photographs with documentation.

The in-the-field tool, buildingoregon.org, is a collaboration of Civil War rivals the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

The UO has the digitized database, and OSU built the platform to make it accessible to amateur historians, researchers, faculty and the merely curious.

“It leverages our respective strengths,” OSU head librarian Faye Chadwell said.

The respective libraries work together a lot despite notorious turf wars in academia.

“I’m not going to say there’s not some of that in library land,” said Chadwell, who was a Duck for a dozen years before she became a Beaver.

The core of the historic collection reflects the work of Marion Ross, a Harvard-trained architecture professor who taught at the UO from 1947 to 1978.

Besides wide-ranging interests, such as antebellum plantation architecture and Islamic architecture, he had a passion for documenting the mish-mash of Oregon architecture.

He was an early adopter of color photography, so the buildingoregon.org collection has unusual amounts of early color slides, Teague said.

In 2008, Teague began the arduous job of translating Ross’ scribbles on the white margins of slides and sending the images to be digitized.

He did the detective work of figuring out addresses of long-gone buildings (for geocoding) and poring through old newspapers to find the architects’ identities.

The UO made an agreement with the state Historic Preservation Office to add the photos and research documents made for national register nominations to buildingoregon.org.

So far, the state office has provided 9,000 entries to the buildingoregon.org database - and it adds about 500 more each year.

“It’s a continuing endeavor,” Teague said.

One just-listed place in the pipeline to the database is the 1930 Leaburg Hydroelectric Project, which made the national register on June 29. The listing captures a five-mile stretch along the McKenzie River, including the art deco-style of the Leaburg Dam.

Teague welcomes users of buildingoregon.org to help identify buildings of historical significance and provide photographs with addresses or geocodes.

“People recognize places; it brings back memories. They might have lived in (historic houses) or they knew this post office or that courthouse,” he said.

OSU’s role in the project evolved out of a geocoded tour of the Portland cityscape associated with Bart King’s Architectural Guide to Portland, published by OSU Press.

For the projects, OSU Libraries created an open technical framework to be used by such cultural heritage representatives as museum curators, archivists and publishers (the source code is on GitHub).

The buildingoregon.org project is a subset of the larger Oregon Digital project, a website where the two universities’ libraries join to make 75 digitized collections - ranging from sheet music to botany pictures to historical buildings - available on a common platform through a single portal.

The collaboration makes the money go further, Chadwell said.

“To mount a site like this, you have to get the software, build it, manage it, maintain it, add new things to it,” she said. “So, instead of us both doing that, we’re just doing one (together).”


Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com

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