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Whether lost to demolition by neglect or to sprawl and urban redevelopment, historic buildings and landscapes cannot always be saved. The last resort of the preservationist is to capture buildings and sites in photographs and measured architectural drawings, preserving them at least on paper and film. In the 1980s, the Center for Historic Architecture and Design (CHAD) began documenting historic structures that were destroyed or threatened by development. Since then, more than 4,000 buildings and landscapes from the industrial complexes of Wilmington to the agricultural buildings and landscapes of southern Delaware and elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic region have been drawn, photographed, and researched by CHAD faculty, staff and students. An estimated three-quarters of these resources are now demolished and lost to neglect, and the CHAD collection stands as the only record of a significant part of the vanished historic architecture landscape of Delaware.
CHADs collection includes hundreds of hand-drawn and computer-generated architectural drawings and thousands of large-format black and white photographs of historic structures and landscapes. The materials illustrate both the artistry and practicality of the builders, craftsman, and occupants of these sites. They are also evocative of the changing landscapes and lifestyles of the region. The materials are of high quality since they were created according to the standards of the Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record, recognized as the world standard for the documentation of historic resources.
In the last few years, CHAD has begun to transform what was an inaccessible repository of documentary materials to a working research collection and archive. It has done this partly because of a growing demand by preservation professionals to use the collection, as well to make the academic community and public aware of this record of their past and to communicate the quality and extent of what has been lost through exhibits, publications, and other means. The CHAD Collection includes:
The CHAD Collection is available for use by students, faculty, staff, and the public, by appointment. To inquire about the collection or to make an appointment for use, contact Catherine Morrissey, Director of the Mid-Atlantic Historic Buildings and Landscapes Survey.
With funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) CHAD has been digitizing materials from this Collection and making them available to the public, through two open-access portals. Through the Artstor Commons: Public Collections portal in the University on Delaware's Morris Library webpage, users can search within the CHAD Collection by fields and keywords for specific properties or sets of properties that fit specific criteria. Images associated with each property record can be accessed and downloaded free for educational and research purposes. Another way of accessing the Collection is by a GIS-based database here on the CHAD website; property records are represented spatially by plot points and can be easily searched by keywords. This allows users to see how properties relate to each other in both time and space. Each individual property has a window with a thumbnail image , an abbreviated set of metadata, and link back to the the record housed in Artstor Commons.
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