Black Architects in the Archives: The Oscar Harris Collection in the Archives Research Center of the AUC Woodruff Library

Black Architects in the Archives: The Oscar Harris Collection in the Archives Research Center of the AUC Woodruff Library

Black Architects in the Archives: The Oscar Harris Collection in the Archives Research Center of the AUC Woodruff Library 2560 1920 aucwoodruff

Guest post by Brittany Newberry, Processing Archivist at AUC Woodruff Library’s Archives Research Center

In August 2017, the Archives Research Center of the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library received the Oscar Harris collection. Known for his designs that influenced the Atlanta skyline, Oscar Harris is a prominent and notable Black architect in Atlanta, GA. He is one of the first African American architects in the city to start a minority run architecture firm, Turner Associates Architects and Planners, Inc. His career includes projects such as the Olympic Look, Terminal E, the Atrium at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and Underground Atlanta. The collection documents his career and the multitude of projects he worked on.

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Key to the city of Columbia, SC, Oscar Harris Collection, Archives Research Center Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library

If you are interested in the work of Black architects in the South, this collection is for you. The materials highlight Harris’s major works and offers researchers the ability to look at major aspects of running an architecture firm from meetings, finances, blueprints, and marketing. Additionally, the collection showcases the talents of Harris and his experiences as an architect. It is currently being processed and will be available for research in the near future. Once the collection is open for research, people will be able to see a history of Harris’s projects and work in Atlanta and other cities.

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Cover of notebook, “The House,” 1990, Oscar Harris Collection, Archives Research Center Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library

While processing the collection, I have come across several hidden gems that may be of interest to researchers. Not only can one find blueprints, correspondence, and notes for the various projects, but they will discover photographs, sketchbooks, journals, memorabilia, and artifacts. Of note is a container of dirt from a groundbreaking, the key to the city of Columbia, SC, and photographs of projects and Oscar Harris with major Atlanta figures, such as Andrew Young and Maynard Jackson.

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Page of notebook, Oscar Harris Collection, Archives Research Center Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library

Of particular interest to me are the notebooks of Oscar Harris, dating as far back as 1987. These journals and sketch books give a glimpse into the career of Oscar Harris and his day to day work. With over forty books in the collection, they encompass the major projects his firm worked on.  His sketches outlined  the projects and ideas he had at the time. Including sketches of his house that he designed and places, such as the lake shore of Chicago, IL. I even found sketches of Halloween costumes and one of the escalators to the atrium of the Atlanta airport.

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Sketch of the Chicago lake shore, June 10, 2004, Oscar Harris Collection, Archives Research Center Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library

The collection covers a significant time period in the development of Atlanta from the 1980s to early 2000s. I invite researchers and those curious about Atlanta history and the changing landscape of the Atlanta neighborhoods to explore the collection.  It complements the vast holdings of the Archives Research Center. Related collections include the Grace Towns Hamilton papers, which contains maps of Atlanta neighborhoods and districts, the Atlanta Urban League papers and the John Hope records that have several files on various architects, and the Maynard Jackson Mayoral Administrative records. Be on the lookout for the announcement of the opening of the collection and the link for the finding aid. In the meantime, visit www.auctr.edu/archives for more information about the Archives and our holdings and contact us at archives@auctr.edu with any questions you may have.

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