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Marcel Breuer, searchable and zoomable

June 26, 2012

The Marcel Breuer Digital Archive is a technically topnotch visual database of documents that anyone interested in the ever more influential furniture designer and architect will want to explore. Syracuse University Library led the collaborative project to digitize 30,000 drawings, photographs, letters, manuscripts and office records covering the architect’s career through 1955. And that’s only the first phase. Marcel Breuer (1902–1981) had designed some sixty residences before transitioning to monumental sculptural concrete buildings for governmental and institutional clients in the mid-1950s, beginning with his landmark UNESCO headquarters in Paris (1958).

 The digital repository, funded with a 2009 National Endowment for the Humanities grant, draws largely on Syracuse University Library’s extensive Breuer holdings with select additional materials from seven international partner institutions. The technology used for the online archive is most impressive. Rich metadata associated with each digital object allows for efficient searches via keywords and the use of filters to further refine search results. Alternately, materials can be located by a project list and name list. Thorough project descriptions provide context for the individual documents. Each item in the archive is a high-resolution, zoomable image presented in a “thumbnail” as the user browses search results. The quality of the digitalization makes even the finest pencil lines legible on drawings. 

 The Marcel Breuer Digital Archive really is a trove of previously under tapped resources. In a couple of clicks you can be reading a newspaper clipping authored by Constance Breuer from the March 30, 1950 New Canaan Advertiser. Under the title “New Canaan Landmarks,” Mrs. Breuer raves about the features of her new house, one a a handful of Modern prototypes arriving in New Canaan at the time.  Best of all, the digital archive is free and available to everyone.

Marcel Breuer Digital Archive homepage image