Thank You, William Ward Watkin!

I had a very big day today.

I’m working on a project about the earliest history of the campus, which means we’re back in the pictures that supervising architect William Ward Watkin took to document the construction of the first buildings. These are extremely valuable images–I’ve posted many here over the years–but they can also be quite mysterious. Even after hours spent squinting at them it’s often not at all clear what we’re looking at or from what angle. I always knew that we had all the negatives in another box but negatives are much harder to work with so I paid little attention. Today, though, I was desperate enough to go look in there and I discovered that Watkin had made beautiful, meticulous little indices of these negatives. They’re so small that they were invisible tucked down among the envelopes. Here’s what they look like:

Watkin Papers Box 10 Index to Folio 1

Suddenly, exhilaratingly, everything makes sense. Here, for example, is Folio 1, number 71. It’s the sallyport, taken from the west on April 15, 1911:

Watkin Papers Box 10 1_71 Apr 15 1911 Sallyport from west

Almost as thrilling, there are a substantial number of negatives that I’d never seen before because we don’t have them as prints.

If we didn’t lock the doors at 5:00 I’d still be at work.

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11 Responses to Thank You, William Ward Watkin!

  1. Keith Cooper says:

    Thanks goodness they lock the doors.

  2. I am jealous…I’d be right there with you fighting over the loupe.

  3. Matt Noall says:

    Tremendously interesting! Thank you, and I look forward to seeing more of them.

  4. effegee says:

    I’m amazed at how chaotic the construction site was allowed to be in 1911.

  5. You might want to take the negatives to a professional photo lab (that still works with 35mm film)and ask them to make contact prints from all of the negatives. Then you could use a loupe to get a better sense of which images are missing from the print collection. Another option would be to get the lab to print out some quick and dirty 4 by 6 prints from all of the negs. Then you can use those prints as a reference source. Are there still film photo labs on Rice Campus? There used to be one in the Architecture school (as of 1980), and I seem to recall that there were also photography electives tought through the fine arts or film programs. There may be a professor that could help you out with this on campus and minimal expense.
    My final option to suggest: Find out if a lab can scan the negs as positives onto a digital disk. Even if they can only scan them as negatives, then you could project the images onto a computer screen which is much easier than looking at a tiny negative. Good Luck. Monica Coe

  6. I was locked in the library once after a concert, back when we had our offices on the fifth floor. But it was after midnight, not 5:00 PM. You should still have plenty of time.

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