Archived Landscapes

An open book with cyanotype images, orange stylized text, and an image of a seed packet of pink flowers.

“Environmental Histories, Archived Landscapes” is a seminar that investigates the relationships between design history and environmental history through archival research. Participants explore archives as evidence of material, spatial, ecological, and cultural change in constructed landscapes using measured drawings, diagrams, and visual analysis. Because archives seek comprehensiveness–rather than the discretionary aims of a curated collection–they often contain undeclared evidence of the fleeting and sometimes unwelcome behaviors of living systems and human inhabitants in official accounts of constructed lands.

Each student selects a local archive at Harvard (or beyond); the subject is entirely up to the student, but the archive must be image-based and accessible in person. Through a series of guided prompts, participants analyze scientific, technical, or commercial images for spatial configuration, compositional qualities, visual patterns, and cultural references; evaluate the relationship of media to the subject matter; and document these findings through analytical and projective drawings.

This exhibition is a visual index of the design research undertaken in the “Environmental Histories, Archived Landscapes” seminar. Its general structure represents the sequence of the course through the display of a set of three books and archival artifacts from Special Collections of the Frances Loeb Library.