IMLS grant supports access to important archive

Media Contact: Susanna Crampton, [email protected]

Historic New England was awarded a $150,000 Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support a two-year project to catalogue, clean, rehouse, digitize, and provide online access to the Royal Barry Wills Associates Archive.

This collection documents the history of the Boston-based architectural firm founded in 1925 by Royal Barry Wills, one of America’s most popular architects and master of the Cape Cod-style house. From the 1920s to the 1960s, Wills designed 2,500 single-family residences, authored eight books about architecture, hosted a radio program, lectured widely, received numerous awards, supplied “Home Building Plans” for a number of newspapers, and was the subject of feature articles in Life, The Saturday Evening Post, and Good Housekeeping. In 2013, Wills’ son Richard donated the company archives to Historic New England.

The collection contains materials from the 1920s to 2003 and includes architectural drawings for 2,000 projects (32,000 individual items), 6,000 photographs, 800 8”x10” negatives, 74 linear feet of project files, and 27.5 linear feet of scrapbooks, publicity files, original manuscripts, and accompanying illustrations, reference resources, miscellaneous photographic materials, recordings, speech scripts, certificates, and diplomas. The IMLS funds will enable Historic New England to digitize 11,000 key items (6,000 drawings, 4,000 photographs, and 1,000 other items) that illustrate the firm’s many projects, expand public access to the collection, and broaden awareness of the tremendous influence the Wills firm has had on domestic architecture in America.

The Royal Barry Wills Associates Archive is a significant addition to Historic New England’s architectural holdings, which are a primary resource for the study of New England architecture and document the work of more than 400 architects practicing from the late eighteenth century to the present. The project supports the organization’s mission and furthers its vision to “be a more public institution by becoming the national model for care of regional heritage buildings, landscapes, and collections and for the sharing these resources to benefit diverse audiences.”

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement.

Elevation drawing from "Better Homes for Budgeteers." WILLS, ROYAL BARRY (1895-1962) Architect. Caption for BSA Space exhibition November 2015: Illustration from Better Homes for Budgeteers, Royal Barry Wills, c. 1940.