Historic New England welcomes Royal Barry Wills family members to visit archive

Feb 25, 2020

Historic New England recently completed a project to catalogue, digitize, and provide online access to the archives of Royal Barry Wills Associates, one of the country’s most influential twentieth century architectural firms.

Family members of Royal Barry Wills study his sketches laid out on a table.
Members of the Wills family view sketches and documents from the Royal Barry Wills Associates Archive.

The collection, which dates from 1925 to 2013, documents the work of a leading designer of residential architecture. The finding aid to the collection and approximately 12,500 items from the collection are now on our website. The project was supported by a matching grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, with additional support from the Felicia Fund, Elizabeth and Robert Owens, and Kristin and Roger Servison.

Recently, Charles B. Wills, the son of the firm’s founder, Royal Barry Wills, and the brother of architect Richard Wills, who donated the collection to Historic New England, visited Historic New England with his wife, Arnie, to see the results of the project. Their daughters Nancy Keteku, Martha Rausch, and Cynthia Harriman, and sons-in-law Kwadwo Keteku and Lewis Harriman, accompanied them. The family viewed examples of the firm’s archive, including architectural drawings, photographs, scrapbooks, manuscripts, and ephemera. They even listened to a 1958 radio interview of Royal Barry Wills by radio personality Priscilla Fortescue. The interview was conserved as part of the grant project.

Seven of Royal Barry Wills's family members visiting the Library & Archives pose in front of a table with the architect's sketches.
The Wills family on a visit to the site of the Royal Barry Wills Archive.

Charles Wills, founder of Charles B. Wills & Company and builder of numerous residences in the region, and other family members answered questions about the collection from Historic New England staff and identified photographs.

Last fall, Jessica Wills-Lipscomb, daughter of Richard Wills, and her husband, Douglas Lipscomb, toured the collection. The family was delighted to see the collection and is thrilled that it is now accessible to the world.

Read more about the project and its digitization process.