After forty years in archives, Society of American Archivists (SAA) Fellow Waverly Lowell will be retiring in June. During the last two decades as Curator of the Environmental Design Archives (EDA) at the University of California, Berkeley, Lowell led efforts to document the designed environment created by practitioners in Northern California, transformed the “Documents Collection” into a national and international model for design archives, mentored an outstanding cadre of archivists, and established an Archives Research Fellowship to support young scholars wishing to use the archives. Understanding that images are a critical regardless of medium, she also oversaw the transition of a slide library into a Visual Resources Center at the College of Environmental Design.
Under Lowell’s leadership, the Archives more than tripled its holdings through acquiring the collections of more than a hundred designers including the records of William Turnbull/MLTW, Peter Walker/PWP, and Edith Heath/Heath Ceramics. During her tenure the Archives sponsored a publication series, developed a complex and vibrant website, managed a program of speakers and competitions, established a Friends of the Archives support group, relocated the on-campus and offsite collections into environmentally-controlled facilities, and mounted collection descriptions onto the Online Archive of California.
A much sought-after speaker and teacher, Lowell co-developed and taught the SAA course “Managing Architectural Records,” made numerous presentations to professional, community, and public organizations, and authored many articles. She co-taught both undergraduate classes and graduate seminars, and always welcomed students into the Archives to explore and conduct research. Lowell also engaged in her own extensive scholarship and publication projects. Her publications include: Living Modern: A Biography of Greenwood Common (2009); Architectural Records: Managing Design & Construction Records (2006), which she co-authored with Tawny Ryan Nelb and won a SAA Coker Award; Standard Series for Architecture and Landscape Design Records: A Tool for the Arrangement and Description of Archival Collections (2000); and Landscape at Berkeley: The First 100 Years and Design on the Edge: 100 Years of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, serving as lead editor for both.
Always keen to curate exhibits based on the Archives’ collections, or have the Archives’ materials featured in exhibits elsewhere, Lowell mounted a wide range of highly engaging exhibitions in Wurster Hall and placed important pieces of the collection in major museum exhibitions, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Pacific Standard Time exhibit, California Design: 1930-1965, Living in a Modern Way (2011); The Getty Center exhibition Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990 (2013); and Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (2016).
Lowell was also a very successful fundraiser, writing proposals and receiving numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historic Publications and Records Commission, the Getty Foundation, and other foundations and organizations. She held a position at the Bancroft Library, where she contributed her extensive expertise to the development and preservation of their architecture and planning collections, such as making the papers of Catherine Bauer Wurster, Fran Violich, and Elizabeth Kendall Thompson available for research as well as managing the projects to process the Timothy Pflueger and Arthur Brown Jr. Collections.
Prior to the EDA, Lowell served as the Director of the National Archives’ Pacific Sierra Region, Project Director of the California Cooperative Preservation of Architectural Records (CalCOPAR), Acting Curator of Historic Documents at the National Maritime Museum, Curator of Manuscripts/Archivist for the California Historical Society, and as an archives and research consultant.
During her extensive and varied career, Lowell was honored as a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists, made a Distinguished Librarian by the Librarians Association of the University of California, Berkeley, received an AIASF Design Award for contributions made by the Environmental Design Archives, a Certificate of Recognition honoring her work and the Environmental Design Archives from California State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, a certificate of recognition from the California State Assembly, and the Archivists Award of Excellence from the California Heritage Preservation Commission.
The College of Environmental Design has been incredibly fortunate to have such extraordinary leadership for the Archives. Please join us in congratulating Waverly on her retirement, and thanking her for her invaluable leadership, expertise, and dedication to CED community.