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Architectural reprography, the reprography of architectural drawings, covers a variety of technologies, media, and supports typically used to make multiple copies of original technical drawings and related records created by architects, landscape architects, engineers, surveyors, mapmakers and other professionals in building and engineering trades.
Within the context of archival preservation, the custodians of architectural records must consider many aspects of identification and care when managing the artifactual nature of these materials. Storage containers, handling, paper and chemical compositions and interactions, ultraviolet light exposure, humidity, mold, and other agents of potential harm all interact to determine the longevity of these documents. As well, architectural reprographic drawings are often in very large formats, making storage and handling decisions especially complex.
With the rise of the professionalized practice of western architecture in the second half of the 19th century, the field of architectural reprography—and the corresponding developments of photography and mass-produced wood-pulp paper—saw significant experiments and advances in technology. Beginning with major refinements in blueprinting processes in the 1840s, through the widespread adoption of diazotype printing after World War II, the design profession turned to analog architectural reprography to create accurate, to-scale reproductions of original drawings created on tracing paper, vellum, and linen supports. These copies were typically used throughout the architect’s own design process and also for distribution to clients, contractors, governmental agencies, and other interested parties. However, the integration of CAD—or Computer-Aided Design—over the last twenty-five years of design practice has made analog reprography far less common in the profession and more ephemeral in nature. For archivists, curators, librarians and other custodians of architectural records, traditional reprographic formats are now often seen as historic documents, with attendant needs for long-term care and conservation.
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