Over the past several years, I have had the privilege of producing Architectural Lighting’s 25th and 30th anniversary issues (in 2011 and 2016, respectively). Central to these initiatives was the ability to access, read, and reference the AL print archive. Going through the early issues, especially those from the publication’s first decade, was like opening a treasure chest. It was an amazing and informative experience to read about the issues of concern for the lighting community then, see the first projects of now established practitioners, and read contributions from individuals such as Jim Benya, Chip Israel, and Randy Burkett, who have gone onto prominent careers in architectural lighting.

Going through the archive was also an opportunity to witness the evolution of the publication itself, in terms of both editorial structure and content focus. While design styles and lighting technologies may have changed over time, what remains constant is each generations’ desire to ask similar core questions about the nature of practice, and the role technology plays in the design process.

Of equal import are the advertisements, which serve as a history of lighting products and reveal lighting manufacturers’ responses to the issues of the day, such as ongoing energy efficiency discussions and the switch to LED sources. These ads also document the makeup of lighting companies and the way in which the industry’s business landscape has evolved over time.

However, what good is this information if it sits on a shelf and isn’t widely available? From the moment I started working with the AL archive, I knew I had a responsibility to be its guardian and to find a way to make it accessible to the entire design community. While I have explored various options for digitizing the back issues, the urgency to move forward with the project was accelerated this past November when the magazine ceased print publication. Over the past several months, during AL’s transition into an online-only entity (at archlighting.com and the AL Notes email newsletter), it has been my goal to make sure that the archive be preserved according to the following criteria:

1. That the complete AL print archive (1986 – 2017) serve as a record of the evolution and development of the lighting design profession;2. That the complete AL print archive be accessible to all constituencies within the design, engineering, and construction fields;
3. That the complete AL print archive be accessible online; and
4. That the complete AL print archive be accessible for free.

With these imperatives in mind, I am pleased to announce that the AL archive project is underway and that the publication is collaborating with US Modernist to make this happen. US Modernist, its website notes, “is a nonprofit 501C3 educational archive for the documentation, preservation, and promotion of residential Modernist architecture,” but its true focus is broader. One of the organization’s major initiatives is the preservation of major U.S. architecture publications since 1920. To date, its library includes 2.1 million pages (6,000-plus issues) and includes such publications as Architectural Record, Progressive Architecture, Pencil Points, Architectural Forum, AIA New York’s Oculus, and House+Home, among others. Architectural Lighting is the only lighting-specific publication in this collection.

The AL archive initiative is a three-phase project whose goal is to complete the entire upload of issues by this December. The first phase covers issues from 2011 to 2017; the second phase from Sept/Oct 2003 to Nov/Dec 2010; and the third phase from Nov. 1986 to July/Aug 2003.

The first phase is already complete and the issues were posted over the summer.

The second phase is now underway. This phase is a bit more complex because, due to changes in publishing software platforms from 2003 through 2010, the issues must be scanned—and the scanning process will be completed this fall.

The third phase is where we need your help. There are some gaps in our collection of print issues from this period, but the real issue is that we need a second set of print issues that can be “sacrificed” to be scanned. This is where you come in. Today, I am putting out a call to EVERYONE—lighting designers, architects, manufacturers, researchers, educators, and students—to help in this process. Do you have any back issues of AL in your library, specifically from 1986 to 2003 that you would be willing to contribute for this archive project? If so, please send them to my attention at the address listed below.

AL and the lighting community have grown up in tandem, and making this archive accessible is a way to preserve the lighting industry’s history. There are few publications that cover lighting the way AL does, and this would prove to be a unique resource for future generations of designers. Please help AL make sure this 31-year history is documented and secure lighting’s place in the larger discourse of architecture and design.

Elizabeth Donoff
[email protected]

Architectural LightingHanley Wood Media
One Thomas Circle NW, Suite 600
Washington DC 20005-5811