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sketches by William Robert Waresketches by William Robert Ware

William Robert Ware Study Collection

Collected from England for MIT by William Robert Ware to establish the School of Architecture’s study collection.

William Robert Ware founded the architecture program at MIT in 1865 and served as its first instructor. Part of the original plan for MIT, based on Ware’s pedagogical approach, included a permanent museum of “illustrative drawings and models” that could be used in teaching and study. Because the architectural profession in the United States was in its infancy, Ware turned abroad for examples. In 1867 he travelled to England and gathered a collection of more than 200 drawings that he believed exemplified contemporary architectural work. In teaching, Ware wrote, “portfolios of first-rate architectural drawings would be invaluable,” and could be “as useful to the profession as to the School, and a source of instruction and pleasure to amateurs and to the public.” The drawings in the Ware Study Collection—ranging from overall building plans to construction details, molding profiles, and furniture designs—were studied by generations of MIT students as Ware intended, and today serve a similar purpose in the collection of the MIT Museum.

The vast majority of the Ware Study Collection drawings are by the established English architects Bassett Keeling, Robert J. Withers, Thomas Little, and Alfred Waterhouse. The drawings by Keeling in the collection represent his church projects from the early to mid-1860s, such as the Church of Saint Andrew, Camberwell. Similarly, the drawings by Withers are mostly from his ecclesial projects, including schools, chapels, and rectories. The Thomas Little drawings that Ware collected represent the architect’s earlier work from the 1840s, especially a series of drawings for Chapels at Nunhead Cemetery, London. In terms of number of drawings, the Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse is the best represented in the Ware Study Collection, with materials from two of his projects for the London-based businessman and abolitionist G.W. Alexander, including his house in Stoke Newington and office on Lombard Street. The combined 108 Waterhouse project drawings (58 and 50, respectively) provide an unusually complete picture of English architectural practice in the mid-nineteenth century.

Title: William Robert Ware Study Collection

Creators: Charles Barry, Bassett Keeling, Thomas Little, Alfred Waterhouse, Robert J. Withers

Dates: 1835–1867, bulk 1860–1867

Extent: 219 drawings

Language: English

Repository: MIT Museum

Reference Code: 1994.038.WS

Access: Online and by appointment

Copyright: Public domain

Credit: William Robert Ware Collection, MIT Museum