The Library of Congress announced last week that it has digitized its massive collection of personal papers and correspondence detailing the life and work of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. ARCHITECT reported that the resource comes online ahead of the bicentennial of Olmsted’s birth, which will be celebrated in 2022.
Olmsted is best known for designing both Central Park and Prospect Parks in New York, as well as the U.S. Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C., and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Many of his long-loved landscapes across the United States and Canada, including his designs for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and Montreal’s Mont Royal Park, are still vibrantly maintained and visited today. His vision for these sites and more can now be studied via the Olmstead Papers on the Library’s website.
The collection includes about 24,000 items—that’s 47,300 images—dating from 1777 to 1952. The bulk of the papers, including family letters, journals, drafts of his articles and books, as well as correspondence with his clients and colleagues, spans from 1838 to 1903. The collection is organized online in eight sections and additionally unveils Olmsted’s project proposals, reports, drawings, speeches, lectures, and his legal and financial records.
The papers were acquired by the Library as a gift from Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and other family members from 1947-1948 and 1968-1969. Laura Wood Roper, one of Olmsted’s first biographers, gave the Library nearly 3,000 items in 1975. Two additional items purchased six years later were transferred from the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection to the Olmsted Papers in 1996. According to the Library, the Olmsted Associates Records collection, which documents the work of the architect’s sons and their associates, will also be digitized ahead of the bicentennial celebration.