Notes from Accra 2018

Escaping the freezing temperatures of the UK we returned to Ghana for our final trip of the British Academy sponsored project. There were a number of buildings on our list still to be visited in Accra and we were eager to explore…

George Padmore Library, Accra

George Padmore Library, Accra

The first stop was the George Padmore Library designed in 1961, and containing a vast collection of Kwame Nkrumah’s personal books and pamphlets. The building is hidden in the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park and forms an excellent example of tropical modernist architecture with carefully detailed finishes, craftsmanship and landscaping. The cooling reflection pool sits beneath the open-tread staircase that weaves its way up into the reading room. There is no air-conditioning here, just the pleasant breeze enticed through the building by the louvres on each side. Who is the architect of this oft-overlooked gem? The Librarian is eager for the facilities to be expanded and developed – we hope they pursue a sensitive solution, and avoid what has happened the library at Sekondi.

UTC Building

UTC Building

From here we visited the UTC building, a former department store and office block now stripped of its external solar-shades and in the process of demolition. We were lucky to photograph this building, as a few weeks from now it will no longer exist. The building is located in the frantic and exciting market area of town where everything from a tomato to a stadium PA system can be purchased. The market grew up around the train station that brought produce from the north and relayed the imported goods back. Complete with a dainty clocktower and waiting rooms the station structure is made from an imported cast iron kit from either Liverpool or Glasgow. Although there are no trains running any longer the station is as busy ever with squatters and traders making full use of the facilities.

Cedi House

Cedi House

Cedi house, the first podium-base-cum-high-rise to be built in the city in the early 1960s by John Owusu Addo is now, sadly,  looking a little tired, and needs some major investment. Each façade is different to respond to the specific climatic/solar demands. Inside a couple of murals survive and the marble cladding and exposed staircase give a glimpse of the building’s former style.

 

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Job @ METROMOD
Relocating Modernism: Global Metropolises, Modern Art and Exile
an ERC-funded project at the Institute for Art History of the LMU Munich

Position: Research Associate / Doctoral Student
Domain: History of Modern Art
Location: Institute for Art History, School of Arts, Zentnerstr. 31, D-80798 Munich, Germany
Assignment: May 2018

Salary Range/Hours: 13 TV-L, 65%
Duration: 3 years
Deadline for application: 10 February 2018

LMU is recognized as one of Europe’s premier academic and research institutions. The university is situated in the heart of Munich.

Job Description
Applications are sought for a doctoral student on the European Research Council funded project “METROMOD: Relocating Modernism: Global Metropolises, Modern Art and Exile” led by Professor Dr. Burcu Dogramaci and based at the LMU Institute for Art History. Applications from the disciplines of art history, architectural history, urban history, planning history or related research fields are welcome.

We are offering a three-year PhD position starting in May 2018 at the earliest.

The Project
Breaking new ground, METROMOD proposes a rewriting of modern art history as a history of global interconnections, spurred by migration movements and rooted in cities. Revising the historiography of modern art, which still continues to be dominated by the hegemonic and normative narratives of (Western) European Modernism and ignores the significance of exile movements, METROMOD conceptualizes art history as a result of interrelations and negotiations in global contact zones, unstable flows, transformations and crises. The conceptual triangle of modernism, migration and the metropolis forms the foundation of an innovative comparative, interdisciplinary methodology. In its analysis, METROMOD focuses on the first half of the 20th century. During this era the modern movement emerged as a paradigm in art and architecture, and rapid urbanization took place globally; thousands of persecuted European modern artists fled their homes, re-establishing their practices in metropolises across the world. Reflecting both the geographical extent of these exile movements and their local urban impact METROMOD examines 6 key migrant destinations—the global cities of Buenos Aires, New York, London, Istanbul, Mumbai (before Bombay) und Shanghai—following three main objectives: 1. to explore transformations in urban topographies, identifying artistic contact zones and places of transcultural art production; 2. to investigate networks of exiled and local artists as well as collaborative projects and exhibitions; and 3. to analyse art publications and discourse generated in centres of exile. Digital mapping will locate sites of artistic migration in the cities and demonstrate linkages between transforming metropolises and flows of people and objects around the world.

Prerequisites
You have successfully completed a master’s degree in art history, architectural history, urban history or planning history or related disciplines. You have a background in the history of modern art, photography, architecture or urbanism. You have a special interest in exile studies and history, and you have special language abilities in Mandarin. You will be fluent in English and have a working knowledge of German. You will be expected to pursue independent work related to the themes of METROMOD focusing on the objectives of the project (see description above). You will conduct a PhD project about the exiled/migrated artist community (1900-1950), art institutions, artworks and the urban landscape of Shanghai.

The successful candidate is expected to work as part of a team based at the LMU Munich and to conduct fieldwork and/or archive visits for the case studies. You are expected to publish the results of your research within the publication program of the project. You will be expected to be involved in planning and running collaborative project group activities (project meetings, workshops and conferences) as well as in the administrative work associated with the project. Experience and interest in archival research and/or the implementation of digital mapping tools connected with the project is desirable.

Working space, working tools and a travel budget will be provided. Applications from disabled researchers will be considered with priority under equal conditions. We welcome applications from female candidates. This is a 65% position.

How to apply
Please send the following application materials as a single PDF-document to rachel.lee@lmu.de (please specify METROMOD in your email subject line):
1. Short cover letter (max. 300 words)
2. Short CV (max. 2 pages) plus list of publications
3. A description of your proposed research topic relating to the stated objectives of the METROMOD project (max. 1000 words, excluding bibliography)
4. A writing sample (e.g. one chapter of your master’s thesis or an article). The writing sample should reflect your current research interests. It should preferably be no longer than 5000 words
5. Names and contact details of at least two referees.

Applications received by 10 February 2018 will receive full consideration. Review of the applications will continue until suitable candidates are found. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interviews on 20th of February 2018. Informal enquiries may be made to Dr. Rachel Lee.

Contact Person:
Dr. Rachel Lee
METROMOD, Relocating Modernism: Global Metropolises, Modern Art and Exile (ERC)
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Institut für Kunstgeschichte
Zentnerstraße 31
80798 München
E-Mail: rachel.lee@lmu.de

Biennial Conference, Centre for European Architecture, Kent School of Architecture (UK)

From Building to Continent: How Architecture makes Territories

Cultural landscape refers to landscapes shaped by humans through habitation, cultivation, exploitation and stewardship, and has influenced thinking in other fields, such as architecture. Generally, architecture has been subsumed within cultural landscape itself as a comprehensive spatial continuum. Yet standard architectural histories often analyse buildings as isolated objects, sometimes within the immediate context, but typically with minimal acknowledgement of wider spatial ramifications. However, buildings may become spatial generators, not only in the immediate vicinity, but also at larger geographic scales. ‘Buildings’ in this case include architectural works in the traditional sense, as well as roads, bridges, dams, industrial works, military installations, etc. Such structures have been grouped collectively to represent territories at varying scales.

In the context of this conference, the term ‘territories’ is appealed to rather than ‘landscape’, for the latter is associated with a given area of the earth’s surface, often aestheticized as a type of giant artefact. Territories by contrast are more abstract, and may even overlap. Discussions in this conference may consider varying territorial scale relationships, beginning with the building, moving to the regional, and even to the global. For example, at the level of architectural detailing, buildings may represent large-scale territories, or obscure others, themselves acting as media conveying messages. How tectonic-geographic relationships are represented may also be considered. Various media, primarily maps but also film and digital technologies have created mental images of territories established by buildings, and are all relevant to these discussions. Geopolitical analysis may provide another means towards understanding how architecture makes territories. Governments are often the primary agents, but not always, for religious and special interest groups have played central roles. Mass tourism and heritage management at national and international levels have reinforced, or contradicted, official government messages. Organisations dedicated to international building heritage, such as UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) also are implicated in such processes.

Paper proposals may cover anytime period, continuing into the present. Relevant proposals from all disciplines are welcomed.

Logistics

Conference organisers: Dr. David H. Haney, and Dr. Luciano Cardellichio.

Conference webpage address: Research.kent.ac.uk/frombuildingtocontinent

 

Paper abstracts: 150-200 words in length.

Paper abstract submission due date: 5th February, 2018.

Paper selection announcement date: 31st of March, 2018.

Please send paper abstracts as a Word doc (without images): frombuildingtocontinent@kent.ac.uk

 

Conference dates: 28th and 29th of June, 2018

Location: Canterbury, Kent, UK

Venue: The Cathedral Lodge: https://www.canterburycathedrallodge.org/meeting-and-conference-facilities-in-canterbury/

Daily Schedule: to be published

Conference Fee: £140 per person. Includes coffee/tea and refreshments, and buffet lunches on both days.

To pay the registration fee online, please click here: http://store.kent.ac.uk/product-catalogue/faculty-of-humanities/school-of-architecture/events/conference-from-building-to-continent-how-architecture-makes-territories

A conference publication containing selected essays is planned.

Keynote Speaker Lectures:

Professor Lucia Allais, Princeton University (US): ‘Maps of monuments and scales of design: Strategic bombing and the postwar international order’.

Professor Mark Bassin, Södertörn University (Stockholm): ‘Nature as State: Geopolitics and Landscape Monuments’.

Professor Kenny Cupers, University of Basel: ‘The Earth that Modernism Built’.

Professor Tullia Iori, The University of Rome Tor Vergata: ‘Engineering the Italian Landscape: the Autostrada del Sole as Territorial Construct for a New Post-War National Identity’.

The Transnational Architecture Group Blog is 5 Today!

It’s five years since our first tentative blog post. Since that day we’ve posted over 200 articles, calls for papers, and general research updates on all things architecturally transnational.

One of our major research interests has of course been the work of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, with the publication of the monograph in 2014 and international conference. But that was just the start. Since then we’ve covered Shama Anbrine and Yemi Salami’s PhD work in Pakistan and Nigeria respectively, as well as Cleo Robert’s PhD work in India. Rachel Lee tested and developed our Timescape App in Bangalore and also published a wonderful monograph (with TAG Press) on Otto Koenigsberger. She was also responsible for a major heritage symposium in Dar es Salam. Ola Uduku has been our most prolific ‘commenter’ as well as providing many research updates on our findings in Ghana and organising numerous workshops on the Architecture of Africa. Our current research project has been sponsored by the British Academy and we’re delighted to be collaborating with Rexford Assasie Oppong (KNUST) and Irene Appeaning Addo (Legon University) on this work.  There is going to be a lot more research stemming from this initial project, not least the cataloguing and archiving of the major drawings collection at KNUST, with Łukasz Stanek from Manchester University.

Other forays have taken us to Thailand and the work of Nat Phothiprasat, as well as to Sri Lanka and the plans of Patrick Abercombie.  We’ve posted abstracts and links to many other papers and projects, not least Johan Lagaes and Kathleen James-Chakraborty’s papers. Killian Doherty and Edward Lawrenson’s film on Yekepa promises to be one of the highlights of 2018.

More recent posts have revealed the rich architecture of the Middle East, including Levin’s paper on Ashkelon, William A. Henderson‘s work at Little Aden,  Ben Tosland’s research into Kuwait, Alsalloum’s moving paper on Damascus and Jackson’s paper on the PWD in Iraq. There’s surely a lot more to investigate here.

It’s been great fun, and here’s to the next five years of exciting research, difficult questions, dusty roads and even dustier archives, and of course new discoveries that make everything worthwhile.

We’d like to thank all of the blog contributors (please do continue to send us your updates, research findings and short articles). Thanks also to our committed readers and for all of your kind comments and emails.

Iain Jackson.

 

Alfred Roth’s criticism and answer to early schools in Kuwait

Ben A. Tosland, PhD Candidate at Kent School of Architecture, writes:

Recently, my research interests have taken me to Switzerland to the ETH Zurich archives with a focus on Alfred Roth, particularly looking at his work in the Persian Gulf throughout the 1960s and 1970s within the context of early critical regionalism. Roth had once worked in the offices of Le Corbusier, whose influence in form and colour was undeniable through several of his school designs executed in Kuwait in the 1960s and 70s. However, it is his criticism of Khaldiya Girls’ Secondary School designed by Rambald von Steinbüchel-Rheinwall (figure 1) that is particularly scathing and his architectural response is to be the topic of this post.

Picture1

Figure 1Rambald von Steinbrüchel-Rheinwall’s secondary school for girls. This shows the assembly hall that Roth is so scathing about. (ETH Zurich: Alfred Roth Archive no. 131-0764-F-2)

In the excellent compilation of Modern projects in Kuwait from 1949-1989, Roberto Fabbri points out Roth’s scornful thoughts of this school, but only briefly mentions that this is for climatic reasons stating Roth’s thoughts on its environmental inefficiency.[1] In the recently published second volume, he unpacks this further by spelling out the other criticisms Roth had of the school.[2] Roth’s initial criticism is a four-fold affair relating to the excessive use of land, a waste of inner-space causing ‘uneconomic planning’, the neglect of climatic conditions through the widespread layout and ‘enormous glass area’ of the majority of rooms and finally calls the architectural design ‘superficial’ and one of ‘fancifulness.’[3] When Roth talks of ‘gaudiness’, he is referencing the swimming pool buildings and assembly hall, both included in Nelson Garrido’s images printed in Fabbri et al’s Modern Architecture Kuwait’s first volume.[4] Roth’s criticisms are placed in a document that examines the situation of Kuwait’s schools in 1964, within which Roth suggests several alterations to their improvements.[5]

In answer to his criticism of von Steinbüchel-Rheinwall’s school, Roth designed schools that drew from Kuwait and the Gulf’s rich Arab architectural and urban forms. Using his prototypes, he oversaw the construction of many prefabricated schools for a wide range of student ages. Roth aimed to take into account the cultural heritage of Kuwait with his designs noting his quote from Saba George Shiber’s 1964 study The Kuwait Urbanisation:

“contrasting with the simple, humble, dignified, beautiful and organic architecture that is the heritage of Old Kuwait is the complicated, gaudy, undisciplined, ill-mannered and inorganic architecture that has, in “one fell swoop”, replaced or bulldozed away the tranquil and indigenous architecture deriving from the Kuwaiti habitat.”[6]

Picture2

Figure 2 This image shows one of the successfully built schools by Roth with the glazing out of the sunlight owing to the covered walkway on the classroom’s exterior (1970-1) (ETH Zurich: Alfred Roth Archive no. 37-0762-F.Roth-11)

Roth’s architecture in Kuwait, as shown in the images (figures 2, 3 and 4), was contextual to its urban surroundings and respected the organic growth of design within Kuwait and the wider region. His prefabricated low-rise buildings, often introverted facing a courtyard and were built on a significantly smaller scale to the von Steinbüchel-Rheinwall designed school. The designs for all Roth’s schools had covered walkways blocking sunlight from internally glazed areas. The external walls exhibited as little glass as possible (figures 2, 3 and 4) featuring outlets for ventilation punctuating the exterior elevations ensuring climatic credentials (figure 4). The introverted nature was common across Kuwait and the Gulf primarily for cultural and climatic reasons and had been common in the centuries prior to the nation’s modernisation process (figure 3). While they do not look as extravagant as von Steinbüchel-Rheinwall’s school, Roth’s schools functioned successfully.

Picture3

Figure 3 The internal courtyard of the school, showing the walkways on the exterior of the classrooms and how shaded they are from direct sunlight (1970-1) (ETH Zurich: Alfred Roth Archive no. 131-0762-F-Roth-22)

Through Roth’s criticisms of the fanciful designs that preceded him in Kuwait, he created a new form of Modern architecture influenced by research and the oversights of other architects. In terms of development and architecture in Kuwait, this was arguably a turning point towards a more contextual approach to architecture from Western designers. Buildings constructed in the decades after such as Jørn Utzon’s Kuwait National Assembly, Arne Jacobsen’s Central Bank and the unbuilt Mat Building proposals by the Smithsons built for the cultural and climatic conditions of an arid climate and conservative nation trying to find its true built identity. Archival material shows this dialogue between architects and different practices, manifesting itself in better more informed architecture that is not superficial nor fanciful.

Picture4

Figure 4 The external wall of the school without glazing areas allowing for cross-ventilation and no direct sunlight into the rooms (1970-1) (ETH Zurich: Alfred Roth Archive no. 137-0162-F-Roth-4)

[1] Fabbri, R. Saragoça, S. Camacho, R. (2016) Modern Architecture Kuwait, 1949-1989(vol. 1). (Niggli: Zurich), pp. 54-56.

[2] Fabbri, R. Saragoça, S. Camacho, R. (2018) Modern Architecture Kuwait, 1949-1989 (vol. 2). (Niggli: Zurich), p. 213.

[3] Roth, A. (1966) The School Buildings of Kuwait, (Unpublished Report), pp. 10-22. (ETH Zurich: Alfred Roth Archive)

[4] Ibid and Frearson, A. (20.03.2016) Nelson Garrido captures the modern architecture of Kuwait’s Golden Era. Dezeen. (Accessed: 14.12.2017) https://www.dezeen.com/2016/03/20/nelson-garrido-photography-essay-modern-architecture-golden-era-kuwait/

[5] Roth. The School Buildings of Kuwait, pp. 10-22. (ETH Zurich: Alfred Roth Archive)

[6] Shiber, S. G. (1964) The Kuwait Urbanization: Documentation, Analysis, Critique. (Kuwait: Kuwait Government Printing Press), pp. 285-294.

Last year architect Killian Doherty and filmmaker Edward Lawrenson visited Yekepa, a remote new-town in Northern Liberia, designed and built by a mining company prospecting for iron-ore in the late 1950s. Yekepa emerged through the West’s investment in the natural resources of a ‘developing’ Africa to become a built symbol of utopian promise, symbolism that voided local inhabitants claims to ancestral lands and their eventual displacement.

Aerial_Change_Text.jpg

 © Killian Doherty and Edward Lawrenson

Eventually the iron-ore reserves became depleted and Yekepa fell into disrepair, rendered a ghost town haunted by the memories of past prosperity. Now partly repopulated by workers of another mining firm, Yekepa has returned to life, but its fortunes remain dependent on the global market of iron-ore. Having spoken to past and present residents of Yekepa—both in Liberia and in Sweden—they are making a documentary about the town to chronicle its unusual history and uncertain future.

Church.jpg

 © Killian Doherty and Edward Lawrenson

Doherty and Lawrenson’s research film traces, through the neo-colonial architecture and planning of the town, the complex relationship between land, displacement, and the global extractive industries within, and beyond, Sub-Saharan Africa.

This film will be released in early 2018.

For updates on this film and future screenings follow @ArchitectureFo on Twitter or visit www.architecturalfieldoffice.org

Killian will also give a lecture and film screening in the Autumn 2018 at Liverpool School of Architecture – date to be confirmed soon.

Killian Doherty is a qualified architect who has practiced in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Rwanda. He runs the collaborative practice Architectural Field Office that has a particular interest in sites of conflict and the dissonance of modernity and development in Africa. He has written for Architectural Review, MAS Context, and VOLUMEmagazine on these themes and is currently is undertaking a PhD by Design at the Bartlett School of Architecture.

Edward Lawrenson is a London-based filmmaker whose films have played at a number of festivals, including Sundance, BFI London Film Festival, True/False, Open City; and cinemas, including the Museum of the Moving Image in New York and London’s ICA. His radio documentaries have played on BBC Radio 4. His 2015 documentary Abandoned Goods (codirected with Pia Borg) won the Golden Leopard for Best International Short at the Locarno Film Festival

William Anthony Henderson (1914-1998): Projects in the Middle East with Farmer and Dark

Bill Henderson

Bill Henderson, c.1980s.

Henderson studied at Liverpool School of Architecture commencing his studies during Prof. Charles Reilly’s final year as Head of School in 1932. He described it as, ‘exciting times for me both in student work and in vacations when, twice with my friend Roger Ward, I travelled by cargo boat on cheap mail fare in Italy, Germany and Scandinavia and worked in the USA [for William Lescaze] and Canada in 1936’. Reilly would often arrange work experience for his students in New York during the summer before their final year and Henderson recorded the sojourn in his sketchbooks.

 

He returned to Liverpool and completed his thesis entitled, ‘A Residential group for the University of London’ before being awarded both the prestigious John Rankin Prize and Honan travelling scholarship that funded a research trip to Chile, the findings of which were later published in the Architectural Review. Although professing ‘little experience of nitty gritty’ he worked for Grey Wornum and was about to start work for Shepherd & Partners when war was declared on 1st September 1939. After signing-up to serve, he was posted to Turkey on a troop ship via Sierra Leone, round the Cape through the Suez Canal to Ismailia, with the final stretch by air. He served in the Royal Engineers designing roads and airfields (the illustrated diaries from this period are now housed in the Imperial War Museum).

Returning to the UK in 1945 he worked at Hertfordshire County Architects on their radical school building programmes. He joined the firm of Farmer and Dark in 1951, becoming partner in 1954 until his retirement in 1980. The practice was renowned for handling large complex projects and as their 1955 practice brochure notes, ‘there can be no casual atelier character for a team over a hundred strong’. Many large-scale projects were overseen by Henderson during this period, including the Automobile Association HQ and he was Consultant Architect to Kent University (taking over from Lord Holford), where amongst others he designed the Senate House, Keynes College, the Gulbenkian Theatre, as well as shaping the Master Plan – but what interests us here is the work at Kuwait, Aden and Lebanon.

 

Henderson set up the Farmer and Dark Middle Eastern Office in Beirut to handle the large number of projects being commissioned in the region, including in Turkey and Cyprus. He first visited Kuwait in 1952, following the commission to design a power station and water distillation plant at Kuwait Town. Prior to the water plant, all fresh water had to be imported from Iraq. Building materials, including bricks, were imported from the UK, but post-war building rations resulted in the steel being sourced from Belgium. The large mass of the power station is dispersed through projecting triangular cornices and sloped vertical fins, that add shadow, texture and rhythm to the substantial volumes.

The Kuwait water towers, as drawn here by Cyril Farey, show a similar concern for using climatic modification to inform the character and formal composition. There is a restrained pragmatic approach to their work, as well as a concern for bold outlines and a clarity in the formal layout and planning. Further work was won including two primary schools, and an Engish Public School in Lebanon (subsequently abandoned following the 1958 Lebanon Crisis).

The Kuwait Team at Farmer and Dark

The Kuwait Team at Farmer and Dark – note the power station photo on the right hand side

L: Bill Henderson, M: Frankland Dark; R: T. A. Eaton

L: Bill Henderson, M: Frankland Dark; R: T. A. Eaton

Farmer and Dark also designed a new lavish palace for the Sheikh Jabir Al Ali. There were many references to local patterns and decoration, and bold colours deployed to resist the strong sunlight. A series of hyperbolic arches forms a parasol over the main building, offering some shade to the structure below as well as adding a sense of grandeur and civic stature to the design.

Construction at Little Aden, 1960-1965

Construction at Little Aden, 1960-1965

Perspective of the proposed town of Little Aden

Perspective of the proposed town of Little Aden

The Church and Clock Tower at Little Aden, 1965

The Church and Clock Tower at Little Aden, 1965

Church Interior, Little Aden, looking up into the lantern, 1965

Church Interior, Little Aden, looking up into the lantern, 1965

Perhaps the highlight of this work is the British Army Cantonment at Little Aden designed and built between 1960-65 to house 4500 servicemen and their families. A small town was planned including a variety of different housing types for the various army ranks, as well as a school, sports facilities, cinema, clubhouses and a church. The entire town was designed around a modular system ensuring minimum site work, quick construction and standard details, as well as a progressive approach to data management and standardised drawing processes.

In stark contrast to the earlier reserved work the square timber trusses of the church are alternately stacked at 45° to the layer below to create a dramatic interior, as well as responding to the mountainous backdrop with its external form. It was a roofing technique dating back at least to the time of Vitruvius, who mentioned its use at Colchis. The church was subsequently converted into a mosque after the British were evacuated in November 1967 following attacks from the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY). The press speculated that the settlement was designed with Arab occupation in mind from the outset – a claim rejected by the architects who designed ‘for the conditions of Arabia and in character with the terrain, so the buildings are bound to be apt for other use, than by the British army’. The arrangement of the church sited on a rocky spur of the Jebel, ‘not only proves to have an affinity with the stone forts of South Arabia but also to the traditional relationship of mosque to minaret.’ Indeed, the architects considered the possibility of the church being converted into a mosque in the event of the British departing.

There’s a lot more to discuss about Farmer and Dark, and the significant contribution made by people such as Bill Henderson to this practice. We hope to post a lot more images and details on the blog in the next few months to bring more of this work to light.

I’m extremely grateful and indebted to Tessa and Kathy Henderson for generously sharing their father’s archive with me.

 

 

 

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