Three Questions with Ben Davis
Three Questions is an initiative to share the value that our faculty, students, and others in the UNT community derive from using the Unique Collections at UNT Libraries.
How important are Unique Collections in your teaching, learning or research?
The Portal provides the only material available on the web, in a centralized location, able to allow visual comparisons of historic architecture in Texas through the Texas Historical Commission’s Historic Resources Survey collection. I am excited for the potential of this collection as scholars and researchers begin to discern patterns in architectural trends across the state and contextualize these trends by comparing the photographs from the THC survey to other material in the Portal. There is not another resource in the state able to provide such a robust research experience. I look forward to becoming more familiar with other collections in the Portal as this remarkable resource continues to grow.
How have Unique Collections changed the way you approach your research, teaching or learning?
Using the Portal has made me aware of the various types of material that can augment architectural research, for instance keyword searches have revealed valuable information buried within documents I would not have otherwise thought to search. In developing the stories associated with some of Texas’ earliest structures I was able to learn more about the people for whom they were built and in some cases the people who built them through family papers and biographical essays. I was then able to compare these stories of the lives of the people who lived and worked in antebellum buildings with county level records to develop a more resolved idea of the uses and functions vernacular buildings in Texas were designed to perform.
What do you want others to know about your research?
The Portal is an incredible resource and for me was only the starting point of an even longer journey to visit the sites and structures I found in the THC survey collection. As I began to document the buildings contained within the survey, recorded in the 1970s, as way of illustrating age and change in Texas communities I was struck by the novelty of a collection looking back on itself and by the potential for filling in the gaps in the previous survey. In this way I realized that the Portal, and all collections, are organic and constantly growing. By making this material available to the public the potential for development and growth is limitless!
On the left is an image from the THC collection and on the right is an image that I made.
Ben Davis’ work investigates the social experience of architecture by documenting the historic structures that have accommodated cultural rituals for over 150 years in Texas. Davis uses traditional photographic methods as well as contemporary digital technology. His work is included in the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. He was the recipient of the Priddy Scholarship at the University of North Texas in 2012, and the CVAD Student Project Award Fund in 2013. Davis’ work has been exhibited in venues across the United States including: Photo Center NW (WA), The Center for Fine Art Photography (CO), and in numerous solo shows in Texas. Davis is currently working in conjunction with the Gregg County Historical Association to document antebellum homes in East Texas for a book publication. Davis was born in Houston Texas in 1981. In 2007 he moved to Kerrville Texas to attend Schreiner University where he received a B.A. in Creative Arts. Davis currently lives in Denton Texas where he completed his MFA in Photography and is currently working toward an MS-LS (library science) in Archival Studies & Imaging Technology. Davis makes frequent excursions to East Texas to document the region’s remaining vernacular buildings and to maintain relationships with friends and family.