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Esther Born collection

Identifier: AG 225

Scope and Contents

All of the materials in this collection relate to Born’s “Picturesque Mexico” project. Series one contains Born’s travel notebook, which is a three-ring binder consisting of miscellaneous materials written and collected by Born. These materials relate to her travel in Mexico to photograph the modernist architecture, between 1935 and 1936. Contents have been removed and placed into 11 folders. Series two contains 6 folders of research materials, which include an interview, letters, photocopies and lists, and other miscellaneous materials. Series three features a copy of the monograph The New Architecture in Mexico. Series four holds two scrapbooks of almost 200 Mexican post cards, some with typed descriptions.

The fifth series contains the negative inventory notebook that were conducted by Ernestina Osorio on December 8, 2000. Each page describes one negative and contains information about size, location, date, and unique identifying number. Numbers range from 36A-104 to 36A-329 (5 x 7 inch negatives) and from 36B-201 to 36B-783 (2.5 x 3.5 and 4 x 5 inch negatives), plus descriptions of unnumbered negatives. Note: this inventory has not been matched with the negatives in the Born Collection at CCP.

The sixth series consists of one box of photographs and study prints by Born. The seventh series contains two boxes of negatives, which are further divided into subseries and sub-subseries based on topic and are arranged at the envelope/item level. These negatives bear identifications in Born’s handwriting, and are still housed in the original sleeves. The final series includes three color transparencies on glass plates. Each plate is 5 x 7 inches and fragile.


  • Creation: 1930s
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1935-1937

Language of Materials

Spanish. English.

Conditions Governing Access

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Use

© Esther Born Estate, Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors).

The user agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona, Center of Creative Photography, including its officers, employees, and agents, from and against all claims made relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement.

Biographical Note

Esther Born (née Baum) was a graduate of the UCB Architecture School (1926) where she studied under John Galen Howard. She married Ernest Born in the same year she graduated. During the Great Depression she studied photography, which she practiced successfully throughout her life. She spent 10 months in Mexico, photographing and drawing the country’s architecture and design. The compilation of this work was first published in an issue of Architectural Record in April 1937. The article was expanded into a book, The New Architecture in Mexico published by Wm. Morrow and Co. (New York, 1937) This monograph has been credited with directing the attention of the world to the rise of modern architecture in Mexico. Her photographs were published in several architectural journals throughout her career. From 1945 through 1973 she shared an architecture practice with Ernest Born. She continued to take many outstanding photographs of architecture designed by him and others.


3 Linear Feet

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


This archive contains materials related to the Mexican photography of Esther Baum Born (1902-1987), architect and photographer. Born traveled in Mexico during the mid- to late-1930s. Her work was first published in Architectural Record (April 1937) and expanded into the influential book The New Architecture in Mexico (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1937). This collection includes her Mexico travel notebook containing the contact information for the many Mexican architects documented in the book, scrapbooks of vintage Mexican postcards, photographs, and original negatives.


Series List

  1. Series 1: Notebook
  2. Series 2: Research materials
  3. Series 3: Publications
  4. Series 4: Scrapbooks
  5. Series 5: Negative inventory notebooks
  6. Series 6: Photographs
  7. Series 7: Negatives, “Mexican scenes”
  8. Series 8: Color transparencies on glass

Custodial History

Acquired from the photographer’s daughter, Beatrice Born Roberts, in 2008.

Related Materials

The Ernest and Esther Born Collection is held by the Environmental Design Archives, College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley. It consists of over 10 boxes of personal papers, professional records, and photographs primarily documenting the architectural career of Ernest Born, Esther’s husband.

The Esther Born Collection mid- to late-1930s AG225
Under Revision
Processed by staff in 2014. Updated by Alexis Peregoy in 2016 and again in 2022.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding guide is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Center for Creative Photography Archives Repository

1030 N. Olive RD
Tucson Arizona 85721 United States