Heritage Documentation Programs

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The Heritage Documentation Programs team measures the Kentucky School for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1934 Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) Team.jpg
The Heritage Documentation Programs team measures the Kentucky School for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1934

Heritage Documentation Programs (HDP) is a division of the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) responsible for administering the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS). These programs were established to document historic places in the United States. Records consist of measured drawings, archival photographs, and written reports, and are archived in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.



20th century

An HABS photograph of the First Bank of the United States in Philadelphia First national bank US with HABS border.jpg
An HABS photograph of the First Bank of the United States in Philadelphia

In 1933, NPS established the Historic American Buildings Survey following a proposal by Charles E. Peterson, a young landscape architect in the agency. [1] It was founded as a constructive make-work program for architects, draftsmen, and photographers left jobless by the Great Depression.

The program was supported through the Historic Sites Act of 1935. [2] [3] [4] [5]

Guided by field instructions from Washington, D.C., the first HABS recorders were tasked with documenting a representative sampling of the nation's architectural heritage. [6]

They began to document the built environment in the United States, carrying out multi-format surveys that amassed a "more than 581,000 measured drawings, large-format photographs, written histories, and original field notes for more than 43,000 historic structures and sites dating from Pre-Columbian times to the twentieth century." [2]

By creating an archive of historic architecture, HABS provided a database of primary source material and documentation for the then-fledgling historic preservation movement. [7]

Earlier private projects included Eleanor Raymond's Early Domestic Architecture of Pennsylvania (1931), Charles Morse Stotz's Western Pennsylvania Architectural Survey, and the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs . [6] Many of their contributors later joined the HABS program.

Notable HABS photographers included Jack Boucher, who worked for the project for over four decades, [8] [9] [10] Robert W. Tebbs, [11] Richard Koch, [12] [13] and Jet Lowe. [14]

Historic American Engineering Record

An HAER photograph of the Rocky Flats Plant in Boulder, Colorado RFControlPanel2.jpg
An HAER photograph of the Rocky Flats Plant in Boulder, Colorado

The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) program was founded on January 10, 1969, by NPS and the American Society of Civil Engineers. HAER documents historic sites, structures, mechanical, and engineering artifacts. The Maritime Administration works with HAER to "document historic vessels prior to their disposal." [15]

Since the advent of HAER, the combined program is typically called "HABS/HAER". Eric DeLony headed HAER from 1987 to 2003. [16]

Historic American Landscapes Survey

An HALS photograph of San Francisco National Cemetery in San Francisco VIEW OF CEMETERY SECTION NAWS (NEW ADDITION WEST SIDE) AMONG THE EUCALYPTUS TREES. VIEW TO SOUTH. - San Francisco National Cemetery, 1 Lincoln Boulevard, San Francisco, San Francisco HALS CA-1-7.jpg
An HALS photograph of San Francisco National Cemetery in San Francisco

In October 2000, NPS and the American Society of Landscape Architects established a sister program, the Historic American Landscapes Survey, to systematically document historic American landscapes. [17]

A predecessor, the Historic American Landscape and Garden Project, recorded historic Massachusetts gardens between 1935 and 1940. That project was funded by the Works Progress Administration, but was administered by HABS, which supervised the collection of records. [18]

In 2001, along with the Library of Congress, the NPS, and the American Society of Landscape Architects signed a Memorandum of Understanding which established a working relationship between the three organizations. Following the signing of this agreement, these organizations together signed the Tripartite Agreement in 2010, making "HALS a permanent federal program." [19]

The NPS deals with the planning and operations of HALS, standardizes the formats and develops the guidelines for recording landscapes. [19]

Library of Congress

The permanent collection of HABS/HAER/HALS are housed at the Library of Congress, which was established in 1790 (and reestablished after the disastrous fire of 1814 in Washington, D.C., by purchasing former third President Thomas Jefferson's personal library at Monticello in 1815) as the replacement reference library of the United States Congress.

The Library of Congress has since been expanded to serve as the national library of the United States; U.S. publishers are required to deposit a copy of every copyrighted and published work, book monograph and magazine. As a branch of the United States Government, its created works are in the public domain in the U.S. Many images, drawings, and documents are available through the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, including proposed, demolished, and existing structures; locales, projects, and designs. [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Large format</span> Imaging format for film camera of 4×5 inches or larger

Large format refers to any imaging format of 9 cm × 12 cm or larger. Large format is larger than "medium format", the 6 cm × 6 cm or 6 cm × 9 cm size of Hasselblad, Mamiya, Rollei, Kowa, and Pentax cameras, and much larger than the 24 mm × 36 mm frame of 35 mm format.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jack Boucher</span> American photographer

Jack E. Boucher was an American photographer for the National Park Service for more than 40 years beginning in 1958. He served as the Chief Photographer for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). In 1966 he left the Park Service for two years to supervise New Jersey's State Historic Preservation program, including the State's roadside marker program, 18 historic museum houses, several lighthouses, and two historic villages. Offered his old job back by the Park Service/HABS in 1970, he left New Jersey to return to NPS/HABS and the highly specialized job of large format photographic architectural documentation. His work took him to 49 States, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. April 2008 was the fiftieth anniversary of his employment with the National Park Service's "HABS" program. He traveled with 900 pounds of photographic equipment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jet Lowe</span> American photographer (born 1946)

John T. "Jet" Lowe is an American photographer. He is one of the photographers employed by the U.S. National Park Service on the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) projects, and was the supervisor of engineering photography for HAER until his retirement in July 2013. His book, Industrial Eye: Photographs by Jet Lowe from the Historic American Engineering Record was published in 1986 by the Preservation Press.

Charles Emil Peterson (1906–2004) is widely considered to be a seminal figure in professionalizing the practice of historic preservation in the United States. He is referred to as the "founding father" of the professional advocation of historic preservation, the "godfather of preservation," and an "extraordinary preservationist" who made important contributions to the knowledge of early American building practices, helped create the profession of the preservation architect, and passionately advocated for the retention and restoration of the American built heritage. According to Jacques Dalibard, a professor at McGill University School of Architecture, "with James Marston Fitch, I cannot think of two people who had more influence on historic preservation in North America."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eric DeLony</span>

Eric DeLony (1944–2018) served as chief of the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) from 1971 to 2003 and was a noted historic preservationist. He was a professional engineering and industrial heritage consultant with a particular interest in the preservation of historic bridges. He received the General Tools Award, the highest award of the Society for Industrial Archeology, in 2000.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James B. Norman</span> American photographer

James Burton Norman Jr. is an American photographer, author, and cultural historian.


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  15. "Historic American Engineering Record Surveys | MARAD". www.maritime.dot.gov. Retrieved 2022-03-31.
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  17. "Professional Practice Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS)". The American Society of Landscape Architects. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  18. Stevens, Christopher (June 11, 2019). "Paul Dolinsky – Four Decades of Preservation Through Documentation". The Field. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  19. 1 2 "Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) | asla.org". www.asla.org. Retrieved 2021-05-24.
  20. "Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey". Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Retrieved 2012-03-07.