AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION:
Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Architectural and Engineering Documentation
These standards concern the development of documentation for historic buildings, sites, structures and objects. This documentation, which usually consists of measured drawings, photographs and written data, provides important information on a property's significance for use by scholars, researchers, preservationists, architects, engineers and others interested in preserving and understanding historic properties. Documentation permits accurate repair or reconstruction of parts of a property, records existing conditions for easements, or may present information about a property that is to be demolished.
These Standards are intended for use in developing documentation to be included in the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Collections in the Library of Congress. HABS/HAER, in the National Park Service, have defined specific requirements for meeting these Standards for their collections. The HABS/HAER requirements include information important to development of documentation for other purposes such as State or local archives.
Standard I. Documentation Shall Adequately Explicate and Illustrate What is Significant or Valuable About the Historic Building, Site, Structure or Object Being Documented.
The historic significance of the building, site, structure or object identified in the evaluation process should be conveyed by the drawings, photographs and other materials that comprise documentation. The historical, architectural, engineering or cultural values of the property together with the purpose of the documentation activity determine the level and methods of documentation. Documentation prepared for submission to the Library of Congress must meet the HABS/HAER Guidelines.
Standard II. Documentation Shall be Prepared Accurately From Reliable Sources With Limitations Clearly Stated to Permit Independent Verification of the Information.
The purpose of documentation is to preserve an accurate record of historic properties that can be used in research and other preservation activities. To serve these purposes, the documentation must include information that permits assessment of its reliability.
Standard III. Documentation Shall be Prepared on Materials That are Readily Reproducible, Durable and in Standard Sizes.
The size and quality of documentation materials are important factors in the preservation of information for future use. Selection of materials should be based on the length of time expected for storage, the anticipated frequency of use and a size convenient for storage.
Standard IV. Documentation Shall be Clearly and Concisely Produced.
In order for documentation to be useful for future research, written materials must be legible and understandable, and graphic materials must contain scale information and location references.
Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines for Architectural and Engineering Documentation
These Guidelines link the Standards for Architectural and Engineering Documentation with more specific guidance and technical information. They describe one approach to meeting the Standards for Architectural Engineering Documentation. Agencies, organizations or individuals proposing to approach documentation differently may wish to review their approaches with the National Park Service.
are organized as follows:
These definitions are used in conjunction with these Guidelines:
Architectural Data Form—a one page HABS form intended to provide identifying information for accompanying HABS documentation.
Documentation—measured drawings, photographs, histories, inventory cards or other media that depict historic buildings, sites, structures or objects.
Field Photography—photography, other than large-format photography, intended for the purpose of producing documentation, usually 35mm.
Field Records—notes of measurements taken, field photographs and other recorded information intended for the purpose of producing documentation.
Inventory Card—a one page form which includes written data, a sketched site plan and a 35mm contact print dry-mounted on the form. The negative, with a separate contact sheet and index should be included with the inventory card.
Large Format Photographs—photographs taken of historic buildings, sites, structures or objects where the negative is a 4 x 5, 5 x 7" or 8 x 10" size and where the photograph is taken with appropriate means to correct perspective distortion.
Measured Drawings—drawings produced on HABS or HAER formats depicting existing conditions or other relevant features of historic buildings, sites, structures or objects. Measured drawings are usually produced in ink on archivally stable material, such as mylar.
Photocopy—A photograph, with large format negative, of a photograph or drawing.
Select Existing Drawings—drawings of historic buildings, sites, structures or objects, whether original construction or later alteration drawings that portray or depict the historic value or significance.
Sketch Plan—a floor plan, generally not to exact scale although often drawn from measurements, where the features are shown improper relation and proportion to one another.
The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) are the national historical architectural and engineering documentation programs of the National Park Service that promote documentation incorporated into the HABS/HAER collections in the Library of Congress. The goal of the collections is to provide architects, engineers, scholars, and interested members of the public with comprehensive documentation of buildings, sites, structures and objects significant in American history and the growth and development of the built environment.
HABS/HAER documentation usually consists of measured drawings, photographs and written data that provide a detailed record which reflects a property's significance. Measured drawings and properly executed photographs act as a form of insurance against fires and natural disasters by permitting the repair and, if necessary, reconstruction of historic structures damaged by such disasters. Documentation is used to provide the basis for enforcing preservation easement. In addition, documentation is often the last means of preservation of a property, when a property is to be demolished, its documentation provides future researchers access to valuable information that otherwise would be lost.
HABS/HAER documentation is developed in a number of ways. First and most usually, the National Park Service employs summer teams of student architects, engineers, historians and architectural historians to develop HABS/HAER documentation under the supervision of National Park Service professionals. Second, the National Park Service produces HABS/HAER documentation, in conjunction with restoration or other preservation treatment, of historic buildings managed by the National Park Service. Third, Federal agencies, pursuant to Section 110(b) of the National Historic Preservation Act, as amended, record those historic properties to be demolished or substantially altered as a result of agency action or assisted action (referred to as mitigation projects). Fourth, individuals and organizations prepare documentation to HABS/HAER standards and donate that documentation to the HABS/HAER collections. For each of these programs, different Documentation Levels will be set.
The Standards describe the fundamental principles of HABS/HAER documentation. They are supplemented by other material describing more specific guidelines, such as line weights for drawings, preferred techniques for architectural photography, and formats for written data. This technical information is found in the HABS/HAER Procedures Manual.
These Guidelines include important information about developing documentation for State or local archives. The State Historic Preservation Officer or the State library should be consulted regarding archival requirements if the documentation will become part of their collections. In establishing archives, the important questions of durability and reproducibility should be considered in relation to the purposes of the collection.
Documentation prepared for the purpose of inclusion in the HABS/HAER collections must meet the requirements below. The HABS/HAER office of the National Park Service retains the right to refuse to accept documentation for inclusion in the HABS/HAER collections when that documentation does not meet HABS/HAER requirements, as specified below.
1. Requirement: Documentation shall adequately explicate and illustrate what is significant or valuable about the historic building, site, structure or object being documented.
2. Criteria: Documentation shall meet one of the following documentation levels to be considered adequate for inclusion in the HABS/HAER collections.
3. Test: Inspection of the documentation by HABS/HAER staff.
4. Commentary: The HABS/HAER office retains the right to refuse to accept any documentation on buildings, sites, structures or objects lacking historical significance. Generally, buildings, sites, structures or objects must be listed in, or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places to be considered for inclusion in the HABS/HAER collections.
The kind and amount of documentation should be appropriate to the nature and significance of the buildings, site, structure or object being documented. For example, Documentation Level I would be inappropriate for a building that is a minor element of a historic district, notable only for streetscape context and scale. A full set of measured drawings for such a minor building would be expensive and would add little, if any, information to the HABS/HAER collections. Large format photography (Documentation Level III) would usually be adequate to record the significance of this type of building.
Similarly, the aspect of the property that is being documented should reflect the nature and significance of the building, site, structure or object being documented. For example, measured drawings of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan's Auditorium Building in Chicago should indicate not only facades, floor plans and sections, but also the innovative structural and mechanical systems that were incorporated in that building. Large-format photography of Gunston Hall in Fairfax County, Virginia, to take another example, should clearly show William Buckland's hand-carved moldings in the Palladian Room, as well as other views.
HABS/HAER documentation is usually in the form of measured drawings, photographs, and written data. While the criteria in this section have addressed only these media, documentation need not be limited to them. Other media, such as films of industrial processes, can and have been used to document historic buildings, sites, structures or objects. If other media are to be used, the HABS/HAER office should be contacted before recording.
The actual selection of the appropriate documentation level will vary, as discussed above. For mitigation documentation projects, this level will be selected by the National Park Service Regional Office and communicated to the agency responsible for completing the documentation. Generally, Level I documentation is required for nationally significant buildings and structures, defined as National Historic Landmarks and the primary historic units of the National Park Service.
On occasion, factors other than significance will dictate the selection of another level of documentation. For example, if a rehabilitation of a property is planned, the owner may wish to have a full set of as-built drawings, even though the significance may indicate Level II documentation.
HABS Level I measured drawings usually depict existing conditions through the use of a site plan, floor plans, elevations, sections and construction details. HAER Level I measured drawings will frequently depict original conditions where adequate historical material exists, so as to illustrate manufacturing or engineering processes.
Level II documentation differs from Level I by substituting copies of existing drawings, either original or alteration drawings, for recently executed measured drawings. If this is done, the drawings must meet HABS/HAER requirements outlined below. While existing drawings are rarely as suitable as as-built drawings, they are adequate in many cases for documentation purposes. Only when the desirability of having as-built drawings is clear are Level I measured drawings required in addition to existing drawings. If existing drawings are housed in an accessible collection and cared for archivally, their reproduction for HABS/HAER may not be necessary. In other cases, Level I measured drawings are required in the absence of existing drawings.
Level III documentation requires a sketch plan if it helps to explain the structure. The architectural data form should supplement the photographs by explaining what is not readily visible.
Level IV documentation consists of completed HABS/HAER inventory cards. This level of documentation, unlike the other three levels, is rarely considered adequate documentation for the HABS/HAER collections but is undertaken to identify historic resources in a given area prior to additional, more comprehensive documentation.
1. Requirement: HABS and HAER documentation shall be prepared accurately from reliable sources with limitations clearly stated to permit independent verification of information.
2. Criteria: For all levels of documentation, the following quality standards shall be met:
3. Test: Inspection of the documentation by HABS/HAER staff.
4. Commentary: The reliability of the HABS/HAER collections depends on documentation of high quality. Quality is not something that can be easily prescribed or quantified, but it derives from a process in which thoroughness and accuracy play a large part. The principle of independent verification of HABS/HAER documentation is critical to the HABS/HAER collections.
1. Requirement: HABS and HAER documentation shall be prepared on materials that are readily reproducible for ease of access; durable for long storage; and in standard sizes for ease of handling.
2. Criteria: For all levels of documentation, the following material standards shall be met:
3. Test: Inspection of the documentation by HABS/HAER staff.
4. Commentary: All HABS/HAER records are intended for reproduction; some 20,000 HABS/HAER records are reproduced each year by the Library on Congress. Although field records are not intended for quality reproduction, it is intended that they be used to supplement the formal documentation. The basic durability performance standard for HABS/ HAER records is 500 years. Ink on Mylar is believed to meet this standard, while color photography, for example, does not. Field records do not meet this archival standard, but are maintained in the HABS/HAER collections as a courtesy to the collection user.
1. Requirement: HABS and HAER documentation shall be clearly and concisely produced.
2. Criteria: For levels of documentation as indicated below, the following standards for presentation will be used:
3. Test: Inspection of the documentation by HABS/HAER staff.
Where a preservation planning process is in use, architectural and engineering documentation, like other treatment activities, are undertaken to achieve the goals identified by the preservation planning process. Documentation is deliberately selected as a treatment for properties evaluated as significant, and the development of the documentation program for a property follows from the planning objectives. Documentation efforts focus on the significant characteristics of the property, as defined in the previously completed evaluation. The selection of a level of documentation and the documentation techniques (measured drawings, photography, etc.) is based on the significance of the property and the management needs for which the documentation is being performed. For example, the kind and level of documentation required to record a historic property for easement purposes may be less detailed than that required as mitigation prior to destruction of the property. In the former case, essential documentation might be limited to the portions of the property controlled by the easement, for example, exterior facades; while in the latter case, significant interior architectural features and nonvisible structural details would also be documented.
The principles and content of the HABS/HAER criteria may be used for guidance in creating documentation requirements for other archives. Levels of documentation and the durability and sizes of documentation may vary depending on the intended use and the repository. Accuracy of documentation should be controlled by assessing the reliability of all sourcesand making that assessment available in the archival record; by describing the limitations of the information available from research and physical examination of the property, and by retaining the primary data (field measurements and notebooks) from which the archival record was produced. Usefulness of the documentation products depends on preparing the documentation on durable materials that are able to withstand handling and reproduction, and in sizes that can be stored and reproduced without damage.
Recommended Sources of Technical Information
Recording Historic Ships. By Richard K. Anderson, Jr., HABS/HAER,
National Park Service, Washington, D.C.
Specifications and Guidelines. HABS/HAER, National Park Service,
Washington, D.C., Draft 1997.
Reports. HABS/HAER, National Park Service, Washington, D.C., 1993.
HABS/HAER Production Notes
Historic Sites and Structures Using Computer-aided Drafting (CAD)
(.PDF File). HABS/HAER, National Park Service, Washington,
Structures. John A. Burns, editor, AIA. The AIA Press, Washington,
Historic Structures and Sites for the Historic American Engineering
Record (.PDF Files). HABS/HAER, National Park Service,
Washington, D.C., 1996.
Structures and Sites with HABS Measured Drawings. HABS/HAER,
National Park Service, Washington, D.C., 1993.
HABS/HAER Documentation. HABS/HAER, National Park Service, Washington,
Recording Historic Buildings. Harley J. McKee. Government Printing Office, 1970. Washington, D.C. Available through the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. GPO number 024-005-0235-9.
HABS/HAER Procedures Manual. Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service, 1980. Washington, D.C.
Photogrammetric Recording of Cultural Resources. Terry E. Borchers. Technical Preservation Services, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1977. Washington, D.C.