Heritage Documentation

Better Guidance, Easier Compliance

HAER photo of Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge over San Francisco Bay
Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), Jet Lowe, Photographer

Quick Facts


A Call to Action
Action Item:
What’s Old is New
Also Promotes:
History Lesson
Year Accomplished:

As the principal Federal agency identified by Congress to lead the nation's historic preservation efforts, the National Park Service upholds and maintains the Secretary of the Interior's historic preservation standards.  One set of those standards, for Architectural and Engineering Documentation, establishes criteria for recording historic sites for the HABS/HAER/HALS collections at the Library of Congress.  As part of Call to Action Item #25, What's Old is New, the NPS is updating the guidelines for meeting the standards to take advantage of new recording methods, innovative technology, and opportunities for collaboration with partners.

The Secretary's documentation standards are particularly important for Federal agencies complying with provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) to mitigate Federally-funded adverse actions on historical properties.  About to be severely altered or destroyed, this is the last opportunity to create a permanent record of our historic buildings, engineering works, and landscapes.

Pioneered by the NPS's Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), the Federal government's oldest preservation program, along with companion programs Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) and Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS), the documentation standards define the four criteria of content, quality, materials, and preservation that have underpinned the collection at the Library of Congress since 1933. 

Updating guidelines offers the opportunity to consult with the many non-NPS partners involved in historic preservation, including the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Federal, State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, and private sector practitioners.  To date, HABS/HAER/HALS has met with over thirty Federal Preservation Officers and presented a webinar on guideline updates.  The consultation process will continue over the next year to ensure all guidelines are updated as the NPS enters its second century.

HDP Program:  http://www.nps.gov/history/hdp
Search the Collections:  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/hh/
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