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Standards & Guidelines

The Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Engineering Documentation define the products acceptable for inclusion in the HABS/HAER/HALS collection at the Library of Congress as measured drawings, large-format black-and-white photographs, large-format color transparencies, written histories and descriptions, and field records.

The Standards (quoted below) were published in the Federal Register on September 29, 1983 (Vol. 48, No. 190, pp. 44730-34).


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.


The Guidelines provide advice and technical information on meeting the standards. Most importantly, they outline an approach to historic architecture, engineering, and landscapes that helps ensure the documentation will meet the Secretary's Standards while creating a comprehensive understanding of the site or structure. They also provide recommendations on research methods and report organization, line weight and sheet layout, photographic paper and negative preparation, and the disposition of field notes.

The Guidelines were originally published in the Federal Register on September 29, 1983. A revised version was published in the Federal Register on July 21, 2003 (Vol. 68, No. 139, pp. 43159-43162).


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