Note on Documentation and Treatment of Historic Properties

Documentation and treatment of historic properties includes a variety of techniques to preserve or protect properties, or to document their historic values and information. While documentation activities may be applied to any potentially historic property, generally only those properties that first have been evaluated as significant against specified criteria (such as those of the National Register) are treated. Some commonly applied treatments are preservation in place, rehabilitation, restoration and stabilization; there are other types of treatments also. Documentation and treatment may be applied to the same property; for example, archeological historical, and architectural documentation may be prepared before a structure is stabilized or before foundations or chimneys or other lost features are reconstructed.

Alternatives for treatment will usually be available, and care should be applied in choosing among them. Preservation in place is generally preferable to moving a property. Over time, the preferred treatment for a property may change; for example, an archeological site intended for preservation in place may begin to erode so that a combination of archeological documentation and stabilization may be required. If a decision is made that a particular property will not be preserved in place, the need for documentation must then be considered.

The three sets of documentation standards (i.e., the Standards for Historical Documentation, Standards for Architectural and Engineering Documentation, and Standards for Archeological Documentation) as well as the Standards for Historic Preservation Projects (Acquisition, Preservation, Stabilization, Protection, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction) [the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties (Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, Reconstruction)] describe the techniques of several disciplines to treat historic properties, and to document or preserve information about their historical values. The integration of planning for documentation and treatment with their execution is accomplished in a statement of objectives, or research design. Because both the goals and appropriate methodologies are likely to be interdisciplinary in nature, the relationship among these various activities should be specified in the research design to ensure that the resulting documentation produces a comprehensive record of historic properties in an efficient manner.

Part of a series of articles titled Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation.

Last updated: May 13, 2020