• Part of a roofline shows from one building. Trees with fall color leaves on them fill most of the photo. A lamp-post is near center of the photo.

    Harpers Ferry Center

Guidelines for Preparing Historic Furnishings Reports

An Annotated Sample of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments (if appropriate)

Management Summary

This section offers resource managers a synopsis of the report to help focus issues for consideration during review and approval, particularly any implications for site management of implementing the furnishings plan. It should briefly address: the level of interior documentation that exists for the site; summarize the plans for furnishing and the basis for those plans (both in terms of documentation and prior planning documents, such as general management plans and interpretive prospectuses that call for historic furnishings); identify any associated media called for in the furnishings plan; explain how visitors will access the site (i.e., by guided tour, self guided tour, or other); state whether implementation of the furnishings plan is tied to a larger restoration package, and identify any architectural modifications required for implementation.

Administrative Information

This section explains the management background of the structure, and provides the context for the current planning effort. It should briefly address: the establishment of the site (may be limited to citing the legislation); the status of the structure(s) on the National Register and its preservation history; the history of use by the NPS (including administrative and/or interpretive use) and any previous furnishings or other media installations; and list other research and planning documents pertaining to the structure. These last commonly include general management plans, interpretive prospectuses, historic structure reports, and collection management plans. If the structure(s) was operating as a museum prior to NPS involvement, that history should also be included here.

  • Interpretive Objectives - Address the interpretive objectives of the furnished space(s), referencing if applicable the overall interpretive objectives of the site. This section explains what furnishings are intended to convey to the viewer, and why they are needed. Explain exactly which spaces are to be furnished. Include guidelines for personal services interpretation, with recommendations for specific interpretive messages that can be conveyed in the furnished spaces.
  • Operating Plan - Cite hours and seasons of operation, how visitors access the site (i.e., through self-guided, guided, fixed point interpretation or other), staffing needs for interpretation and maintenance, and a visitor circulation pattern. Also identify any barrier needs in this section. This section should be prepared in close collaboration with park staff.
  • Prior Planning Documents - List research and planning documents pertaining to the structure. Include these documents in the bibliography as well.

Historical Information

This section contains the complete history of the interior spaces, their appearance and how they were used over time. It forms the documentary basis for the furnishings plan, and provides a resource manual for personal services interpretation, as well as for developing other kinds of interpretive media.

  • Summary of Sources - Succinctly describe primary sources of information, including important collections, repositories, and/or interviews. Some reports will not require this summary.
  • History of the Structure - If structural history is contained in another document (typically the Historic Structures Report), reference that work and include only a brief summary of its contents here. If no such document exists, address the structural history to the extent needed as background for the furnishings history.
  • Analysis of Historical Occupancy - Treat the building's occupants, including household or other staff, as fully as possible (provided that information does not appear in another document), including biographical information, dates of occupancy, and information about people's lives and activities in the structure. A subsection on room use may be appropriate, particularly if it changed frequently over time.
  • Evidence of Room Use and Furnishings - Describe the interior appearance over time as fully as possible, including the contents of each space and their arrangement, when and where items were acquired and dispensed of, where produced, and any known repairs or other kinds of work to the furnishings. Include interior finishes and lighting fixtures. If that information is contained in an HSR, reference the HSR here. Organize this section by room, addressing all rooms on the first floor, all rooms on the second floor, and so on. Depending on the site, it may be helpful to separate the room analysis into "Room Use," "Physical Evidence," and "Furnishings" for each room.

A separate section detailing information on furnishings of closely related structures should be included if site specific information is lacking, and if needed to develop a furnishings plan.

Furnishings Plan

The purpose of this section is to guide furnishings installation, and to provide a permanent record of object placement for park staff. Some HFRs will be limited to historical information sections and will not include a furnishings plan.

  • Floor Plan - Include an accurate floor plan of areas to be furnished, with directional sign. The park will often be able to provide this plan.
  • List of Recommended Furnishings - The furnishings list should include object name, documentation or basis for inclusion, park catalog number or, if the object is not in the park collection, a recommendation as to whether a reproduction or period piece is needed. Include a brief description, and date or date span for each recommended object. (Example: Desk, small wooden office, c. 1910-1930.) In general, recommend period pieces first, and reproductions as a second resort. However, if the object is fragile (such as a textile, or paper), extremely rare, or prohibitively expensive to acquire, recommend reproductions. The list of furnishings should begin with recommendations for appropriate period lighting fixtures, floor coverings, window treatments, and wall and ceiling treatments. The list shall include a complete, item-by-item account of every object to be placed in a room, starting at the entrance and working clockwise around the room. Objects to be placed on a table or other piece of furniture should immediately follow the piece in the furnishings list. All items should be enumerated; i.e., entries such as "desk accessories" or "mantel garniture" will not be accepted.
  • Related Media - Include suggestions for accompanying media, such as panel exhibits, interior waysides, or other. Provide suggestions for illustrations and text.


Include a list of illustrations, as well as a caption with each illustration. Include full citations, with source information and photo numbers, if applicable.



Organize the bibliography by publication type. Categories should appear in the following order:

  • Books and government reports - separate this section if there are a large number of these sources
  • Manuscript collections
  • Articles and pamphlets
  • Interviews
  • Other - includes transcripts, web sites, and correspondence

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