Heritage Documentation Programs

Heritage Documentation Programs (HDP) is a division of the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) responsible for administering the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS). These programs were established to document historic places in the United States. Records consist of measured drawings, archival photographs, and written reports, and are archived in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

The Heritage Documentation Programs team measures the Kentucky School for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1934



20th century

An HABS photograph of the First Bank of the United States in Philadelphia

In 1933, NPS established the Historic American Buildings Survey following a proposal by Charles E. Peterson, a young landscape architect in the agency.[1] It was founded as a constructive make-work program for architects, draftsmen, and photographers left jobless by the Great Depression.

The program was supported through the Historic Sites Act of 1935.[2][3][4][5]

Guided by field instructions from Washington, D.C., the first HABS recorders were tasked with documenting a representative sampling of the nation's architectural heritage.[6]

They began to document the built environment in the United States, carrying out multi-format surveys that amassed a "more than 581,000 measured drawings, large-format photographs, written histories, and original field notes for more than 43,000 historic structures and sites dating from Pre-Columbian times to the twentieth century."[2]

By creating an archive of historic architecture, HABS provided a database of primary source material and documentation for the then-fledgling historic preservation movement.[7]

Earlier private projects included Eleanor Raymond's Early Domestic Architecture of Pennsylvania (1931), Charles Morse Stotz's Western Pennsylvania Architectural Survey, and the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs.[6] Many of their contributors later joined the HABS program.

Notable HABS photographers included Jack Boucher, who worked for the project for over four decades,[8][9][10] Robert W. Tebbs,[11] Richard Koch,[12][13] and Jet Lowe.[14]

Historic American Engineering Record

An HAER photograph of the Rocky Flats Plant in Boulder, Colorado

The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) program was founded on January 10, 1969, by NPS and the American Society of Civil Engineers. HAER documents historic sites, structures, mechanical, and engineering artifacts. The Maritime Administration works with HAER to "document historic vessels prior to their disposal."[15]

Since the advent of HAER, the combined program is typically called "HABS/HAER". Eric DeLony headed HAER from 1987 to 2003.[16]

Historic American Landscapes Survey

An HALS photograph of San Francisco National Cemetery in San Francisco

In October 2000, NPS and the American Society of Landscape Architects established a sister program, the Historic American Landscapes Survey, to systematically document historic American landscapes.[17]

A predecessor, the Historic American Landscape and Garden Project, recorded historic Massachusetts gardens between 1935 and 1940. That project was funded by the Works Progress Administration, but was administered by HABS, which supervised the collection of records.[18]

In 2001, along with the Library of Congress, the NPS, and the American Society of Landscape Architects signed a Memorandum of Understanding which established a working relationship between the three organizations. Following the signing of this agreement, these organizations together signed the Tripartite Agreement in 2010, making "HALS a permanent federal program."[19]

The NPS deals with the planning and operations of HALS, standardizes the formats and develops the guidelines for recording landscapes.[19]

Library of Congress


The permanent collection of HABS/HAER/HALS are housed at the Library of Congress, which was established in 1790 (and reestablished after the disastrous fire of 1814 in Washington, D.C., by purchasing former third President Thomas Jefferson's personal library at Monticello in 1815) as the replacement reference library of the United States Congress.

The Library of Congress has since been expanded to serve as the national library of the United States; U.S. publishers are required to deposit a copy of every copyrighted and published work, book monograph and magazine. As a branch of the United States Government, its created works are in the public domain in the U.S. Many images, drawings, and documents are available through the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, including proposed, demolished, and existing structures; locales, projects, and designs.[20]

See also



  1. ^ "Historic American Buildings Survey: New Deal Web Guide (Virtual Programs & Services, Library of Congress)". www.loc.gov. Retrieved 2022-03-31.
  2. ^ a b "The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) Born during the Great Depression, HABS is an essential research tool". Old House Journal. Jun 16, 2021. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  3. ^ King, Thomas F. (2004). Cultural Resource: Law and Practice (2nd ed.). New York: Altamira Press. p. 20.
  4. ^ American Place: The Historic American Buildings Survey at Seventy-Five Years (PDF). National Park Service. 2008. ISBN 9781484109205. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  5. ^ Lindley, John (1982). The Georgia catalog, Historic American Buildings Survey : a guide to the architecture of the state. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0-8203-0613-4.
  6. ^ a b Lavoie, Catherine C. (2006). "Architectural Plans and Visions: The Early HABS Program and Its Documentation of Vernacular Architecture". Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture. 13 (2 Special 25th Anniversary Issue (2006/2007)): 15–35. JSTOR 20355381. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  7. ^ Kolson Hurley, Amanda (December 9, 2008). "HABS at 75". Architect. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  8. ^ "Jack E. Boucher, longtime National Park Service, dies at 80". The Washington Post. September 13, 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  9. ^ Malvaney, E.L. (September 12, 2012). "HABS Photographer Jack Boucher (1931-2012)". Preservation in Mississippi. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  10. ^ MANSHEIM, GERALD (January 1991). "A Record in Detail: Architectural Photographs of Jack E. Boucher". The Annals of Iowa. 50 (7): 829–831. doi:10.17077/0003-4827.9527.
  11. ^ "The Historic American Buildings Survey in New Orleans Active Epoch(s): Initial Organized Efforts (1920–1937)". Tulane University. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  12. ^ McCollam, Julie H. "Richard Koch". 64parishes.org. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  13. ^ "Architectural Photographer Richard J. Levy, AIA, APA Exhibits "Historic American Buildings Survey – Library of Congress"". The Los Angeles Chapter of The American Institute of Architects. May 7, 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  14. ^ "Interview with Jet Lowe". The Bridgehunter's Chronicles. 16 February 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  15. ^ "Historic American Engineering Record Surveys | MARAD". maritime.dot.gov. Retrieved 2022-03-31.
  16. ^ Witcher, T. R. (2019). "History Lesson. Fifty Years of Preservation: Historic American Engineering Record" (PDF). Civil Engineering. January: 40–43. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  17. ^ "Professional Practice Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS)". The American Society of Landscape Architects. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  18. ^ Stevens, Christopher (June 11, 2019). "Paul Dolinsky – Four Decades of Preservation Through Documentation". The Field. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  19. ^ a b "Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) | asla.org". asla.org. Retrieved 2021-05-24.
  20. ^ "Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey". Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Retrieved 2012-03-07.