“…worthy to be placed among the permanent national records…”

Analog Standards in a Digital World

Thorough, accurate documentation is critical to the preservation, rehabilitation, and on-going maintenance of historic structures.  It is equally important as a record of our built environment that will serve the research needs of future generations and provide a permanent record of those historic structures that do not survive the destructive forces of nature and humankind.  The utility of our documentation in fulfilling these functions is contingent on the methods we use to capture, represent, present and preserve our data on historic structures.  Traditional dimensioning and recording methods, developed over many decades, still produce accurate and reliable results. But the introduction of new technologies has dramatically transformed each of these activities – increasing speed, expanding scope, enhancing capabilities, and shifting presentation paradigms.  Developing a record of historic sites has never been easier or more complicated.

Over the long term, whether using old or new techniques, the durability, availability and reliability of our documentation are strengthened by its preparation and preservation according to a set of established principles or standards. Heritage Documentation Programs – the umbrella for the Historic American Buildings Survey and companion programs Engineering Record and Landscapes Survey (HABS for short) – maintains just such a set of standards to which documentation in its collection at the U.S. Library of Congress conforms.  Predating the formation of the HABS program over eighty years ago, these standards retain remarkable applicability to current documentation methodologies. How and why this is so is the broad topic of my presentation.


About the Speaker

Richard O’Connor (Heritage Documentation Program, US Park Service): is Chief of the Heritage Documentation Programs (HABS, HAER and HALS), part of the Cultural Resources programs at the U.S. National Park Service, for which he provides administrative oversight as well as directing the Historic American Engineering Record. He earned his PhD in history at the University of Pittsburgh and held a variety of college and university adjunct teaching positions before joining the HAER program in 1990. As a HAER historian he prepared studies on a wide variety of historic industrial sites, including glass manufacturing, brick making, cotton gins, iron pipe foundries, and water delivery systems. He has overseen the acquisition and deployment of high-definition laser scanning equipment and the return of photogrammetry (now digital vs large-format plate) in HABS, HAER and HALS documentation.