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Thread: Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

  1. #1

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    Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

    I've seen Historic American Building Survey (HABS) work mentioned here periodically, as it is a natural for large format photography.

    I've been trying to look into the subject a little more, and I THINK I remember a post on this forum that gave some helpful suggestions about who to contact, etc. to get more information and/or to request to be placed on a list of photographers, etc. Trouble is, I failed to bookmark it, and I haven't had any luck at all with the search function here.

    Can anyone point me to that thread (or was I dreaming?), or provide any hints to help me look in the right direction for more information on this subject?

    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    Re: Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

    You probably have seen this site:

    http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/collections/habs_haer/

  3. #3

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    Re: Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

    Thanks for the link Ron!

    I'm getting a pretty good idea of the purpose and requirements of HABS, but I'm not finding much information on how the jobs are actually done (e.g. are there lists of qualified photographers, are photographers hired by state or local historical societies, is it volunteer work, or what?).

    Any other informatiion would be much appreciated!

  4. #4
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

    I'm not aware of any list. These assignments do not come out from a centralized source, though when submitted they are approved by a regional person at the NPS.

    It is all about your reputation with individuals who hire for these kinds of assignments. Understand that the photography is a relatively small part of a HABS project and many other people are involved and in charge. In my area it is a couple of architectural firms who do some historic preservation work locally and one regional firm that specializes solely in HP work. There is no list they draw from but architectural photographers they know who can handle the work.

    The other place to focus on is your state and/or city historic preservation officer. In my area the SHPO (State Historic Preservation Officer) does hire sometimes and recommend photographers to entities who are contracting for HABS submitals. I always make it my business to know the current SHPO, but that is easy for me because I have been involved in many areas of historic preservation for decades. If I were you I would start there.

    Some of this work is volunteer (as allot of HP work in general is), some is bid work and ends up being about minimum wage for your time and some occasionally pays properly. Even in a state like New Mexico that is full of historic buildings, there is not many HABS projects done in a year. I would guess about one every couple of years. I don't do it for the money. I do it to give something back .
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 73:
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  5. #5

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    Re: Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

    Thank you Kirk, that helps a lot!

    I didn't expect that type of work to be any type of cash cow, but more of an interesting and worthwhile project. If it managed to pay for itself, even better!

  6. #6

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    Re: Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

    Thanks for beating me to the punch on this one Kirk.

  7. #7

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    Re: Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

    Heritage Documentation Programs administers HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey), the Federal Government's oldest preservation program, and companion programs HAER (Historic American Engineering Record), HALS (Historic American Landscapes Survey), and CRGIS (Cultural Resources Geographic Information Systems). Documentation produced through the programs constitutes the nation's largest archive of historic architectural, engineering, and landscape documentation.
    _________________________________________________

  8. #8
    schafphoto's Avatar
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    Re: Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

    I do HABS/HAER work often in California because of the strict CEQA laws (California Environmental Quality Act). Often the last resort before demolition for a building that is listed as a historic resource is recordation photography to HABS standards. The guidelines for what and how to shoot are pretty strict and then the real nitty-gritty happens in the darkroom with the processing and printing, and then the transmittal of all the photographic work along with a lot of data about how and where the photos were captured.

    I am usually hired by the cities that are processing the demolition for a future development, or a historic preservation consultant/architect that has been hired to assess the historic resource and then come up with recommendations and mitigations for the demolition of the historic resources.

    If you are detail oriented then HABS/HAER jobs can be a very zen experience. It's usually you and a "shot list" in a forlorn location shooting 4x5 or 5x7 in available light of an abandoned building or complex or bridge. Typical coverage includes overall context views of the site or complex to show the area and the resource's surroundings. Then very straightforward undistorted views of the important facades (perspective corrected and sometimes including a measuring scale so a future architect could presumably draw a blueprint from the scaled photograph). Then depending upon the importance of the site, various detail views and interior views.

    Download the HABS/HAER Guidelines to get an idea of the basic photographic requirements, like archival washing, fiber-paper contact prints, archival sleeves, and photo pages. Then download the 100+ page "Preparing HABS/HAER/HALS documentation for Transmittal to the Library of Congress" and follow the rules for preparing the photo package for delivery.

    It's all a lot of work, but very rewarding, and don't forget you will be sending the negatives and prints to the Library of Congress, so take an extra set. Oh and by the way, everything that is submitted to the LOC is put into the Public Domain so you don't own the copyright anymore.

    Sounds more zen all the time...
    `
    –Stephen Schafer HABS | HAER | HALS & Architectural Photography | Ventura, California | www.HABSPHOTO.com

  9. #9

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    Re: Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

    Schaf, thank you for the detailed response (and welcome to the forum)!

  10. #10
    grumpy & miserable Joseph O'Neil's Avatar
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    Re: Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

    Quote Originally Posted by schafphoto View Post


    Download the HABS/HAER Guidelines to get an idea of the basic photographic requirements, like archival washing, fiber-paper contact prints, archival sleeves, and photo pages. Then download the 100+ page "Preparing HABS/HAER/HALS documentation for Transmittal to the Library of Congress" and follow the rules for preparing the photo package for delivery.

    Sounds more zen all the time...
    -snip-

    I just wanted to say a very, very big THANK YOU for this site and documentation. I'm the past chair for the Heritage Committee of my city, and i have a meeting today in a few hours. One of our subjects is an endangered building and if it is torn down, how to properly document it.

    As far as I know, we do not have local guidelines like HABS has, so they are being printed out and coming with me to my meeting.

    Agian - to all you guys - a huge think you - this is something I've been looking for, and it's come at the right place, right time - at least for me

    take care
    joe
    eta gosha maaba, aaniish gaa zhiwebiziyin ?

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