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Thread: NEW 2011 Guidelines for large-format HABS, HAER, HALS

  1. #1
    schafphoto's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Ventura, California

    NEW 2011 Guidelines for large-format HABS, HAER, HALS

    The National Park Service, Heritage Documentation Programs just updated their guidelines for large-format photography for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) (I call them H3) programs. Page 8 is the official specification for HABS digital mount cards. The rest of the eight page PDF re-states the generally accepted equipment and materials for H3 photographs... last updated in 2001.

    I have just donated my second documentation of a worthy historic site to the Heritage Documentation Programs (one was a HABS and one a HALS). It's easy once you figure out the fussy washing, labeling and mounting; then send them the prints and negatives. Your film will be stored at 30 degrees F. and 35% Relative Humidity... the perfect home for film, better than my film at home for sure. And everyone worldwide will be able to access scans of the donated photos online on the Library of Congress website.

    The new 2011 photo spec document is available here:
    –Stephen Schafer HABS | HAER | HALS & Architectural Photography | Ventura, California |

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 1999
    San Clemente, California

    Re: NEW 2011 Guidelines for large-format HABS, HAER, HALS

    Baffling on two levels. First, why accept digital prints at all? Properly processed fiber-based gelatin silver prints have a life expectancy (LE) of 500 years when appropriately stored. They're only banking on a 150-year LE for digital prints. Many gelatin silver baryta papers are available today, even including some on a single-weight base, e.g. Fuji Rembrant.

    Second, I don't know how their contention (near the top of page 6) that prints made on enlarging paper will not be as good as those on slow-speed contact paper can be objectively substantiated. Different in some respects, perhaps, but "not as good?" I have quite a stockpile of Azo and very much enjoy printing on it, but am greatly put off by the snobbery of an agency writing that silver chloride is inherently superior.

    I've never made a HABS/HAER/HALS submittal and have no reason to expect I'll do so in the future. Nonetheless, it's sad to see the National Park Service unnecessarily lower what were the highest photographic standards.

  3. #3
    schafphoto's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Ventura, California

    Re: NEW 2011 Guidelines for large-format HABS, HAER, HALS


    I tend to agree that comparing AZO to enlarging papers seems to be largely a matter of taste rather than quality. And while it may seem that the standards are being lowered to include digital prints, HABS, HAER and HALS are still the premier programs for documenting our vanishing heritage.

    The digital prints are a way to acknowledge that darkrooms are more scarce and that what WE all do as large format enthusiasts and practitioners has been relegated to a ultra-specialty. When the HABS and Library of Congress folks looked at the required deliverables holistically, they realized that the 500 year longevity was actually a function of the archival silver-halide on polyester NEGATIVE, and not the paper print. In fact the negatives, get stored in a completely different environment at 35 degrees F. and 30% Relative Humidity. The prints are in 3-ring binders at the Library of Congress and are used as proofs for viewing in the Prints & Photographs reading room at the LoC.

    The negatives are the true artifacts, used as masters for scanning and making prints for exhibits, and special projects like architectural research or reconstruction projects. Since we are all submitting prints with the negatives to HABS, HAER, and HALS the integrity of the program is still intact. The next phase however will be a digital capture standard, and that will take years to establish not only the types of capture devices, but also the workflow, data formats, and storage paradigms.

    Should be interesting to watch, but I still like da film.

    –Stephen Schafer HABS | HAER | HALS & Architectural Photography | Ventura, California |

  4. #4
    multi format
    Join Date
    Feb 2001

    Re: NEW 2011 Guidelines for large-format HABS, HAER, HALS

    thanks for posting the link schaf -
    unfortunately, i couldn't access the page ( even when i went there directly )

    i think one of the reasons they like silver chloride paper, isn't because
    it is superior &c, but because double weight papers are quite thick by comparison.
    before i knew about azo paper, i submitted on kodak fine art / polymax single weight paper,
    and they were accepted without any hesitation. ( maybe because these might have been state level submissions ? )
    but i know others who regularly submit prints made from enlarging papers ...
    i think one of the reasons they are accepting digital submissions is because there
    aren't many people left or places left that are able to make sg prints.
    years ago the park service would only accept fiber archival prints for national register
    and tax credit submissions, and then it became harder for preservation consultants
    and architects and engineers &c to find a lab to make fiber prints,
    without being charged large amounts of $$ compared to rc prints. ( now its even worse ! )
    first they went to rc prints, and now the whole form/format is digital.
    ( it didn't take too long for that to happen .. )

    i don't really think it will take a long long time for the digital-capture standards to be established.
    10 years ( maybe a little more, maybe a little less ) ago a lot of the states became
    responsible for their own state level habs &c submissions because many sites &c
    with state-significance/ local significance were being documented which might not have had
    national significance. some states developed their own standards/guidelines
    ( which were pretty much the same as the federal ones ) and
    now some of them are pushing hard to accept only digital submissions.

    i have done a few jobs where they didn't want negatives ( some only want 35mm ! )
    but a cd of files and ink jet prints. they have standards for what printers, papers, inks,
    and capture device. when you submit the package you have to fill out a form which
    states what you used &c. (this was all developed 5-7 years ago .... )
    it is great that the habs program accepts digital cards and physical negatives, have
    tried to get some of the states i have submitted to, to also accept this, but they
    didn't want negatives and inkjet prints, just files and ink jet prints, or negatives and sg prints ...

    to be honest, i am kind of surprised they don't accept rc prints, because from what i understand they can be processed
    to last even longer than fiber prints ...

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