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HABS team in 1934

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) are programs of the National Park Service established for the purpose of documenting historic places. Records consists of measured drawings, archival photographs, and written reports. They are currently managed by the office of Heritage Documentation Programs.

In 1933 the Park Service established the Historic American Buildings Survey following a proposal by Charles E. Peterson, a young Park Service landscape architect. It was founded as a make-work program for architects, draftsmen and photographers left jobless by the Great Depression. Guided by field instructions from Washington, D.C., the first HABS recorders were tasked with documenting a representative sampling of America's architectural heritage. By creating an archive of historic architecture, HABS provided a data base of primary source material for the then fledgling historic preservation movement.

The Historic American Engineering Record program was founded on January 10, 1969 by the National Park Service and the American Society of Civil Engineers. HAER documents historic mechanical and engineering artifacts. Since the advent of HAER, the combined program is typically called "HABS/HAER". Today much of the work of HABS/HAER is done by student teams during the summer, or as part of college-credit classwork.

In October 2000 the National Park Service and the American Society of Landscape Architects permanently established a sister program, the Historic American Landscapes Survey for the systematic documentation of historic American landscapes. A predecessor to HALS was the Historic American Landscape and Garden Project (HALGP). Between 1935 and 1940 the project recorded of historic Massachusetts gardens. The project was funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), but administered and records collected by HABS.

The permanent collection of HABS/HAER/HALS is housed at the Library of Congress. As a branch of the U.S. Federal Government, its created works are in the public domain.


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