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New Deal Programs: Selected Library of Congress Resources

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER)

Online Materials | Collection Guide | Selected Bibliography | External Resources

Men making architectural measurements of columns at the Kentucky School for the Blind.
Kentucky School for the Blind
Photograph 7: Detail Portico Column Bases
Louisville, Kentucky.
Theodore Webb, photographer, 1934.
Prints and Photographs Division

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) began during the Great Depression in December 1933, when Charles E. Peterson of the National Park Service submitted a proposal for one thousand out-of-work architects to spend ten weeks documenting "America's antique buildings." Having operated under various administrative authorities for its first two years, HABS became a permanent program of the National Park Service in July 1934 and was formally authorized by Congress as part of the Historic Sites Act of 1935. The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) was founded in 1969 to parallel HABS, providing for documentation of engineering works and industrial sites. In 2000, the National Park Service permanently established the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) program for the systematic documentation of historic American landscapes.  Administered since 1933 through cooperative agreements with the National Park Service, the Library of Congress, and the private sector, ongoing Heritage Documentation programs of the National Park Service have recorded America's built environment in multiformat surveys, currently comprising more than 350,000 measured drawings, large-format photographs, and written histories for more than 35,000 historic structures and sites dating from Pre-Columbian times to the twentieth century.

The HABS/HAER/HALS collections are among the largest and most heavily used in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. The collections document achievements in architecture, engineering, and design in the United States and its territories through a comprehensive range of building types and engineering technologies including examples as diverse as the Pueblo of Acoma, houses, windmills, one-room schools, the Golden Gate Bridge, and buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The HABS/HAER/HALS collections at the Library of Congress have grown to constitute a unique, valuable, and extensive repository of knowledge about American buildings, industries, and engineering works. Today's documentation is produced primarily by students pursuing degrees in architecture and in history, and the HABS and HAER programs have proven to be an important training ground for several generations of architects, engineers and historians.

Online Materials

Historic American Building Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscape Survey(HABS/HAER/HALS)
Continuing the tradition of the creators and keepers of HABS/HAER surveys, who have made them accessible through numerous catalogs and publications, the Library of Congress introduced the online HABS/HAER collections in 1997 to provide digital access to the full range of materials.  The online presentation of the HABS/HAER/HALS collections includes digitized images of measured drawings, black-and-white photographs, color transparencies, photo captions, data pages including written histories, and supplemental materials.  Since the National Park Service programs create new documentation each year, digital images continue to be added to the online collections.

Collection Guide

Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER) Collections
This guide provides administrative and background information on the collection.

HABS/HAER Highlights

Selected Bibliography

HABS/HAER: A Selected Bibliography

External Resources

Heritage Documentation Programs, National Park Service

The Historic American Buildings Survey During the New Deal Era: Documenting “a Complete Resume of the Builders’ Art.” CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship 1, no. 1 (Fall 2003).

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  September 25, 2015
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