This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), America’s first federal historic preservation program. The HABS mission is to create a public archive of America’s architectural heritage, consisting of measured drawings, historical reports and large-format black-and-white photographs.
History lovers, design scholars and students will gather at the Library of Congress at 9 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 14
for a day-long, six-speaker symposium celebrating this important and influential program. Titled “American Place: The Historic American Buildings Survey at 75,” the symposium will be held in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed.
The symposium is sponsored by the Center for Architecture, Design and Engineering at the Library of Congress and the National Park Service, with participation from the American Institute of Architects, which is granting continuing-education credits for attending architects, and the Interior Museum.
Speakers for the morning session “Celebrating the Past and Present” are:
• C. Ford Peatross, founding director of the Center for Architecture, Design and Engineering in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress, on “HABS as a Catalyst in the Library of Congress: Reflections on 75 Years.”
• Jack Larkin, chief historian of Old Sturbridge Village and affiliate professor of history at Clark University, on “Evoking the Past: The Significance of HABS for American Social and Cultural History.”
• Camille Wells, lecturer in the Department of Architectural History at the College of William and Mary and former architectural historian for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, on “Dispatches from the Field: What Those Buildings Want Us to Understand.”
• David Woodcock, professor of architecture and director of the Historic Resources Imaging Laboratory at Texas A&M University, on “Reading Buildings: The Role of Documentation in Education and Practice.”
Speakers for the afternoon session “Planning for the Future” are:
• Anne Weber, a senior associate with Farewell, Mills, Gatsch Architects in Princeton, N.J., on “Are HABS Drawing Standards Viable in 21st-Century Architectural Practice?”
• Katherine M. Arrington, digital library specialist in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress, on “HABS: A Digital Present and Future.”
HABS is thriving today in a tri-lateral partnership comprised of the Library of Congress, the National Park Service and the private-sector American Institute of Architects. Under his “New Deal,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt started the program in 1933 to provide employment to architects unable to find work during the Great Depression. It was the first significant boon to historic preservation at the national level. The program field-tested many of the preservation strategies still in use today, such as surveying contextual information and the establishment of national standards for documentation.
HABS is a resource for architectural historians, restoration architects, preservationists, scholars and those of all ages interested in American history and architecture. HABS and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), created in 1969, is one of the most widely used of the Library’s collections, recording more than 350,000 drawings, photographs and histories for more than 35,000 historic structures and sites dating from Pre-Columbian times to the 21st-century.
The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress includes more than 14 million photographs, drawings and prints from the 15th century to the present day. These visual collections represent a rich array of human experience, knowledge, creativity and achievement, touching on almost every realm of endeavor: science, art, invention, government and political struggle, and the recording of history. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/rr/print/
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with more than 138 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site, in its 22 reading rooms on Capitol Hill, and through its award-winning Web site at www.loc.gov
. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized Web site at www.myLOC.gov