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Architectural documentation of historic structures began at the national level in the United States in the mid-1930s, with the creation of the Historic American Building Survey (HABS). This cooperative program of the National Park Service, the American Institute of Architects, and the Library of Congress defined its scope broadly, to include even "structures which would not engage the especial interest of an architectural connoisseur." Later expanded to include engineering sites, and most recently, historic landscapes, the heritage documentation programs administered by the National Park Service serve an important role in furthering both architectural research and historic preservation. A growing collection of surveys for over 35,000 historic sites--consisting of photographs, measured drawings, and written historical reports--is housed at the Library of Congress, where it is also available online. See:

Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, American Memory, Library of Congress

Heritage Documentation Programs, National Park Service, including:

Standards and Guildelines

HABS Production Notes (archived site), including:


Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, the National Register of Historic Places is the United States' official list of over 80,000 cultural resources--districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects--designated as especially worthy of preservation. While the National Register is administered by the National Park Service, under NHPA each state appoints its own State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) which serves to coordinate preservation efforts at the local, state, and national levels. State Historic Preservation Offices are often the best starting point for pursuing preservation information or procedures for a given site. See:

National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, As Amended, National Park Service

SHPO links

Additional Preservation Resources at the National Level

Related Professional and Membership Organizations

Museums, Libraries and Research Centers

Many of these institutions not only preserve and display historic architecture and material culture, but conduct extensive research programs as well as make their specialized library resources available to researchers.

Information Resources

Digital Collections

Finding Aids, Guides, Directories

Historic Preservation: A Guide to Resources, Environmental Design Library, University of California, Berkeley
Vernacular Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Environmental Design Library, University of California, Berkeley

Free Publications Available on the Web

Subscription Databases

In most cases, these resources will be available at larger research libraries, as well as through campus-based or regional library networks. Many databases beyond the few listed here will be useful to researchers in vernacular architecture study.
America: History and Life is available through EBSCO Host
Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals is available through OCLC's FirstSearch
Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture through 13:2 is available via JSTOR
Recent issues of Buildings & Landscapes are available through Project MUSE


We welcome your suggested additions to these listings, contact us.

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