Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (Library of Congress)

Through a partnership with the Library of Congress, Artstor will distribute approximately 200,000 images from the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) image collections. HABS, HAER, and their companion programs, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) and Cultural Resources Geographic Information Systems (CRGIS), are administered by the Heritage Documentation Programs (HDP), which is part of the National Park Service (NPS). Together, these programs constitute the largest archive of historic architectural, engineering, and landscape documentation in the United States. Physical copies of HABS/HAER materials, consisting of large-format, black and white photographs, measured drawings, and written reports, are housed at the Library of Congress, as a special collection within the Prints and Photographs Division. Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and serves as the research arm of the United States Congress. It is the largest library in the world, with more than 134 million items on approximately 530 miles of bookshelves. Within the Prints and Photographs Division alone, there are more than 13.7 million visual images, including photographs, prints, drawings, and posters. The HABS and HAER archives are among the largest and most heavily-used collections within the Division, and the digitization of these materials has helped to both preserve them and make them more widely available to the public.

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) is the nation’s oldest federal preservation program. During the Great Depression, Charles E. Peterson of the National Park Service proposed the project as a way to employ out-of-work architects and draftsmen. Begun in 1933, HABS was created with the goal of systematically documenting “America’s antique buildings” before they disappeared, thereby preserving the architectural heritage of the United States for future generations. HABS is a national survey, encompassing regional building traditions, and building types and styles of all kinds, whether monumental or vernacular in design. Inspired by the success of HABS, the National Park Service founded the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) in 1969. HAER focuses on the documentation of historic sites and structures related to engineering and industry. Subjects include individual sites or objects, like bridge, ship, or steel works, as well as larger systems, such as railroads, canals, electronic generation and transmission networks, parkways, or roads. HAER complements HABS by focusing less on the structures themselves, and more on the machinery and processes within them. Together, both collections record America’s built environment, encompassing approximately 37,000 historic sites and structures: residential, commercial, public, monumental, religious, military, and industrial. Coverage spans across the United States and its territories, representing various periods and styles from the 17th through the 20th century. Since the HABS and HAER programs are constantly producing new documentation, the collection will continue to grow as new materials are added.

Through its collaboration with Artstor, the Library of Congress will contribute 200,000 HABS/HAER images to the Artstor Digital Library. In addition, the Library of Congress is currently in the process of acquiring material from the associated Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS), which it hopes to share with Artstor, as well. As with HABS/HAER, the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division is tasked with preserving and providing public access to HALS documentation. Modeled on HABS/HAER, HALS was established in 2000 with a mission to record historic landscapes throughout the United States and its territories. These historic landscapes range in size from small private gardens to vast national parks, and are especially vulnerable to change due to the natural forces of time and weather, and the human effects of commercial and residential development, vandalism, or neglect. As a result, HALS documentation will be essential for preserving a record of these vanishing landscapes for future generations.