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I know that to anyone in the USA reading this, it is a silly question, but what is HABS/HAER? Please enlighten those of us outside North America.

-- Graeme Hird (goldeneyephoto@hotmail.com), May 31, 2001


Please enlighten any of us INSIDE North America!

Scott Jones

-- Scott Jones (scottsdesk@home.com), May 31, 2001.

I didn't know, but a quick search gave me:

HABS = Historic American Building Survey

HAES = Historic American Engineering Record

Something to do with the Library of Congress. With alphabet soup like that, it could only be the US Government.

-- Charlie Strack (charlie_strack@sti.com), May 31, 2001.

Here's the National Parks Service website for the project:


I think initially the Library of Congress held the records, but that it's a National Archives and Records Admin. thing now...don't quote me on that, but you can access a big chunk of this stuff from both the LOC and NARA websites. It's also done on a state level as well....usually the photographers work within an agency like a Dept. of Transportation, or a Historic Preservation Section (like how it's handled within the agency I work for)...it's just building surveys & historic strucure documentation really...but with really exacting standards. I don't do the building survey stuff, I work for a history museum, but we're all sort of lumped together within a big agency. View Camera mag. had a really good interview with a couple of the full-time Fed. photographers for HABS/HAER a few years ago. It's a neat project....

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), May 31, 2001.

Sorry folks. Charlie is correct. The acronym was new to me a few days ago too, but I assumed anyone who could answer my question would know the secret words.

-- Steve Singleton (single@arkansas.net), May 31, 2001.

Thank You, Charlie!! What a relief and epiphany. I had thouhgt HABS stood for Head And Body Shots. I have never seen the acronyms used in a context wherein their meaning could be divined by the uninitiated. Thanks again for the illuminatio

-- Hailu Shack (howdy@global.california.com), June 01, 2001.

HABS/HAER is part of the National park Service under Jack Boucher who is the chief photographer. They document historical properties and buildings.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), June 01, 2001.

Hi Bob

Thanks for your definition of HABS/HAER now I as a swiss guy can even understand!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), June 01, 2001.

a slight correction to bob's response - jack boucher is the principal photographer for HABS, and jet lowe is the principal photographer for HAER. i have had a few opportunites to work with jet, and he is superb, both in his technical abilities and sense of composition, but also in his extraordinary depth of knowledge on the history of engineering.

-- jnorman (jnorman@teleport.com), June 01, 2001.

Just to add my two cents worth, the HABS/HAER project is an ongoing effort to document historic structures photographically, in measured drawing, and in text. A large number of significant structures in this country are destroyed due to economic, ecological, or safety issues. Usually these structures, while significant, are not important enough to the overall society to warrant restoration efforts. The HABS/HAER project is established to provide a comprehensive record of these structures prior to their disappearance. The project has expanded to involve structures that, while not in imminent danger, are deemed significant enough to warrant documentation. i.e. The White House. I have worked on a couple buildings for HABS/HAER doing architectural drawings and feel that it is a highly worthwhile effort. Certainly, any member of this forum who has an interest in photographing older structures should consider participating. In addition to the record photographs I have seen, a number of photographers in the past have contributed photographs that capture the qualities of a structure or place. Beyond being beautiful images they provide a type of record not possible through other media.

-- Kevin Kemner (kkemner@tatesnyderkimsey.com), June 01, 2001.

Whew! I thought there was a new alphabet disease out there!

-- J. Wolfe (bigbad@hotmail.com), June 01, 2001.

hi - i too am a habs/haer photographer ... i guess i should add my 2 as well :)

in addition to the federal program of documenting sites and structures of national "historic significance", each state also has a program to record / document sites and structures that possess historic significance on a state-level. most of the time there is a written analysis either in "long form" or "outline form" that details the site/ structure and the "historic context" that made it significant - last one or best example of its kind ... the park service used to also accept photo recordations done "on-spec" if you wanted to do them and give them to the park service without the rest of the report &c ... but since they are fewer and fewer projects being done for the federal archives i have a feeling that they don't accept them anymore and you might be better off contacting your state historic preservation office or local library might be a place that accepts these things ...

besides doing this sort of work for a living, i donate projects to local libraries so they have some sort of photographic record of their city/town ... can you tell i went to grad school for historic preservation?

-- john nanian (jak@gis.net), June 05, 2001.

Anyone wishing to see my samples of HABS/HAER photographs can see them at http://www.baug.net

-- Andrew Baugnet (andy@baug.net), August 14, 2001.

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