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6 Tips to Document Historic Details Before They Disappear


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Documenting architectural details is essential to ensuring the long-term preservation of any historic structure. Here are six tips for how to do it right.

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6 Tips to Document Historic Details Before They Disappear

  2. 2. 1. Prepare yourself with questions. Think to yourself, “What will be lost? What materials have been used? Where are the visible signs of craftsmanship? What do I think is important to remember?”
  3. 3. 2. Think worst- case scenario. If you feel confident a structure will stand for eternity, or that if disaster struck someone else could save the day, a lot of important historic features and architectural elements could be gone for good.
  4. 4. 3. Learn how to take architectural photos. Start with the big picture. Next, take detail shots. Try to capture details head on—shooting from an angle or trying to be artsy warps perspective and can lead to a false interpretation.
  5. 5. 4. Write it down. If you are familiar with architectural terms, that’s great—otherwise, be as descriptive as you can when documenting interior configuration, construction materials, etc. Even describing something intangible like the atmosphere of a place can be helpful.
  6. 6. 5. Test your math skills. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of simple addition. Grab a rigid ruler (soft ones stretch out over time, so measurements won’t be accurate), measure what might not be saved, and then write it down.
  7. 7. 6. Trust your gut. Things you may believe to be insignificant usually won’t be. If they are—no harm done!
  8. 8. The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America’s historic places. Preservation Tips & Tools helps others do the same in their own communities. For more information, visit Billy Wilson/Flickr/CC BY-NC-2.0; Archigeek/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND-2.0; Everyman Films LTD/Flickr/CC BY-2.0; Bruce Aldridge/Flickr/CC BY-SA-2.0; 8 Kome/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND-2.0; Gatanass/Flickr/CC BY-SA-2.0; Wayne Stadler/Flickr/CC BY-NC-2.0.