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Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS)

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HALS Mission

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) mission is to record historic landscapes in the United States and its territories through measured drawings and interpretive drawings, written histories, and large-format black and white photographs and color photographs. The National Park Service oversees the daily operation of HALS and formulates policies, sets standards, and drafts procedural guidelines in consultation with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). The ASLA provides professional guidance and technical advice through their Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network. The Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress preserves the documentation for posterity and makes it available to the general public.  

What are historic landscapes?

Historic landscapes are special places. They are important touchstones of national, regional, and local identity. They foster a sense of community and place. Historic landscapes are also fragile places. They are affected by the forces of nature, and by commercial and residential development, vandalism and neglect. They undergo changes that are often unpredictable and irreversible. For these reasons and for the benefit of future generations, it is important to document these places. Historic landscapes vary in size from small gardens to several thousand-acre national parks. In character they range from designed to vernacular, rural to urban, and agricultural to industrial spaces. Vegetable patches, estate gardens, cemeteries, farms, quarries, nuclear test sites, suburbs, and abandoned settlements all may be considered historic landscapes.

Why HALS was established

As documentation has expanded from strictly buildings to engineering sites and processes, it is natural to further broaden recording efforts to include landscapes. With the growing vitality of landscape history, preservation and management, proper recognition for historic American landscape documentation must be addressed. In response to this need, the American Society of Landscape Architects Historic Preservation Professional Interest Group worked with the National Park Service to establish a national program. Hence, in October 2000 the National Park Service permanently established the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) program for the systematic documentation of historic American landscapes.