Keeping a Responsible Record for Future Investigators

The Old House Web

Articles in this series: Determining the Purpose of Investigation  | Investigators and Investigative Skills | Studying the Fabric of the Historic Building | Looking More Closely  | Conducting the Architectural Investigation | After Weighing the Evidence | Keeping a Responsible Record  | Conclusion


The evidence collected during investigation, and any conclusions which can be drawn from it, should be documented in a written report. The complexity of a project dictates the complexity of the resulting record. It may be wise to maintain a report in an expandable format if long or extensive work is expected-additional evidence will undoubtedly need to be incorporated that alters previous conclusions. Reports tend to range from annotated photographs in loose-leaf binders to full-length bound "books."

Putting findings and conclusions in an accessible form helps those who are planning treatment. For example, a rehabilitation project may require documentation to satisfy grant funding or tax credit program requirements; preservation and restoration projects always need careful documentation to guide the work. After work, the investigation report and notes on the treatment itself are made into a permanent file record. Whether or not work is being planned, the architectural investigation report will always be of value to future researchers or owners of the building.

The most common professional document is called an Historic Structure Report. This invaluable tool for preservation typically contains historical as well as physical information. Sections include a history of the building, an architectural description of the original structure and changes made over time, the results of all investigations, a record of current conditions or problems, of past repairs and treatments, and recommendations for current and future action. They are seldom definitive; thus, research is a continuing process.

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