HP 206 Researching Historic Structures and Sites

FALL 2013 - Wednesdays, 12:50 to 3:50, Wheeler 101
Prof. Thomas D. Visser, 207 Wheeler House, UVM, tel: 802-656-0577, e-mail: thomas.visser@.uvm.edu
Office hours: Tuesdays and Wednesdays 11:00 to noon or by appointment
Course web site http://www.uvm.edu/histpres/206/hp206syl2013.html

Course Goals and Outcomes

HP 206 Researching Historic Structures and Sites is designed to provide an introduction to the historic preservation research methods and documentation techniques used by professional historic preservationists to identify and to record historic structures and heritage sites using archival and physical evidence. The course introduces techniques for heritage site research and documentation, including the development of building descriptions, historical narratives, and skills in digital photography, GIS, CAD measured drawings, and publishing on the web. The reading assignments are intended to provide incoming preservation students a broad overview of the field of preservation and to help students develop knowledge and skills in historic sites research methodologies.

Another goal of this course is to help students develop skills in working on collaborative preservation research projects. The results of this research project will be shared with the public as a public service through a web site developed in this course. The class project this semester will build on the sequence of research projects (see http://www.uvm.edu/~hp206/) completed by previous students in this course. This year, our project will be to research places associated with the history of industry in Burlington and Winooski, Vermont. Each student will be responsible for individually completing assignments that together will contribute to the class project. The plan for this research project will be developed in class.

As with all field research, safety always should be the first priority. Always watch for traffic. Respect the privacy wishes of others. Avoid taking pictures when identifiable people are in view. Only take photographs from a public way. Do not trespass.


All students are expected to attend all classes unless for illness or for reasons beyond a student's control or if excused in advance. Cellphones should be turned off during all classes. Computers and digital devices should only be used for class-related business during lectures and labs. No texting, e-mailing, web-browsing, or other distractive activities should be done during class lectures.

Written assignments should be submitted at the beginning of class. These written assignments should be done on a computer and printed with double-spaced 12 point black text. Multiple page submissions should be stapled or punched and bound together. Those enrolled in this course have priority use of the Historic Preservation Computer Lab in Wheeler 103. Students are responsible for supplying appropriate paper for the printouts and to pay the "pig" for printer ink and toner use at the rates displayed. When using lab computers, files should only be saved to users UVM zoo accounts or to a USB flash drive, not to the computer hard drives. Some assignments will require that digital products be submitted. (These procedures will be reviewed in class.) Each student will be provided access to their own web account through the University of Vermont. This UVM web account should be used for developing course project web pages and for submitting other assignments as noted below.

It is expected that all assignments will be submitted on time. Late work may be penalized unless arrangements are made in advance. Extensions for assignments may only granted for illness or for serious reasons beyond the control of a student. There will be no incomplete course grades for this course except with the Graduate College Dean's approval for reasons beyond a student's control.

All writing must be authored directly by each student. It is expected that all work will be produced in a professional manner and will be thoroughly proof-read and checked for spelling and grammatical and formatting errors before being submitted. Unedited "rough drafts" should not be submitted or posted on the web.

Generally in in the history/historic preservation field, the Chicago Manual of Style note format is the preferred style guide for research publication citations (not the parenthetical author/date format) and thus all work submitted for this course must cite sources using the note format of this style. The Chicago Manual of Style is available for consultation in book format in the reference section of the UVM Library or it may be purchased. Online versions are also available. All sources of information and ideas that are not common knowledge must be identified through attributions in the text or by citations using notes (either footnotes or endnotes, but not both).

Plagiarism is not tolerated at the University of Vermont. For guidance, see Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Recognize and Avoid It. Please also review the University of Vermont's Code of Academic Integrity and the UVM Student Handbook.


Schedule Class topics Assignments
Aug. 28

Course overview
Assignment 1 introduction

Project introduction and research plan

Research and writing in Historic Preservation

Building descriptions; form & structure terminology overview

Methods for researching historic buildings and sites using archival evidence

Plagiarism, copyright, and public domain


UVM Historic Preservation Research and UVM Campus Treasures

Building description tips

Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Recognize and Avoid It

How Not to Plagiarize

Copyright Basics

Creative Commons

Sept. 4

Class research project planning

Methods for researching historic buildings and sites using archival evidence (continued)Site visit: UVM Bailey-Howe Library
Guest speaker: Chris Burns, Special Collections

Assignment 1 due

Key to Sanborn maps

UVM Landscape Change Program

UVM Library -E-Resource Portal - History

City of Burlington - Property Database

Sept. 11

Class research project planning (continued)

Methods for researching historic buildings and sites using archival evidence (continued)


Postcards and photographs as historical research evidence

Built in America (US Library of Congress)

Prints and Photographs Online (LOC)

Copyright and Other Restrictions That Apply (LOC)

Evolution of Postcards in the United States

Guide to Dating Curt Teich Postcards

Garvin - read through Chapter 1

Sept. 18

Methods for deciphering a building's history from physical evidence

Garvin - read Chapter 2

A Model for Identifying and Evaluating the Historic Significance of Post-World War II Housing

Sept. 25

Deciphering physical historical evidence: Porches & porticos

Garvin - read Chapter 3 to end

Oct. 2

Architectural photography: equipment & methods
- film photography
- scale rectified photography
- digital photography

Recording Historic Structures - read Overview through Chapter 4

National Register Photo Policy

How to Improve the Quality of Photographs for National Register Nomination

Oct. 9

Documentation and recordation: measuring and recording buildings, reading building plans and elevations

CAD | SketchUp

Recording Historic Structures - read Chapter 5

HighDesign demo downloads & manuals | HighDesign tips

SketchUp | SketchUp 8 free downloads | SketchUp Quick Reference card (pdf)

Oct. 16

Class research project planning
Creating web pages for historic preservation projects and organizations - basics
(Meet in Wheeler 103 Historic Preservation Computer lab)

Web tips

More web tips

UVM Web Guide

w3schools web development site

Oct. 23

Introduction to Historic American Building Survey and the National Register of Historic Places

Documentation and recordation:

Measuring and recording urban and suburban places:
site plans

Mapping Historic Sites


Assignment 2 - Photo spreadsheet due

Recording Historic Structures - read Chapter 6

National Register of Historic Places

Researching Historic Properties

Defining Boundaries for National Register Properties

Using the UTM Grid System to Record Historic Sites, NPS

Historic American Building Survey, HABS/HAER/HALS

National Park Service Cultural Resources Geographical Information System Facility (CRGIS)

Guide to GIS

Frequently Asked Questions about the National Geodetic Survey

Geographical coordinate system project standards

UNESCO - Geographic Information Systems and Heritage Management - Computerized management of ancient sites

New York SHPO On-line Tools

Missouri SHPO map gallery

Burlington Zoning Map Index

City of Burlington - Maps

Oct. 30

Assessing the visual impact of site dimensions

Recording and simulating historic places in three dimensions

Places by night - Street lighting types and review issues


Assignment 3 - Historic Research due


Outdoor Lighting Manual for Vermont Municipalities (pdf)

City of Burlington Vermont Outdoor Lighting Guide (pdf)

Transportation Engineering-online lab manual

Visser - Field Guide to New England Barns & Farm Buildings - read Chapter 1

Nov. 6

Deciphering physical historical evidence: Barns & farm buildings

Assignment 4 due

Visser - Field Guide to New England Barns & Farm Buildings - read Chapter 2 to end

Nov. 13

Deciphering physical historical evidence: Carriage Houses and Village Barns

Creating project web site templates

Meet in Wheeler 103

Nov. 20

Class research project planning
Web workshop

Meet in Wheeler 101

Nov. 27

Thanksgiving Break

No Class
Dec. 4 Presentations

Assignment 5 due & Assignment 6 due


Assignment 1 - Recording memories

Write a short paper (3 to 5 pages) from memory that describes a building or place that you remember fondly from long ago. Try to be as accurate and detailed as possible. Consider the specific qualities of the character of the building and place that impressed you most strongly. Identify and discuss the appearance of physical materials and how the place made you feel then, but avoid conjecture.

Assignment 2 - Identification, documentation and recordation of historic sites - Digital products should be ready for use in October 16 class and saved on your UVM zoo account

A. Conduct preliminary research on your project sites using archival sources (UVM Library Special Collections and other sources) and online resources. Assemble reference collection of maps, aerial imagery, and historic photographs.

B. Photograph with a digital camera each site being documented from as close as possible to the same viewpoint as the original image. Try to match time of day. Be sure the camera is set to take the images at 1024 pixels wide or higher and in the "fine" or highest quality (least compression) jpg mode.

For each image, record:

This information should be recorded digitally in a spreadsheet and a printout of this spreadsheet should be submitted on paper in class on the due date.

Assignment 3 - Historical research

Develop a narrative that documents the history your assigned sites, drawing on both archival sources and the findings of your field research. Your research should expand the body of knowledge about the history of these sites through the use of the rich collection of primary source archival materials available at the University of Vermont Library and other archives and on-line sources. These primary source materials could include historic maps, historic photographs, city directories, aerial imagery, and newspapers, as well as possibly, census records, business listings, insurance records, probate records, letters, et cetera. Also after your initial primary research, consult such secondary source materials, such as the Vermont historic sites and structures surveys (available at UVM Library Special Collections) and National Register nominations. These may be used for critical review, however the goal of this project is not to reiterate information from secondary sources. Rely first on primary sources and physical evidence. Then put your findings into context. Compare your research findings with a critical review of secondary sources. Always be skeptical of the research of others! Note where your conclusions differ from those of others.

The historical narrative for each site should be thoroughly proof-read and produced in a professional manner on paper (approximately three to five pages of text for each image) with proper citations of all sources using end notes as described in the Chicago Manual of Style and bound. An edited digital version will be used for the web site.

Supplement your historical narrative on each site with representative photographs. Enrich your narrative with illustrations of other historic (and other older) images, drawings, and maps.

Only use images that in the public domain and that you have permission to use if owned by someone other than yourself. For images obtained from the UVM Library or other archives, you should request permission for their use for this project. Each illustration should have a figure number and a detailed caption that identifies the subject, direction of view, original photographer (if known), and the archive from with the image was obtained.

Assignment 4 - Map

Using on-site measurements, field notes, and photographs, produce a digital map that shows the locations of the sites that you have documented in your research project.

The goal of assignment 4 is for you to become familiar with digital tools available for making maps that identify locations of historic resources. (If you would like to use CAD to make a map of the district and add the locations manually, this would be fine, but you would need to save the map as a jpg image and post it to your web site.)

Product: Upload your site plan map to the web. Submit this assignment by sending an email to Thomas.Visser@uvm.edu with a link to a web page.

Assignment 5 - Digital Presentation

Organize your research findings into a condensed 10 minute (no longer) digital presentation using Powerpoint or Keynote. Briefly introduce yourself and your project, then summarize your findings illustrated with representative images from your research. Bring your presentation to class saved in a file with your name in the file name on a USB flash drive.

Assignment 6 - Web Publishing

We will develop a template format for our project web site together. Based on this template, convert your historical research and images into web pages. These pages should have an introduction with a table of contents directory, a summary of the history of your sites, maps that identify the location of each site surveyed, historical maps, and other information. Post the files in proper folders, accessible to everyone on the web using your UVM account. When finished, e-mail the URL for your section of the web site to Thomas.Visser@uvm.edu.


Grades on assignments will reflect the quality of the work and its professional appearance and organization.

Assignment and examination grades will be weighed as follows:
 Assignment 1 10%
 Assignment 2 10%
 Assignment 3 40%
 Assignment 4 10%
 Assignment 5 10%
 Assignment 6 20%

Required texts

Garvin, James. A Building History of Northern New England. Hanover: University Press of New England. 2001.
Burns, John, Ed. Recording Historic Structures. Washington: AIA. 1989. (Several copies are on reserve in Wheeler 103.)
Visser, Thomas. Field Guide to New England Barns & Farm Buildings. Hanover: University Press of New England. 1996.

Recommended readings

Brand, Stewart. How Buildings Learn. Penguin Books. 1995.
Fitch, James Marston. Historic Preservation. Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press. 1992.
Jacobs, Jane. The Economy of Cities. Vintage. 1970.
McAlester, Virginia & Lee. Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Knopf. 1983.
Visser, Thomas. Porches of North America. Hanover: University Press of New England. 2012.


Allen, Charles Edward, About Burlington. Burlington, Vt.: Hobart Shanley Co., 1905.
Address book of Burlington, Vermont: 1904-5
Building Technology Heritage Library (Archive.org and APT)

UVM Library -E-Resource Portal - History

UVM Library - Accessible Archives

Champlain College - Special Collections

Chronicling America- Burlington Free Press

Pine Street Historic District, Draft National Register Nomination

Recommended equipment

USB flash drive
Digital camera (at least 5 megapixel)

© T.Visser - UVM Historic Preservation Program, rev. September 25, 2013