Standards for Professional Architectural and Historic Surveys

Architectural survey is the process of identifying historic resources by location or theme. Surveys create an inventory of buildings, structures, sites, and objects that serve as a basis for local planning activities and historic preservation efforts such as National Register listings.

An architectural survey is considered professional by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) only if it meets the following standards:

  1. The survey is conducted under the supervision of a qualified 36CFR61 historian or architectural historian.
    Information on required qualifications and lists of consultants can be obtained at this link or by contacting SHPO. The list is not comprehensive and is not to be considered a recommendation or assurance of quality work.
  2. A research design is completed and submitted to the SHPO for approval.
    A research design serves as the plan for conducting the survey and allows the SHPO to make comments or recommendations on a survey project before actual fieldwork begins. The research design must be submitted to the SHPO and approved before further field work begins. In order to prepare the research design, some archival research and initial fieldwork is required. The research design consists of four sections: survey objectives, description of the geographical area to be surveyed, survey methodology, and expected results.
    • Survey Objectives
      This section of the research design should explain why the survey is being undertaken. Almost always the ultimate goal will be to identify resources that are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, but there may also be secondary goals, which should also be included.
    • Geographical Description
      This is a general description of the survey area’s geography and built environment. Include a brief summary of the setting outside and within the survey boundary. This would include a generalization of setbacks, major landscape features such as the presence of sidewalks or tree-lined streets, and a summation of the type of building stock (rural, urban, commercial, residential). The geographical description will justify the selection of the area in which the survey is conducted, including a brief discussion of any known historic contexts. It will also provide the rationale and a verbal description of the survey boundary, including approximate numbers of resources and acreage.
    • Methodology
      Methodology will almost always be the largest section of the research design.
      It will include expected fieldwork practices, such as the methods the surveyor plans to utilize when identifying resources. It will note the personnel involved in the project and what components of the survey they are responsible for (this is especially important if using assistance from volunteers or other persons who may not qualify as a professional.) The methodology will discuss where the survey begins and why and how it will progress. Most importantly, it will define which resources will be surveyed. For example, a survey may provide an inventory form for every resource within a survey boundary or only those of a specific style or type if the survey is thematic. In addition to fieldwork practices, the methodology will discuss initial archival research and identify future sources of information. Local resources such as libraries, historic societies, and city offices must be included as a point of research. SHPO additionally recommends collecting oral histories from local residents where possible. Oral history is a particularly useful resource in small communities that may not have a lot of archival information available. The survey products (inventory forms, photography, maps, and the survey report) should also be described in this section, including their number and their recipients (SHPO, an agency, a town, etc.)  Finally, the methodology should discuss any anticipated problems and how they will be addressed (foliage is obscuring resources for photography, lack of archival research available, strain on funding or time, etc.
    • Expected Results
      The research design will conclude with the projected results of the survey including potential National Register districts and individually eligible buildings. Expectations about the kind, number, character and condition of historic properties should be presented. Anticipated historic and/or development contexts should also be discussed in this section.
  3. The public is notified.
    There must be some form of notification to the public and/or residents within the survey boundaries. Postcards or other mailings, public meetings, newspaper announcements are all forms of public notification. The appropriate type of notification will depend on the scope of the survey project and may be determined via consultation with the SHPO. Generally, professional surveys require two public meetings. The initial meeting is at the beginning of the project. It is conducted to explain the survey process, answer questions, and collect information (oral history) and feedback from residents. The final meeting occurs at the end of the project to present the survey results and address any additional concerns or questions members of the public may have. SHPO additionally recommends that surveyors carry handouts explaining the project while conducting fieldwork. These are for the benefit of property owners who may inquire why their building is being photographed and assessed. In addition to the public, local officials and historic societies/groups should be notified as a courtesy. Likewise it is a good idea to let local law enforcement know about the project, especially during fieldwork (which helps to avoid “suspicious person” calls.)
  4. Architectural/Historic Inventory Forms issued by the SHPO are used in the survey.
    The SHPO’s Architectural/Historic Inventory Form, or another form approved in advance by SHPO, must be used for each surveyed resource. The number and type of resources surveyed will vary depending on the scope of the project and the type of survey (thematic, rural, urban, etc.). The amount of information provided on the survey form will depend on the level of survey (reconnaissance level surveys record fundamental information derived from fieldwork whereas intensive level surveys include information from fieldwork and historic research) and is determined via consultations with the SHPO. For architectural surveys the following fields must be completed on the inventory form, regardless of the level of  survey:

    Survey No. (provided by the SHPO)               National Register eligible     
    Survey name                                                  Category of Property
    County                                                            Windows
    Address                                                          Property type and/or style
    City (check vicinity if rural)                              Chimney placement
    Current use                                                    Plan shape
    Construction date                                         Exterior wall cladding
    Previously Surveyed/NR listed                    No. of stories
    Foundation material                                      No. of bays (first floor)
    No. of outbuildings*                                      Roof type
    Front porch type/placement                         Form prepared by
    Survey date                                                    Photographer 
    Architectural description**                           Site Map/plan***

    *If outbuildings are present, briefly describe them in field #40. In addition, note the National Register eligibility for each resource in this field (i.e., two outbuildings: one contributing garage, one non-contributing modern shed).
    **The level of description will vary depending on the scope of the project; however, an architectural description (field #41) must minimally note: fenestration, number of stories, porch, window types (three-over-one, one-over-one, casement, etc.), if windows and doors appear to be historic, wall cladding, roof shape, and any prominent architectural features (towers, brackets, dormers, parapets, etc.). The description should be detailed enough to identify the building if the photo were lost.
    *** The site plan must generally be completed on the survey form if there are outbuildings. However, if a master map is submitted that provides the buildings’ present-day footprints and accurate location of outbuildings, the site plan on the form may be left blank.

    Refer to the Instructions for Completing the Architectural/Historic Inventory Forms before conducting fieldwork. Please remember, consistency is vital to the completion of a successful survey. Take care to use consistent terminology when considering factors such as architectural style, type, and exterior wall cladding. Likewise, the criteria for defining the number of bays, stories, and window pane arrangement should be uniform. Most importantly, a consistent framework for evaluating a resource’s integrity and condition is necessary. This is especially true when considering potential National Register districts and their contributing/noncontributing resources.

  5. At least one photo is provided to the SHPO for each primary resource.
    Photos must clearly show the historic resource. Three-quarter views that capture the primary façade and a secondary elevation are preferred. At least one photo is required for each inventory form. Additional photos may be submitted of architectural details or other important elevations. Properties consisting of more than one resource will include at least one photograph of each secondary resource in addition to the primary resource, unless the secondary resource is clearly visible in the photograph of the primary resource. Photos must be taken from the public right-of-way. If a resource is not visible from the public right-of-way permission must be granted by the property owner (an effort must be made to ask). If the property owner refuses access, note it on the architectural/historic inventory form (either in field #40 or #41 as appropriate.)
    Individual safety always takes priority. Do not attempt to take photos or conduct other fieldwork in dangerous situations or environments.

    Photos must be submitted in digital format at a minimum 1600 by 1200 pixels and saved in color in JPEG format. For any final photos, label each digital image as "MO_County_Survey Name_001" The number at the end of the label should correspond to the associated survey form number. If there is more than one photo per form add a letter at the end of the label (MO_County_Survey Name_001A, MO_County_Survey Name_001B, etc.).

  6. A map with exact survey boundaries is included in the survey project.
    The location of each property inventoried will be indicated on a large scale (at least 1” = 200’) map. It must be separate from the final report and provide clear survey boundaries. A legend, north arrow, and name of the survey must be included on the map. Boundaries for any potential historic districts must be provided, either on the central map or one or more additional maps as appropriate. The contributing status of each property must be marked within the recommended historic district boundary (if applicable.) Likewise, individually eligible properties must be noted.
    A master map that includes current footprints of the primary resource and any associated resources and shows their spatial relationship is preferred. If a master map is submitted, the site plan on the survey forms may be left blank.

  7. A final survey report is submitted to the SHPO for approval. 
    A survey report discusses the results of the survey as well as the actual methodology and resources utilized in the project. The report has the same four primary sections as the research design: objectives, methodology, geographical description, and results. However, it will also include a recommendations section and, if the survey is intensive, a historic context section. A detailed table of contents should be provided at the beginning of the survey report.
    • Objectives
      The objectives should generally be the same as those in the research design.
    • Methodology
      This section will include the methods used to examine resources within the survey boundary, such as how historic integrity was assessed and the methodology used to assign contributing, non-contributing, and individual eligibility for any potential National Register eligible resources. Discuss the roles of the personnel involved in the project. Describe fieldwork practices and include the exact number of resources surveyed. Archival research and resources consulted must be discussed including any personal interviews, public meetings, or volunteer training.
    • Geographical Description
      The geographic description from the research design should be updated if necessary. Consultation with the SHPO is required if the survey boundaries must be changed from those presented in the research design. SHPO suggests including an image of the survey map and boundary in this section.
    • Historic Context
      Regardless of the level of survey, the final report should include a brief history of the survey area and its environment (i.e., the town in which the survey is located). For a reconnaissance survey this can be included in the geographical description or results section of the report. In an intensive survey a more thorough examination of the survey area’s developmental context is required. This section will describe the general history of a survey area, but also consider the different themes and patterns that led to its development and evolution. Socio-economic, cultural, transportation-related, and agricultural factors may be examined, for example, in connection with neighborhood development.
    • Results
      Aside from any historic contexts or patterns discovered via archival research and field work, the survey report will include a section that considers the findings of the project outlined in the objectives section of the research design. The results section will include the following information:
      • Number of resources surveyed: Reiterate the number of primary resources and the number of outbuildings actually surveyed. Differences, if any, between the anticipated results and actual results should be discussed.
      • Property styles and types: If a style or type is noted on an inventory form it must be discussed in this section. The style/type will be defined in relation to its representation within the survey area. Examples, with corresponding images, of each type or style from the survey area will be provided. Including a representative image of each style or type within the survey boundary is encouraged. If appropriate, this subsection may also provide a similar analysis of property uses (commercial, residential, institutional, industrial, etc).
      • National Register eligible properties: Individually eligible properties will be identified and their eligibility discussed in this section. Potential historic districts will also be noted and their boundaries defined and briefly justified. The period of significance must be considered and explained. Indicate historic district boundaries on one or more maps. Include an image as a figure for each potential individually eligible resource and/or a sample streetscape of any district. Provide an explanation as to why each each resource/district is considered potentially eligible under specific National Register criteria and areas of significance.
      • Recommendations
        The survey report will conclude with the surveyor’s recommendations. These may include such things as pursuing nomination to the National Register, additional survey, additional research, planning activities, etc.
  8. Final products are submitted to the SHPO in digital format.
    The final survey report, inventory forms, images and map will be submitted to the SHPO on disc or other pre-approved method. Inventory forms will be submitted in Word or other format that will allow SHPO staff to make changes and fill out the section reserved for SHPO use.
    • Updated Feb. 26, 2016.