The HABS/HAER/HALS documentation standards for quality, content, format, and durability have assured that future generations will be able to consult the records [view documentation standards on National Park Service site]. HABS/HAER/HALS records include both formal and informal documentation. Formal documentation consists of information recorded in standard formats: measured drawings, photographs from large-format black-and-white negatives and color transparencies, and written histories. Informal documentation consists of non-standard field records and other materials that are difficult to serve to researchers. These include annotated catalog cards (from the Prints & Photographs HABS/HAER/HALS card catalog) which are available online as supplemental material.
The fact that the documentation is intended to be reproducible makes the collections unique among similar national collections throughout the world. Digitization and presentation on the World Wide Web allows for HABS/HAER/HALS records to easily reach a vastly expanded audience of national and international users.
A note about terminology used in older documentation is in order, because some terminology may appear archaic or out-of-date today, but it is part of the historical record. For example, the early emphasis on measured drawings (because HABS focused on employment of architects through the work relief program of the 1930s) led to an architecturally oriented vocabulary. Thus the photographs that were subsequently intended to supplement the drawings have captions with phrases such as "east elevation." As photographic documentation became more significant, the caption vocabulary evolved to more appropriate descriptions, such as "east front."