Hillary Morales Robles | Historic American Buildings Survey
Over the summer of 2021, I worked as an architecture intern at the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) of the Heritage Documentation Programs (HABS/HAER/HALS). The internship was sponsored by the Latino Heritage Internship Program from the National Park Service and the Environment of the Americas. I worked in the documentation and recording of General Simón Bolívar Memorial located at the park in front of the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington DC. The main goal was the production of comprehensive documentation that includes drawings, large-format photography, and a historical and descriptive data report highlighting the significance of the historic site.
The General Simón Bolívar Memorial is bounded by Virginia Avenue, C Street, and 18th Street Northwest. In 1955, the U.S. Senate authorized the acceptance of the equestrian statue of the South American liberator Simón Bolívar, presented to the United States by Venezuela as a gesture of friendship. The sculpture, made by Felix W. de Weldon, is placed on an elevated plaza designed by the Venezuelan architect Luis Malaussena. The park is significant in the Modernist movement of Landscape Architecture, departing from the traditional practices of public spaces design. The modernist park, located on Federal Reservation No. 383 of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, is one of fourteen historic reservations placed along Virginia Avenue that contain public art and monuments that commemorate other Latin American national figures.
During the process of surveying and documenting the historic site, I got trained in various survey equipment and software for data processing. Some of the tools and software were: GPS, total station, laser scanning, photogrammetry, Agisoft Metashape software for photogrammetric processing, large format photography, panoramic photo alignment with PTGui, Leica's Cyclone for 3D point cloud data processing, field record notes, and many others. Previous to the internship, I received training with similar survey equipment at the archaeological excavations in Aphrodisias and through HSPV 601 Documentation, Research, and Recording courses at the University of Pennsylvania. However, the training acquired at HABS was outstanding. It helped me refine my skills and expand my knowledge with efficient survey methods, software, and advanced technology to achieve the highest quality of data collection and measured accuracy.
The data and measurements collected from the survey were used in the production of a final set of digital drawings generated in AutoCAD. The drawings' set consists of four sheets: a cover sheet with the statement of significance, the site plan of the park, and the top plan, four elevations, and detailed drawings of the equestrian monument. The goal was to produce accurate measured drawings as reliable and available information sources for historians, researchers, and future conservation efforts. The final set is available in digital and print formats at the HABS/HAER/HALS Collection in the Library of Congress.
At the culmination of my internship working with the Historic Documentation Programs (HABS/HAER/HALS), I was assigned one of the most exciting tasks for a former art architecture history major student, develop a historical report. First, I learned about the different standards, formats, and guidelines of each division of the Heritage Documentation Programs. Since General Simón Bolívar Memorial is a landscape project, I followed the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) standards and guidelines. Based on the HALS format, the report had to include a description of the location, statement of significance, physical description of the site, history, sources, and attached photographs that support the research.
As part of the experience, I join various meetings with the staff members from the Heritage Documentation Programs. Also, participate in a podcast episode produced for the Latino Conservation Week by the Washington Office of Communications. The LHIP program also exposed me to an extensive network of Latin American conservators working at various departments within the National Parks Systems. Lastly, I had the incredible opportunity to meet the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Shannon A. Estenoz, and share the project I developed over the summer. We discussed the main observations on the current landscape conditions and proposed suggestions for improvements. Some of the recommendations were to implement a maintenance plan, landscape restoration following the intentions of the original design, and the addition of interpretative signage.
I want to share my deepest gratitude to the Heritage Documentation Programs and my mentors Robert Arzola and Paul Davidson, for taking their time to teach me everything about what HDP does and for trusting my work. Also, thanks to the Environment of the Americas and the NPS for hosting and providing opportunities to young Latin American professionals to become part of the next generation of conservation stewards.
For more information about the project, check the following links.
Simón Bolívar Monument 3D Photogrammetric Model:
Learn more about the Heritage Documentation Programs (HABS/HAER/HALS):
Learn about Hillary Morales Robles LHIP experience: