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Create a HALS Lost Landscape Record

June 05, 2020 7:48 AM | David Laws

By Janet Gracyk (June 4, 2020)

Each year, the National Park Service Heritage Documentation Program sponsors a competition to document a significant landscape for inclusion in the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS). The theme for 2020 is Vanishing or Lost Landscapes. CGLHS encourages everyone to participate. The deadline is July 31st.

Remnant of the James Flood Estate, Atherton. CA. HABS photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

That vanishing or lost landscape may never be documented without your efforts!  For those new to researching a landscape, this is a good way to start. The closure of libraries due to the COVID 19 pandemic poses a challenge, so you may have to rely on online resources and books in your personal library. 

Following are four simple steps involved in documenting a lost landscape.

  1. Select a landscape. If it is nearby and you can visit without violating any “shelter in place mandates, go take a look to remind yourself of the essential features.  
  2. Take photos or dig up any you have taken in the past. All documentation goes to the Library of Congress, creating a permanent record of a landscape. The Library of Congress is very particular about copyright, so only submit photographs you have taken yourself, or images that you have permission to use from the copyright owner.
  3. Do some research using any sources you have to hand, search online, and call anyone who may be familiar with the history of the site.  Be sure to keep good notes on your sources - you'll need that information.
  4. Use the HALS online template (link here) and fill in the report.
  • Describe the landscape as it was at its peak, in as much detail as you can.
  •  Describe all existing remnants to provide the most accurate record of what is there today.
  • Add your photos, and you are done. 

The Historic American Landscapes Survey uses both a short-format report, supported with some research and a few digital photos, and a much more involved format with detailed drawings and in-depth research. The short-format HALS report used for this competition is the easiest and most accessible form of recordation. The program also provides flexibility, and a short-format report may be expanded at a later date.

If you plan to submit a report, please contact me, Janet Gracyk, at to avoid duplicating efforts. I am also happy to provide additional guidance.

Visit the following pages for more information and to download a copy of the template.


NPS Information:

ASLA information:

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