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Archival recording

When a building is demolished or changed​—​even in well planned conservation works​—​some evidence of its history is lost. Archival recording aims to preserve at least some of that evidence.

A hand drawn section through a backyard air-raid shelter in a Brisbane suburb, a record made before the shelter was demolished.

Recording is a part of good practice. The Burra charter rec­om­mends that Existing fabric, use, associ­a­tions and meanings should be adequately recorded before any changes are made to the place (article 27). It says the records should be placed in a permanent archive and made publicly available (article 32).

For a place on a heritage register, recording may be a condition of development approval. In Queensland the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Science’s Guide­line: archival re­cord­ing of her­it­age places sets the standards used by state and local authorities. Other agencies have their own standards, usually similar to these.

beaded weatherboards and wrought iron cabin hook
I understand historical building construction, so I can see and record the things that matter​—​like the tool marks that show these weatherboards were made by hand with pit saw and plane. The wrought iron cabin hook has been hand forged.

Appropriate recording methods should be used in each case. Measured drawing and photographic recording are usually called for (at the proper level of detail), and video or audio recording are sometimes needed. I prefer drawings made by hand, rather than by computer, to show the details that matter.

Usually I take the photos, but for some projects I work with other professionals.

Peter Marquis-Kyle using digital SLR camera

My prime photographic tool is a Canon EOS full-frame camera, solidly mounted on a tripod, with an appropriate high quality lens. When this picture was taken I was using a 5D Mark II camera (since relegated to backup duties) and the old 24 mm tilt/shift lens which was particularly useful for recording buildings and spaces (since replaced by the significantly better Mark II version).

Projects involving archival recording

Government House Brisbane: the hall floor
Revealing and conserving a beautiful 1880s geo­metric tile floor.

Blog posts about archival recording

Unintended consequence
When I go out to do serious work recording historic places I carry a pile of camera gear​—​a solid tripod,...

I'm just back from spending a few days in Sydney, staying in one of my favourite houses. A friend has...

Bernd Becher, 1931-2007
I'm saddened to read that Bernd Becher has died. Bernd, with his wife and photographic partner Hilla, produced a wonderful...


Archival recording
Conservation planning
Conservation works
Design input
Expert evidence
Fabric survey
Heritage approval
Heritage listing

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Revised 18 October 2022