This lecture is part of the National Council for Preservation Education meeting held July 15-16, 2014 in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

The Documentation Course: Beyond Drawing by Carter Hudgins and Amalia Leifeste, Clemson University/College of Charleston

This paper summarizes recent efforts by Clemson University / College of Charleston faculty to re-imagine and revise its required first semester class “Investigation, Documentation and Conservation.” The two-year course of study jointly sponsored by Clemson and the College of Charleston has privileged field recording and documentation drawing completed to HABS standards since its inception ten years ago. Instruction in measured drawing skills was expanded to incorporate cultural landscape recording and analysis of interior finishes, preservation perspectives students applied later in their course of study. More recently, faculty discussion and the recommendations of external reviewers during accreditation suggested that while this mix effectively merged multiple introductory portions of the curriculum into one course, it fell short of presenting the interdisciplinary nature of current practice. IDC still implied a siloed approach to reading and understanding historic buildings and their contexts. The revised IDC course doubles the number of credit hours required and provides additional opportunity to weave observation and analysis into a layered, interdisciplinary approach to documentation and conservation.

The revised course, in general, encourages students from their first encounter with urban and rural places to understand buildings as expressions of complicated and interrelated cultural processes. The course employs field-based investigation of a historic building in or near Charleston to introduce and to reinforce the linkages between field documentation and the investigation of historic building methods, the survey of cultural landscapes, and the analysis of building materials and decorative interior finishes. Sketching, field drawing, AutoCAD documentation drawings, and photography provide methods for recording and documenting field observations of the subject building but also reinforce methods for reading and understanding buildings and their use. Through these methods of recording, students learn to slowly and systematically order their observations and zoom into a level of detail missed in less intimate engagements with buildings. Parallel investigation of the building’s setting, whether urban lot or rural site, encourages investigation and explanation of cultural contexts. A third parallel level of analysis, investigation of the physical properties of building systems and building materials incorporated into the subject building and analysis of its interior finishes, is finer grained and invites closer consideration of use and change. Through the semester, the subject building serves as a touchstone for the facet of the course devoted to history of construction methods further linking learning from the technical and lecture based curricular components with field observation of an increasingly familiar case study building.

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