Survey & Information Management newsletter, August 2022
Greetings from the Division of Survey & Information Management at DHR! At the core of DHR operations, our programs collect information about historic properties and archaeological sites, organize it all, keep it safe, and make it available, useful, and interesting to professionals and the public.
Survey Our Survey program determines priorities for recording architecture, like neighborhoods, towns, buildings, and rural landscapes. To help fund this work, we coordinate Cost Share program grants with counties, cities, and towns, along with other grants like the Emergency Supplementary Historic Preservation Fund (ESHPF).
You might be surprised at what we survey! Recently, we have focused on projects like recording historic districts and buildings related to the recent past (between 1945 and 1991). To learn more about the components of a historic resources survey, check out this video.
Our grants provide the money to make this work happen. Each year, DHR works with local governments to support great projects. This year’s projects include an architectural survey of the Town of Elkton in Rockingham County and another survey in Fairfax County, preparation of a National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, and laying the groundwork for a citywide preservation plan in the City of Richmond, and a report on “recent” past historic resources in Fairfax County.
After hurricanes Michael and Florence hit Virginia in 2018, the National Park Service created a fund to help historic resources in affected areas. So far, this work has included the repair and restoration of buildings, as well as new surveys. One survey project documented the Sweet Randolph historic district in Pulaski County. This neighborhood served as the center of the African American community from the 1800s through the 1950s and 60s. Another project was an archaeological survey of the Bannister River in Pittsylvania County. This work identified sites like mills, dams, and even Native American fishing weirs in the river.
VCRIS and Inventory When archaeologists and architectural historians throughout Virginia find above-ground properties or archaeological sites, we collect detailed information about each of them in VCRIS (the Virginia Cultural Resource Information System). We have nearly 50,000 archaeological sites and over 220,000 architectural resources mapped in GIS, with more added every day. This system allows around 2,000 registered users to enter new sites or properties, conduct research about specific areas, and make decisions about historic preservation, all completely online.
VCRIS is designed mainly for professional archaeologists, architectural historians, and cultural resource professionals, but there are lots of ways for members of the public to discover more about Virginia’s Historic Resources. Use our new Places Explorer app to learn how many resources DHR has recorded in an area in our inventory, see details and photos of places listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Virginia Landmarks Register in VLR online, and browse the text of historical highway markers nearby.
If you notice that you can’t see the mapped location of most archaeological sites, that’s because we take great care to protect site locations. Unfortunately, sites may be at risk for looting and vandalism by people removing artifacts or destroying the material. Learn what’s so bad about collecting artifacts. If you want to learn more about Virginia archaeology, contact us! We’ll work to get you what you need while protecting Virginia’s irreplaceable cultural heritage.
Archives In Archives, we maintain a huge collection of files on places across Virginia, working every day to add new information, improve records, and scan paperwork and photos. While our paper files are available for research, we’ve got nearly 700,000 digitized documents and images in VCRIS and on our DHR website. If you’re interested in researching the history of a particular place in Virginia, our reading room is open by appointment from Tuesdays through Thursdays each week. But if you can’t make it in person, we’re still happy to help! Contact us and we’ll get your questions answered.
To browse some of our archival holdings online, check out our Special Collections page. For a trip down memory lane in DHR history, see our collection of Notes on Virginia issues from 1971-2016. To explore historic places listed on the registers by name, city, or county, visit VLR Online.