Mobile App for Historic Resource Survey in Alexandria, VA

Preservationists are moving forward in 2013! Are you looking for a way to help or are you interested in how the preservation field can incorporate mobile devices & apps for our work. Wouldn’t it be nice to conduct survey with your smart phone or tablet and transfer that information to a database without many in between steps?

You’ve probably heard about the app FieldNotes LT, which can geo-reference your resource and combine it with photographs and notes as a .kmz file. However, the file is dependent on whatever outside platform you’re using to open it (Google Earth in my experience) and you can’t really store it in a database. It’s useful, but not flawless.

So what’s better? What is a new digital & preservation initiative? Read on for news from Alexandria, VA (information adapted from correspondence with Mary Catherine Collins, a preservation planner with the city):

The City of Alexandria’s Historic Preservation division is seeking volunteers to assist with an architectural survey of the Old and Historic Alexandria District. This survey will be the first of its kind in the country using an exciting new GIS-based mobile application designed to expedite the surveying process and facilitate data sharing between the City of Alexandria and other cultural resource organizations.

Like FieldNotes LT, it will geolocate all of our survey data and photos, but more importantly by using a geodatabase format, we will be able to easily transfer our data to VDHR and NPS’s databases. The outcome of this survey is a set of digital transfer standards as well as digital update to our National Register and Landmark listings. Additionally the app will be made available for free on ESRI’s website once the project is complete.

Alexandria is a great place to begin this since, like many of the first designated historic districts, the NR nomination is entirely inadequate at only three pages!

Surveying will begin in early March, with training taking place in late February. We anticipate 2 days of training and approximately 5-10 days of field surveying. Please contact Mary Catherine Collins at if you are interested or for more information.

This is a great opportunity for anyone in the DC area to not only be part of an exciting project, but also to network with other design professionals and preservationists in the area!

Preservationists in the area, including Mary Washington & GW preservation students, I hope you’re listening. Get out, have some HP fun and learn about the digital age in preservation. If you do participate, report back to PiP.  Thank you Mary Catherine for providing this information. Good luck!

7 thoughts on “Mobile App for Historic Resource Survey in Alexandria, VA

  1. Meagan Baco says:

    I am signed up for this! As an HPS in Buffalo, I did a lot of surveying for National Register districts and HRS/CRSs the old fashioned way. It is frustrating that we then made all that information, research, and data digital but then transferred it all back to a paper report, never to be used again. Being able to put the data back out into the world digitally is very exciting to me, specially that the City is initiating this project and plans to use the data!

  2. Glen Payne says:

    This sounds great! I’m glad there is a good strategy and real thinking about getting great historic places online and digital. There are more apps that do this. Has anyone tried RuskinARC? Abilene, Oak Park, Miami, and other cities are using it. It is *dedicated* to professional architectural surveying, makes live maps, and works great on ipads or tablets. People use it in the field and transfer back to GIS when they need it. Feedback?

  3. Amanda Blosser says:

    Sounds great! SurveyLA had a field survey system designed by their IT staff. The consultants check out a laptop with the system loaded and all the existing survey data. It’s pretty cool. Anybody know of other cities, counties, organizations that use mobile survey apps? I’m starting to look into one that might be useful for the CA SHPO to use.

  4. Glen Payne says:

    So, heck, not to “promote” too much, but RuskinARC is usable *right now*, just by signing up. There’s no infrastructure to install, nothing to download, no special gear or talent needed. RuskinARC can produce state forms and export serious actionable data even to GIS, along with being easy for anyone to use (pro or not), interactive, and accessible from anywhere. It works on any connected device. The cities of Galena, Tulsa, Miami, Oak Park, Toronto, Abilene, lots of Kentucky communities, and more are using it. You can poke at a few of those on our demo page if you like 🙂 . Cheers!

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