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National Register Mapping

  • 1.  National Register Mapping

    Posted 11-01-2017 12:45
    To those who do National Register nominations, what software or program do you use to generate maps? Is it easy for a non-architect to use and is it Mac compatible? And is it affordable for a one-person firm to purchase? Thank you for any suggestions. 

    Danielle Bachant-Bell
    Lord and Bach Heritage Preservation Consulting
    605 W. Allen St.
    Bloomington, IN 47403

  • 2.  RE: National Register Mapping

    Posted 11-02-2017 09:11
    Apart from districts, I've always just used a simple image editor ( to draw on the tax map, or Acrobat Pro to draw a box on the topo map. However, I've only worked in Oregon and Washington. Both states have gone fully digital and don't require a paper topo anymore.

    For my last district, the area was so unaltered from the 1950s Sanborn map that I just made corrections by hand to a copy of the Sanborn and then scanned it.

    Timothy Askin
    Milwaukee, WI

  • 3.  RE: National Register Mapping

    Posted 11-03-2017 08:38

    What I think makes matters even worse is that SHPO's apply their own standards somewhat randomly.

    For example, a SHPO's NRHP directions may state that maps must have "a scale" and so forth. This kind of map can me made using Google Earth, I think, but it's not a thing I have mastered.

    When I review a previous (and fairly recent) nomination from that state, it often has maps that don't seem to conform to those requirements - but they apparently made it through!

    If mapping is this hard for those of us with some training and professional expertise (even if we're not experts at creating maps/GIS issues), I can't imagine how incredibly frustrating and off-putting the process is for Joe and Sally who want to put their own house or small business on the NRHP.  

    Patrick Thompson
    Germantown MD


  • 4.  RE: National Register Mapping

    Posted 11-03-2017 09:52
    Google Maps or Bing Maps are both acceptable for generating the required NRHP nomination maps. Google Earth allows the drawing of boundaries and arrows, which is helpful. Otherwise, any photo editing software you have can be used for the drawing of boundaries, north arrows, and arrows pointing to the resource in broad-context maps. Microsoft Word can also be used for some of these elements. Also ensure that the map's scale is included and state the source of the map and date it was retrieved.

    Laura Sadowsky

    State Historian and National Register Coordinator | 515.281.3989 |

    Iowa Arts Council | Produce Iowa | State Historical Society of Iowa

    Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

     Share your stories using#iowaculture  and#nottobrag

  • 5.  RE: National Register Mapping

    Posted 11-29-2017 12:24
    Late to the discussion but I second the use of Google Earth Pro or Bing (both free) if you don't have GIS software. I have also seen people edit existing maps or aerial images in paint, Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop if needed.

    For mac-compatible GIS software, I highly recommend QGIS. It's opensource (so free) and fairly easy to use. It's a great way to get acclimated to GIS software if you're interested, and there are lots of good tutorials available for a beginner.

    Reina Murray
    GIS Project Manager
    National Trust for Historic Preservation
    Washington DC

  • 6.  RE: National Register Mapping

    Posted 11-30-2017 11:41
    Thank you to all who've commented and offered advice. Being fully aware of the National Register mapping guidelines, I've used some of these tools, including county GIS mapping software, but I've also found other options to not be at all user friendly for me, or at least not friendly to someone who doesn't have all the graphic editing software. And then I still have no solutions for creating maps of districts where each building needs a box and an address, other than hand drawing the whole thing or some similar cobbled together mess. I'll look into some of the suggestions to see if any of the new ideas will work for me. But it sounds like without without investing in architect drawing software there aren't allot of other options.

    Danielle Bachant-Bell
    Lord and Bach Heritage Preservation Consulting
    605 W. Allen St.
    Bloomington, IN 47403

  • 7.  RE: National Register Mapping

    Posted 02-28-2018 10:18
    Hi there!
    So it's been a little while since I've worked with National Register guidelines so I'm a bit rusty on that but GIS is what I do for a living. The most used software is ESRI. Unfortunately, I'm fairly certain it is not Mac compatible. It can also be fairly pricey but they've recently changed how they charge so it may be worth looking into, just in case. It does give you some pretty powerful editing and analysis capabilities and the ability to publish your maps online. You can also look into their completely online mapping (arcGIS online) and see if that would help you.

    If that's not an option, as someone already mentioned, there's QGIS which is a free, open source software. I have no experience with it but YouTube, Google, and their own support forums should get you through.

    Also, I would encourage you to form a relationship with the local GIS office. I work for a county and, though counties differ in what they are able to provide, I would venture a guess that most have at least a layer with structures outlined (I'm assuming that's what you meant by boxes?) and some sort of address layer (usually that's a requirement for emergency dispatch).

    Lastly, are you close to any colleges? I know when I was in college, I would have loved the opportunity to combine GIS with historic preservation and I'm sure other students would too. As a student, I was always looking for projects to do for class ranging from small ones to larger, capstone projects. Maybe Professors on campus could hook you up with some students looking for experience or know where else you might go to get help for your mapping needs.

    I hope you are able to find what you are looking for!

    Olivia Eaton
    GIS Specialist, Stafford County
    Fredericksburg VA