Standards > Historic Furnishing Reports

Definition

Historic Furnishing Reports document furnishings, their placement, the historic uses of each space, structural modifications, technological changes, and decorative treatments. 

The evolution of the interior spaces chronicles changes in materials, plans, built-in elements, openings, and uses.

Furnishings addressed include decorative ornament in wood, plaster, masonry and other materials; lighting, plumbing and heating fixtures; other utilities and technologies; decorative treatments including wallpaper, finishes, floor treatment, and window dressing; furniture; wall hangings and paintings; accessories and ephemera.

Objects indicated in inventories, diaries, photographs, and other records, but that no longer exist on site, are recorded to document historic conditions and, at times, to develop a list of objects for future, proposed Historic Furnishing Plans.

Standards

National Park Service

Historic Furnishings Report in NPS Policy #28: Cultural Resource Management Guideline, Chapter 9: Management of Museum Objects, C. Planning, 2. Collection Management Planning, e.

A historic furnishings report (HFR) provides a history of a structure's use and documents the type and placement of furnishings to a period of interpretive significance. If a decision is made to furnish a historic structure, a detailed plan section lists each recommended item. The HFR provides guidance for the care and maintenance of furnishings that are exhibited in the structure, including specific instructions for the care of newly acquired objects. This information can be incorporated by the park in its preventive conservation program. The HFR also recommends appropriate levels of historic housekeeping for interpretation. (The NPS Museum Handbook, Part III [draft in progress] provides guidance on the HFR.)

Historic Furnishings in NPS Policy #28: Cultural Resource Management Guideline, Chapter 9: Management of Museum Objects, D. Stewardship, 5.

Historic furnishings are groups of objects (such as furniture, paintings, other decorative and utilitarian objects, books, wall and floor coverings) assembled according to a documented report that recreate historic interior spaces. In some cases one furnished room may be more evocative of an event or person than an entire furnished structure. In other cases effective interpretation may require the furnishing of multiple structures, both commercial and residential. In every case, furnishing must be as accurate as possible and must directly serve park interpretive objectives. The following general criteria apply:

(a) Original furnishings present in their original arrangement will not be moved or replaced unless required for their protection or preservation, or unless the structure is designated for another use in an approved park plan. Before movement or replacement, the furnishings and their arrangement must be fully documented.

(b) A structure may be refurnished, in whole or part, if it is significantly related to a primary park theme, if refurnishing is determined to be the best way to interpret that theme to the public, and if there is sufficient evidence of the design and placement of the original furnishings to refurnish with minimal conjecture.

(c) To ensure accurate recreations of historic furnishings, reproductions will be based on existing prototypes.

Furnished Historic Structure Museums, Chapter 6 [PDF file] in Lewis, Ralph H. Museum Curatorship in the National Park Service 1904-1982. Washington, DC: Curatorial Services Division, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, 1993 .

The Mission 66 development program field order issued February 4, 1958, restated the rule that exhibition of the interior of a historic structure required an approved furnishing plan, then specified six elements the plan must contain:

"The first section (a) centered attention on the interpretive purpose,essential to justify development. The next section (b) defined the facts and ideas the furnished space would embody in a documented narrative of the historic occupants. All the evidence that could be found about furnishings present at the historic time composed the third section (c). With this
foundation laid, the plan would proceed to specify in detail the furnishings to be exhibited (d). The fifth section (e) would supplement these specifications with floor plans and wall elevations to fix the location of each piece. Notes on sources and estimated costs for acquiring the furnishings (f) would complete the plan."

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