The essential skill needed for any level
of investigation is the ability to observe closely and to analyze.
These qualities are ideally combined with a hands-on familiarity
of historic buildings-and an open mind! Next, whether acquired
in a university or in a practical setting, an investigator should
have a good general knowledge of history, building design history
and, most important, understand both construction and finish technologies.
But it is not enough to know architectural
style and building technology from a national viewpoint; the investigator
needs to understand regional and local differences as well.
While investigative skills are transferable
between regions and chronological periods, investigators must
be familiar with the peculiarities of any given building type
and geographical area.
Architectural survey and comparative
fieldwork provides a crucial database for studying regional
variations in historic buildings. For example, construction practices
can reflect shared experiences of widely diverse backgrounds and
traditions within a small geographical area. Contemporary construction
practice in an urban area might vary dramatically from that of
rural areas in the same region. Neighbors or builders within the
same small geographical area often practice different techniques
of constructing similar types of structures contemporaneously.
Reliable dating clues for a certain brick bond used in one state
might be unreliable for the same period in a different state.
Regional variation holds true for building materials as well as
Finally, even beyond regional and local
variation, an investigator needs to understand that each building
has its own unique history of construction and change over time.
Form, features, materials and detailing often varied according
to the tastes and finances of both builder and supplier; construction
quality and design were also inconsistent, as they are today