Patrick Otton, Technical Writer
Naval Historical Center Detachment Boston
Bldg 24 M&R B.N.H.P.
Charlestown Navy Yard
Boston, MA 02129 USA
The purpose of documentation is to establish the historic record for your
ship. This is the reference file that answers all the questions asked about
your ship concerning the history, the on-going work, and questions concerning
planning, operations and use. As Historians or at least people with an
interest in history ask "Where do the historical records come from?" Then,
set up your ideal world of information exchange and access and compare
that to what is presented by NHCDET Boston.
Answer to these questions establish your documentation goals.
According to the Standards, there are three qualifying objectives for
Documentation provides the "paper" reproduction of the physical object,
this gives protection against loss.
Documentation records the changes in the vessel's fabric
Documentation enables future planning.
Documentation is arguably the most important aspect of our relationship
with our historic ships. It is the reason for this conference. Through
documentation we come to know and understand the maintenance, repair, and
future of our historically significant ships.
WHAT IS DOCUMENTATION? And useable FORMATS.
The camera is never far out of hand. It is important to have someone
who is interested in photography as well as savvy and adept in shipboard
practices for the greatest utilization of photography.
HABS/HAER define the requirements of photo-documentation to satisfy
the Library of Congress collections. HABS/HAER photo-documentation Level
4 is satisfactory for the day-to-day documentation of our ships. Level's
Three, Two and One may be utilized in an as-needed requirement.
Each picture frame should contain sufficient definition that anyone,
including those not familiar with the ship, can determine the field of
view. Date, deck level, position and "thing" should be defined within the
frame. Using 12 x 14 inches dry mark erasable boards are an asset when
NHCDET Boston Constitution: About 5 thousand photos:
B/W, color, 35mm, 120mm, and slide formats
Video is an excellent record that combines both sound and picture into
one medium. This format is desirable for survey/condition evaluations where
verbal descriptions are essential and are a "must" for recording one-time
evolution, such as docking/undocking, stepping of masts, or other singular
NHCDET Boston Constitution: About 120 cassettes:
VHS, S-VHS, Beta, 8mm, formats etc.
Manuals are an excellent record of current and existing procedures
and ship board practices. NHC DET Boston has either in-use, being updated,
or being developed, manuals for:
Sail Training Manual
Safety/Systems: Sound and Security
Flooding, de-watering, generators
Fire, Medical, Flooding, etc..
All of these sources should be considered as documentation.
DRAWINGS AND SKETCHES
Historic drawings need to be collected, identified, defined, contents
described, and cataloged to be of value as primary source documentation.
NHCDET Boston Constitution: About 800 NHCDET Boston Drawings
of the current configuration of the ship and another 300 National Archive
copies of historic drawings dating from the early 1800's. All of these
drawings exist in three formats:
Photocopied working copies,
Aperture card images for reproduction.
These are all recorded in tabular format on the PC using the following
DRAWING NUMBER TITLE or VIEW DESCRIPTION Naval Architect or Draftsman Location, Where drawing was made scale date size original, on record copies, number of working copies
This WORD document is fully searchable for any word entry.
Current Working Drawings
Current working drawings detailing the "as-worked" or "as-repaired"
or "as-restored" configurations are important as accurate records of the
dimensional and configuration changes within the ship. For the recent Rehabilitation
and Restoration of Constitution, NHCDET Boston has logged over 5,000
volunteer hours generating measured drawings of inboard and outboard profiles,
sail and rigging plans, and decks as work progressed on Constitution.
Working drawings of the "as-found" conditions may assist in documenting
archeological studies in determining previous structure of the ship. Constitution
generated archeological drawings to help identify earlier ship structure
particularly old fasteners' holes in the lower futtock sections of Constitution.
It is important to document both the "before" and "after" configuration
and condition as physical work progresses on the ship.
WRITTEN - TASK DOCUMENTATION
At NHCDET Boston, there is an established format for documenting and
establishing a written record for each job that is performed and for all
repair activity involving the ship. This entails entries for:
description and definition of work task item
methods, procedures, problems
photo/video reference archive
An example of one of the 179 tasks performed as the Rehabilitation and
Restoration of Constitution is attached.
TRANSCRIPTION OF HISTORIC RECORDS
Substance for our ships is derived from historic records. These are
the primary sources such as Logbooks, Letter books, Journals, Notebooks,
Receipts, Contracts, and known Period Reference Sources such as reference
texts and manuals.
Repeated searching requires ease of access and the capability to search
for individual key words. Transcription of original manuscripts on to the
PC makes this possible. Transcription as an electronic copy preserves the
original document and makes the copy infinitely transportable.
NHCDET Boston has transcribed about 1000 pages of handwritten manuscripts;
Letterbooks, Notebooks, and Deck logs onto the PC. Additional transcription
of period letters, repair records, sourced from records from the yard,
town, or state where the repair was completed, and logbooks are planned.
There are estimated to be about 20,000 pages that are readily available,
with an unknown quantity that remain to be found.
Microfilm provides a manageable format for preserving historic records.
NHCDET Boston has filmed Constitution's designers, (Joshua Humphreys
and Joshia Fox) note and letter books. These historic records yield much
information concerning sizes, dimensions, and repairs to Constitution.
Notebooks from designers, constructors, crew, etc. are being filmed
to ensure longevity and access.
Collection of external news articles also documents the activity concerning
our ships. Newspaper, journal, and letters are all collectable as official
records. Video broadcast formats are also collectable. These sources will
eventually become part of the historic record of the ship.
Within the organization, current Work orders, Change Orders, Personnel
lists, etc., all comprise the historical record. These sources need to
be documented and archived.
As a matter of habit, everything is photocopied as the original is archived
and working copies are distributed.
Historic period models help define the ship's configuration, either
through the research of a contemporary modeller or in the configuration
of a known period model itself. There are about 15 models of Constitution
depicting Constitution in various configurations and time periods.
Contemporary Working Models
Models have been used two times to determine the hull configuration
(a 1:16 scale model of the ship's structure) and sailing behavior (a 1:25
rigged tow tank test sailing model) of Constitution. These models
are important documents of the existing structure of the ship and our understanding
of the ship's behavior.
HOW TO DOCUMENT?
Example of Documentation Package: See Attachment A
Documentation is the "BIG" picture of your ship. Documentation provides
the source information for answering the question: What, How, and Why.
It is both the current active creation of the historic record of the ship
for future use as well as the historic research to support the on-going
In the short term, documentation enables the administrative functions
to continue -- sourcing of materials, planning, estimating and scheduling
of labor, tooling, facilities for the on-going maintenance.
For the long term, documentation allows researchers to understand what
There are those who as they document, creating the historical record, live
in the present for the future, and there are those who are the historians
that live in the past for the present -- both are needed. Remember, it
is documentation that spans all time and enables our ships to live.