Saturday, October 8, 2011

About the CIHB ( Canadian Inventory Historic Buildings )

It's a bit of a challenge to determine if there's an actual website in existence - this was written some 25 years ago...
APT XVIII No. 1 & 2  1986

By Christina Cameron

The Canadian Inventory of Historic Buildings is an architectural archive created and maintained by the National Historic Parks and Sites Branch of Environment Canada, Parks.  A research tool of international reputation, the CHIB, as the inventory is known, has one of the most advanced systems to survey a stock of buildings.  The collection includes micrographic, cartographic and documentary records of Canada’s built heritage covering a random sample of buildings from the 17th-century to about 1920.
The origin of the CIHB can be traced to recommendations from the Massey-Levesque report of the Royal Commission on the National Development of the Arts, Letters and Sciences, 1949-1951, which decried the lamentable state of Canada’s heritage buildings and urgently called for increased federal activity in their identification, commemoration and protection.
            The federal government responded by passing the Historic Sites and Monuments Act (1952-1953) which confirmed the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in its powers to advise the Minister respecting the commemoration, preservation and maintenance of historic places of national significance.  What constituted national architectural significance was defined as: 
the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type exceptionally valuable for the study of a style or method of construction or its period or...a notable example of the work of an early master builder, designer of architect.
            Such a global definition clearly challenged the research capacity of the Department.  The paucity of research information on Canadian buildings pointed up the need for a comprehensive inventory.  After two abortive attempts to undertake manual inventories, the Department, with the collaboration of several provinces and municipalities, resolved in 1970 to launch the CIHB, the first computerized architectural inventory ever created.  It was intended as a research and planning tool that would permit the judicious assessment of buildings within the totality of the country’s architectural heritage and would avoid the premature commitment of funds to one building without knowledge of what similar structures existed.  In other words, the CIHB would provide comparative data that would ensure that scarce conservation resources would be allocated in a rational way for the preservation of structures of national architectural significance.
            The CIHB exterior recording system captured information about location, use, architect and builder as well as many descriptive details about the building’s exterior appearance.  It used a simplified fixed-form recording method with forms that could be filled out by relatively unskilled recorders and a computerized filing system that allowed flexible, multiple access to the data.  The descriptive fields were inspired by the pioneering work of Professor R.W. Brunskill at the University of Manchester, who developed models for the exterior recording of vernacular building in England.  His method was published in R.W. Brunskill, “A Systematic Procedure for Recording English Vernacular Architecture,” Ancient Monuments Society’s Transactions, Vol. 13 (1965-1966), pp.43-126.  The unique contribution of the CIHB was the application of computer technology to this recording method...

c.f.  Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology © 1986

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