In 2005, the GSA Center for Historic Buildings embarked on a collaboration with the Library of Congress (LOC) to photograph twenty historic buildings under U. S. General Services Administration (GSA) stewardship. Producing copyright free photographs of monumental facades, lobbies and courtrooms, the planned two-year partnership provided unprecedented online access to America’s architectural treasures. The program was so successful we soon expanded it, and eleven years later, thousands of images of GSA buildings are available to the public in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at the Library of Congress.
The Highsmith archive is one of the six top photograph collections at the LOC. It began when accomplished architectural photographer Carol Highsmith began donating her work, which documents America in the early years of the 21st century, to the library. It contains images of both the country’s iconic masterpieces and its rural heritage—along with more than 3000 images of GSA spaces, including the ornate dome over the cantilevered marble stair at the Birch Bayh Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse in Indianapolis, the brick tower of the Sidney R. Yates Federal Building in Washington, D.C., and the soaring Greek Revival marble hall in the U.S. Custom House in New Orleans.
Building documentation is integral to historic preservation. Our far-reaching Public Buildings Heritage Program engages tenants and the public through documentary films, educational brochures, and posters. The National Historic Preservation Act requires GSA to identify historic properties and prepare guidance to preserve them. Architectural photographs provide a permanent visual record and primary resource for future preservation and research projects. Executive Order 13287, Preserve America, calls on federal agencies to promote public use and enjoyment of federal historic properties. While physical access is often limited, these photographs are one additional way we can share GSA’s historic building legacy and preserve it for future generations.