Back at the office: Interns at the Office of Historic Resources

Where the magic happens: City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street (Our office is on the 6th floor)

The most obvious part of the SurveyLA project is the fieldwork, where trained surveyors and architectural historians are going out and making assessments of properties and districts, using SurveyLA’s custom-designed computer program on tablet-sized computers. In addition to that fieldwork, however, there is constant work back in the Office of Historic Resources (OHR) at City Hall. In fact, work has been going on for over three years before the first official survey work in the field actually started this year.

Luis Torres, interning at OHR through the Getty Foundation's Multicultural Summer Internship program

Aileen & Alicia working at the intern workstations in OHR

There’s an awful lot of people in City Hall that have been involved with getting SurveyLA off the ground, including the indefatigable Janet Hansen, who has administered the project over the past few years; the other wonderful staff in the OHR; and the amazing computer gurus in the Planning Department who built the FiGGS software for the SurveyLA project. (And that doesn’t even include the people at the Getty Conservation Institute who contiue to support the project, the volunteers and participants in the MyHistoricLA program who’ve helped identify resources, and many others.)

Janet Hansen, coordinating the many components of the SurveyLA project.

Today, though, I wanted to mention a really specific group of people back at the office—the interns! The interns here are amazing, and they do an incredible amount of work for the SurveyLA project as well as other programs within the OHR. This might sound a little self-serving, as I’m an intern myself, but what I mean to say is that the other interns here (not me!) are spectacular people, and it’s a privilege, a pleasure, and an education to work with them. I’m working here during the summer between the first and second year of my MA program in History at UC Riverside, but there are other interns and volunteers who have completed MA or PhD programs, or who have worked professionally in planning and preservation or architecture.

Sally, a volunteer with OHR, with colorful research aids (City Planning Commission reports from the 1960s)

Debbie, surrounded by paperwork associated with Historic-Cultural Monument records

With regard to SurveyLA, a lot of the office work involves researching properties and property types, as well as all the other administrative overhead. When the surveyors out in the field come across a property they’re not sure about, or when they can’t see it or can’t tell enough about it visually, they “flag” it in the FiGSS database and send it in for research. A lot of the intern work involves following up on things like that. We also research historic properties in the city and add notes and information about potentially significant properties into the vast GIS database that forms the core of the in-the-field surveyors software.


Yesterday was also the last day for Luis Torres to intern at OHR; he has been here for ten weeks this summer through The Getty Foundation’s Multicultural Summer Internship program. A farewell lunch at Langer’s Deli was a chance to say goodbye, and also to sample some of the best pastrami in the city.


About Steve Duncan

Urban explorer, photographer, and historian.
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