First Annual National Park Service Historic Preservation Conference
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Vernon Smith

Although attack is expected, I will not waste the time of this conference in the defense of Denver Service Center. I will analyze the principles and conditions under which NPS operates and our professional resources. Based on this analysis, I will recommend actions which can be taken to upgrade historic preservation.

The amount of money and personpower available to the NPS is much less than that deserved based on the value of the natural and cultural resources we serve. Being the stepchild of NPS, Historic Preservation can only manage to survive and be prepared for "The Great Day Acomin'." Preservation and enjoyment of the resources in our trust begins and ends at the resource itself. All our effort must be concentrated at that level. It is the needs of the resource that determines the type and extent of professional support. It is imperative that our utilization of personpower and money be utilized efficiently and effectively which means concentrated on actual treatment of the resource and on its availability and interpretation to the American people. Management and professional support must be minimized by providing support directly to the park and its needs without sacrificing uniform application of policies and standards.

Management support of the parks by regional units is generally efficient and consistent for all areas in the National Park System.

Professional support, however, is fragmented, generally ineffective, and inconsistent.

The type and extent of professional support needed varies considerably from park to park: problems and programs are simple and complex, large and small, emergency and long range.

DSC is equipped with planners, landscape architects, engineers, exhibit specialists, architects, printers, writers, contract specialists, etc.: a full complement of expertise and production capability to provide any type, degree or extent of professional support required by the parks. Being made up of human beings and subject to human failure, there is valid criticism of its products and productivity. The exaggeration of this criticism by fellow members of the NPS team is the result of insecure regional management that readily delegates responsibility and accountability but is afraid to delegate authority. It is also the result of regional managements' failure to identify and define the professional product needed by their parks. This exaggerated criticism does not come from all regions or relative to all activities of DSC. There is a direct correlation, however, between the exaggerated criticism and the Regional professional support staffs' interest in and desire to perform the activities being criticized. Regional staffs are expanded or distorted according to the professional interests of its members. They neglect their assigned responsibility and tasks to undertake work better performed in the Service Center. The quality and type of work undertaken varies greatly from region to region while some work of a higher priority suffers in each region. The application of policies and standards reflect Regional managements' concept and varies from region to region. Professional judgement is rationalized to suit managements' preconceptions.

The reality that the NPS must minimize its professional support drain on positions and money needed in the parks dictates that professional expertise be grouped for flexible, efficient, proficient production. The base for this group is the Denver Service Center. Only the Service Center can provide for consistency in the application of policies and standards; respond to programs and problems of various complexity and size; and can respond to Systemwide priorities. Only in the Service Center can essential but esoteric support and advance methods be provided efficiently and only there can intense training and research in preservation technology be provided to few but shared by many practitioners. The Service Center can support EEO and upward mobility programs that would otherwise be neglected. It can also provide for varied on-the-job training for talented young professionals.

The Case for Denver Service Center is that it is the only alternative that makes sense.

I recommend that Regional professional support staffs be abolished and their professionals be reassigned to the Denver Historic Preservation Center: that DHPC assign one professional to each region to provide professional advice to Regional management and liaison with DSC: that teams from DHPC and WASO tour groups of parks to assist Superintendents in developing professional support programs: that DHPC satellite offices be established in parks to carry out professional support activities: and the DHPC be funded as an organization to respond to Systemwide priorities and development of research and technology.

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Last Updated: 14-Jul-2009