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Heritage Preservation Services   —   Historic Preservation Planning Program

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Historic Preservation Planning for Local Communities

a typical planning process

Step 3. What Do We Know About Our Community's Historic and Cultural Resources?

A fundamental element of preservation planning is assessing what is known, and what is not known, about historic and cultural resources in the planning area. Ideally, preservation planning looks at all historic and cultural resources in the community, not just one type, such as buildings.

It's very difficult to protect valued heritage resources if the community hasn't identified what resources are important and why. Therefore, the plan should discuss all kinds of resources that the community values, including historic buildings, structures, sites, and landscapes; prehistoric (or precontact) and historic archaeological resources; and traditional cultural places.

The community may also value other types of heritage, such as archives and museum collections, and traditional cultural practices, language, music, and dance. The plan should discuss the preservation of these resources as well, so their preservation can also be established as public policy through the preservation plan.

Types of Resources
  • Buildings
  • Structures
  • Objects
  • Sites, including...
    • Prehistoric (precontact) archaeology
    • Historical archaeology
    • Designed landscapes
    • Vernacular landscapes
    • Sacred sites
    • Locations of events
  • Districts (combinations of the above)
  • Traditional cultural places (combinations of the above)
  • Underwater resources (combinations of the above)
  • and, if these are important to the public and professionals...
    • Traditional practices, language, arts, music, and dance
    • Traditional subsistence activities and associated flora and fauna
    • Archives and museum collections

Resource Information Needed for Planning

The majority of historic and cultural resource information used in preservation planning is derived from historic contexts that have been developed using the guidance in The Secretary of the Interiorís Standards and Guidelines for Preservation Planning, on-line.

Other sources of information about historic and cultural resources include:

  • Historic contexts and other theme studies
  • Multiple Property and other documentation for the National Register of Historic Places
  • Inventories of historic and cultural resources
  • Reports of environmental compliance aactivities, such as federal Section 106, state environmental quality act)
  • Survey reports
  • Community history studies

Questions that may be helpful in characterizing cultural resource information to identify topics that may need attention during the planning process include:

  1. What do we know about the resources?
  2. How well do we know it?
  3. What donít we know?
  4. What kinds of resources have been recorded and what kinds have not?
  5. What time periods are or are not represented, and how well?
  6. Where are the resources located?
  7. What condition are they in?
  8. What areas have, and have not yet, been surveyed for what kinds of resources?
  9. Who controls the resources (e.g., government agency, private owner)?


Additional guidance can be found in the Sources of Additional Information and the PLANNING COMPANION — just click on the menu links to the left.

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