National Park Service
Heritage Preservation Services   —   Historic Preservation Planning Program
Phoenix, Arizona Bird's Eye View, 1885

Planning Companion

Typical Planning Process
Introduction »

Planning & Historic Contexts

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Step 1.
Planning for Planning »

Step 2.
Creating a Vision »

Step 3.
Understanding the Resources »

Step 4.
Other Planning Factors »

Step 5.
Issues and Opportunities »

Step 6.
Goals and Objectives »

Step 7.
Implementation Strategies »

Step 8.
Producing the Plan »

Step 9.
Implementating the Plan »

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Revising the Plan »

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A Typical Planning Process

Role of the Secretary's Preservation Planning Standards in the Typical Planning Process

You will note, as you read through the description of the typical planning process, that historic contexts and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Preservation Planning are not conspicuous. They're actually there, just not highly visible

So how do the Secretary's Planning Standards fit into this picture of preservation planning?

For some time after they were published in 1983, the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Gudelines for Preservation Planning were the only guidance available for preservation planning, at least in the arena of the national historic preservation program. The full text can be found on-line.

To refresh, there are three Planning Standards:

  • Standard I: Preservation planning establishes historic contexts.

  • Standard II: Preservation planning uses historic contexts to develop goals and priorities for the identification, evaluation, registration, and treatment of historic properties.

  • Standard III. The results of preservation planning are made available for integration into broader planning processes.

These don't sound very much like the typical planning process described in these pages. So, what's the connection?

An article in NPS's CRM magazine, entitled "Whither Historic Contexts? Their Role in 21st-Century Planning," answers this question. See the article On-line.

The article discusses the standards, how they can be used, and places them in "context," if you will, of the preservation planning being done today.

So, how do the Secretary's Preservation Planning Standards fit into a typical planning process? Aren't historic contexts what preservation planning is all about?

Yes -- historic contexts are still necessary for effective preservation planning. As in 1983, when the Preservation Planning Standards were first introduced, the historic context is still the cornerstone of the preservation planning process. Historic context continues to provide an approach, a process, for:

  • assessing and organizing information about patterns of prehistory and history, and about historic and cultural resources;

  • identifying a full range of associated property types; and

  • defining goals and priorities for the identification, evaluation, registration, and treatment of historic properties.

Over the years, however, it became clear that planners and managers who were not historic preservation specialists didn't always need, and often couldn't use, the technical detail usually found in historic contexts in their daily decision-making.

Since planners and managers couldn't use historic contexts, preservation plans were developed that did serve their needs. These plans did not contain the technical historic context information.

This situation has become more common and, while historic contexts continue to be developed during planning, they are used as specialized planning studies, as technical analyses that are necessary to support issue statements and goals in the plan.

The basic purposes of historic contexts are still the same -- they help us answer basic planning questions:

  • What do we know, what don't we know, what do we have?

    Historic contexts help us compile, synthesize, analyze, and assess the state of knowledge about historic and cultural resources.

  • What it worth preserving? What merits spending time and money to protect?

    Historic contexts help us evaluate comparative significance of historic and cultural resources.

  • What needs to be done to protect the resources?

    Historic contexts help us establish goals and priorities for identifying, evaluating, registering, and treating historic and cultural resources.

Historic contexts continue to be critically important for:

  • Preservation specialists, who rely on this technical detail in their daily decision-making;

  • Survey activities, in helping us prioritize needs for survey and evaluate survey results;

  • Research efforts; and

  • Nominations to the National Register, by providing a basis for evaluating significance.

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