National Historic Landmarks Heritage and History Initiatives
During the past four years, the National Historic Landmarks Program has engaged in a dramatic effort to extend its reach to reflect a full spectrum of people and events responsible for building the nation. Beginning in May 2011, three new initiatives – the American Latino Heritage Initiative, the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Initiative, and the Women’s History Heritage Initiative – were developed and implemented with the goal of furthering the representation of diverse stories within the National Historic Landmarks Program. These initiatives have resulted in the designation of thirty-one new National Historic Landmarks, all of which reflect and tell complex stories regarding the diversity of the American experience. These thirty-one National Historic Landmarks represent 70.06 percent of the new properties presented to the Secretary of the Interior for designation as National Historic Landmarks since May 2011. NHL Program staff have also begun to design a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) History Initiative.
For more information about the NHL Program's work on heritage initiatives, please consult our NHL Heritage Initiatives Progress Report, 2011-2013 and continue reading below.
American Latino Heritage Initiative
The American Latino Heritage Initiative led the way as the first of these various initiatives. In 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar tasked the National Historic Landmarks Program with increasing the number of NHLs that represent the longevity and textured history of Latinos in the United States.
Since the launch of the initiative in June of 2012, ten new Latino history properties have been designated as NHLs; an additional property will be reviewed by the National Park System Advisory Board in January 2014. Designated properties include sites such as the Trujillo Homesteads (Colorado), the Hispanic Society of America Complex (New York), and the Old San Juan Historic District/Distrito Histórico del Viejo San Juan (Puerto Rico). These properties tell stories ranging from the experience of Latino American settlers on the western frontier, the ways in which scholarly understanding of Latino contributions to American culture and history have shifted over time, to one of the premier colonial cities in the United States and the nation’s most important and complete Spanish urban center.
Please visit the National Park Service's American Latino Heritage Initiative website for more information.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Initiative
In 2012, Secretary Salazar initiated the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Initiative. This initiative will enable the National Historic Landmarks Program to identify and document important sites associated with the contributions made by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout our history.
In January and May 2013, scholars, preservationists, and National Historic Landmarks Program staff met to develop a structure for a theme study on Asian American and Pacific Islander history. This theme study will ultimately result in the nomination of sites associated with this diverse history.
Even before the initiation of this theme study, the National Historic Landmarks Program had begun to locate, research, and document sites associated with the history of Asian Americans. Most notably, recent efforts by the National Historic Landmarks Program have included the Japanese Americans in World War II Theme Study and Civil Rights in America: A Framework for Identifying Significant Sites (rev. 2008). The George Nakashima Woodworker Complex (Pennsylvania) was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2014.
Please visit the National Park Service's Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Initiative website for more information.
Women’s History Initiative
Since May 2011, the National Historic Landmarks has forwarded eleven sites that reflect and tell important stories about women’s history in America or about the construction of gender roles in American culture.
Between 2011 and 2013, sites ranging from Yaddo (New York) to the Harriet Beecher Stowe House (Connecticut), were designated as National Historic Landmarks. Yaddo, often regarded as the nation’s premier arts colony, was founded in part by the poet and philanthropist Katrina Trask. It has sponsored writers such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Sylvia Plath, Patricia Highsmith, and others. While Harriet Beecher Stowe is known to modern audiences for her antislavery work, she was widely recognized in her lifetime as a highly prolific and nationally significant reformer for a variety of causes above and beyond abolition. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House is associated with Stowe’s more mature career as a reformer on issues relating to the family and women’s roles.
The National Historic Landmarks Program continues to work with groups such as the National Collaborative for Women's History Sites on nominating sites that reflect the contributions of women to American history. Currently, the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas House is being nominated for National Historic Landmark designation for her contributions to American environmental history. Her home will be considered by the National Park System Advisory Board National Historic Landmarks Committee in spring 2014 complimenting designated NHLs such as the Rachel Carson House in Silver Spring, Maryland (designated 1991).
The NHL Women's History Initiative Progress Report, 2011-2013 is available to read.
Please visit the National Park Service's Women's History Initiative website for more information.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) History Initiative
In 2010, the National Historic Landmarks Program began the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) History Initiative by conducting a state-by-state survey of extant sites associated with LGBTQ history. By 2013, the NHL Program began work on a framework to assist preservationists and scholars within the National Park Service, and externally, to identify, document, and nominate sites associated with the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Americans. The framework will assist the Program in conceptualizing LGBTQ history and to begin to identify potential property types associated with this history. The framework will also enable National Historic Landmarks staff to locate potential sites for nomination and designation.
Currently, we are engaging with the University of Michigan to write an NHL nomination for the Henry Gerber House in Chicago, Illinois. Recently, the Program conducted a highly popular and successful webinar introducing the general public to the process of identifying potential sites suitable for nomination as NHLs under this theme. This webinar, along with others, will be presented again.
Designation of these sites will further enhance Americans’ understanding of LGBTQ history and the ways in which it enhances our understanding of a broad range of topics such as civil rights, the American family, and American communities. Stonewall (New York) was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000.
Please visit the National Park Service's LGBTQ History Initiative website for more information.
For additional information about heritage initiatives within the National Park Service, please consult the NPS's Heritage Initiatives website.