U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
III. NHL THEME STUDIES
Some theme studies are mandated by Congress, while others are determined by the NPS, and are generally prepared under cooperative agreements or contracts with other governmental entities or private organizations. In the development of theme studies, partnerships with the academic community, independent scholars, and others knowledgeable about the subject are encouraged. Emphasis is placed on the preparation of theme studies that meet academic and professional standards, that provide a context from which the most appropriate properties within the theme are identified, that can be used to assist in the evaluation of historic properties at all levels, and that can be used to educate the public about the nation's heritage.
A potential NHL nomination preparer should consult with the NHL Survey to obtain information on already prepared NHL theme studies (see Appendix B). The NHL Survey can determine if the proposed theme for the property has had a study prepared in the past, if the proposed property itself has been under review or consideration at any time in the past, or if comparable properties have been designated.
If no theme study exists, or if the theme study is incomplete or outdated, the applicant must document the context within the individual nomination form. In order to have a successful nomination, the preparer should research, outline, synthesize, and interpret the historical record on one or more nationally significant historical themes to which the property relates through its historic uses, activities, associations, and physical characteristics. The nomination should discuss how the property reflects an important aspect of the history of the nation as a whole, has contributed in an exceptional way to the diverse geographical and cultural character of the nation, or is illustrative of a national trend, issue, or movement. One way to do this is by citing judgments of national significance from scholarly professional literature. The nomination should provide a compelling justification for national significance based on sound reasoning which establishes why this property is worthy of this exceptional consideration. The preparer should also explain how the property relates to other properties nationwide having similar associations.
In developing the appropriate historic context for the property, nomination preparers should refer to the National Park Service's Thematic Framework. This framework provides for eight categories, each representing a significant aspect of the human experience.
Evaluation of historic sites for NHL designation is a professional process that involves analysis based on the best current scholarship. Given the broad, conceptual nature of the framework, it will need to be supplemented, on a case by case basis, by more detailed outlines as particular topics are addressed.
The revised thematic framework makes it easier to incorporate the insights of social and cultural history, which seek to tell the stories of broad social trends and ordinary people. Unique and notable events are still included in the framework's goals, but they are more likely to be placed firmly within the broader contexts of their time. Studies of properties may be on specific topics (jazz history, for example) but should consider the holistic framework.
In using the thematic framework, it is important to remember that it covers human history in what is now the United States whether it occurred 10,000 or 50 years ago. "American" refers to both precontact history and history. Also note that history can be informed from many sources including archeology, oral tradition, and documentary history.
This thematic framework is intended to make the lives of the majority of Americans more visible and to enhance one?s understanding of the connections between people through time and place. The contexts of People, Place, and Time are settings in which the themes are suspended. It is vital to consider each of these elements in researching and interpreting the history of the American people.
In using the thematic framework, one must recognize that not all history is nationally significant. A holistic overview encourages discussion of all facets of a property?s history, but does not guarantee that all of that history will be recognized as nationally significant.
Preparers of NHL nominations must cite the appropriate themes and subthemes as included in the thematic framework when nominating properties for NHL designation. In addition, preparers should also refer to other NHL theme studies (or historic contexts) already prepared which are relevant for a particular nomination. The NHL Survey will be able to assist the preparers in locating and reviewing past theme studies.
THEME STUDIES AS Multiple Property Submissions
The Multiple Property format, as used by the National Register of Historic Places and explained in National Register Bulletin: How to Complete the National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form (NPS 10-900-b), will be used for National Historic Landmark theme studies.
While NHL theme studies using the Multiple Property format are conducted primarily to identify a related group of nationally significant properties, these studies can, at the same time, provide information that is useful in identifying and evaluating properties of state and local significance for National Register eligibility within the contexts which are documented in the Multiple Property studies. The same general principles will apply to completing most of the sections of the MPS format which follow.
MPS FORM Section A. "Name of Multiple Property Listing"
MPS FORM SECTION B. "Associated Historic Contexts"
MPS FORM SECTION C. "Form Prepared By"
MPS FORM SECTION D. "Certification"
MPS FORM SECTION E. "Developing Statement of Historic Contexts
for NHL Theme Studies"
Well-documented subjects (a renowned architect) or events (the Lewis and Clark Expedition) require a historical description that can be used to specifically evaluate the properties within the broader historical context. The description may be strengthened by citing published sources and conclusions from scholars in the subject area as to the specific significance of the theme and the properties within the theme.
For subjects that command fewer published sources, it may be necessary to conduct considerable research in the course of preparing a Multiple Property Submission. Scholars and others knowledgeable about the subject should be contacted for their views on the significance of the theme and properties related to it. The subject matter must be presented in a concise manner and must demonstrate its relationship to the properties discussed within the Multiple Property Submission.
The theme must be presented in the context of national significance. Occasionally the theme is regional, but in such cases, the national importance of the regional phenomena must be clear.
National Register Bulletin: How to Complete the National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form goes into considerable detail for completing Statements of Historic Contexts. This bulletin can be used as a guide for developing historic contexts related to the various NHL criteria with the understanding that the test of national significance must be established in the context.
MPS FORM SECTION F. "Associated Properties and Registration
The discussion of properties within the Multiple Property Submission should focus not just on specific property types such as schools, train depots, or residences, but rather on the nationally significant topics or subtopics that have been identified in the historic context with which properties may be most closely associated. The topics can be based on both associative and physical attributes. Evaluating properties within their appropriate historic contexts and comparing the individual properties with other properties in their appropriate topic provides the basis for determining which have nationally significant historical associations or attributes with the highest level of integrity and are therefore potential candidates for NHL designation.
MPS FORM SECTION G. "Geographical Data"
MPS FORM SECTION H. "Summary of Identification and Evaluation
This section also should include descriptions of properties considered for inclusion in the Multiple Property Submission that were later rejected as not meeting the applicable criteria. A discussion of why these properties were excluded must be included.
MPS FORM SECTION I. "Major Bibliographical References"
The bibliography of sources used to prepare the Multiple Property Submission should include primary and secondary sources of information used in writing the historic context and identifying the properties which may illustrate the nationally significant topics within the historic context. These sources may include other theme studies, published histories, historic photographs and maps, oral histories, archeological surveys, folklife studies, field surveys, and archival research in public and private records. Do not include general reference works, unless they provided specific information or assisted in evaluating and documenting the properties to be considered.
The Multiple Property nomination cover form includes the historic context, the necessary requirements needed to be considered under the theme, the discussion of properties which may or have been considered, the geographical data, the methodology used in preparing the theme study, and the general bibliography. The nominations of individual properties related to the Multiple Property Submission are prepared on individual National Historic Landmark Nomination forms. (This form is a slightly modified National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. See Section V: Preparation of NHL Nominations.) The individual nomination form need not repeat all of the history common to the theme. However, each individual nomination must be able to stand on its own, and national significance must be demonstrated for each property individually. The Multiple Property nomination cover form provides the historic context of the theme being studied and allows interested parties to determine if their properties may meet the requirements for designation under this particular theme. The individual nominations are still the official documentation for properties.
Preparers of NHL Multiple Property Submissions are urged to work closely with the NHL Survey in developing historic contexts, evaluating associated properties, creating registration requirements, outlining the methodology, and finalizing any other aspects associated with the cover document and related individual NHL nominations.
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