Previous Page TOC Next Page


HISTORIAN

Essential Competencies

Introduction: Historians use a knowledge of American history and the analytical skills acquired in studying history. Historians apply this knowledge and skill in helping further the National Park Service mission to understand, preserve, protect, and interpret important cultural resources both under and outside the Service's ownership or jurisdiction. Specialized tasks may include, but may not be restricted to, one or more of the following:

conducting research on historical topics and properties;

conducting field surveys on historical properties;

and/or evaluating historical studies and documentation;

providing advice, guidance, and technical assistance on historical topics and preservation issues;

participating in the development of standards for the practice of history and historic preservation.

The combination of tasks will vary from job to job, in whatever arena historians practice--in individual parks, systems offices, program centers, regional offices, or the Washington Office. For example, a park or systems office historian may conduct research on an area's history before and after it became a park, conduct surveys to identify and evaluate a park's cultural resources, provide information that assists responsible park planning and allows maintenance workers to preserve the historic character of buildings, write historical studies for use in developing interpretive programs and writing park handbooks and visitor brochures, train park staff on the history of the park, and contribute reviews and monographs to historical journals.

A historian in a partnership program in the Washington Office may evaluate the historical documentation and arguments in support of National Register nominations and other applications; list properties in the National Register; review proposed National Historic Landmark boundaries; arbitrate disputes between federal agencies and State Historic Preservation Offices concerning historic significance; conduct research on specific types of cultural resources and publish guidance on their history and character and on how to identify, evaluate, and document them; write national standards for historic preservation activities and evaluate programs and projects according to those standards; organize and conduct training courses for a variety of audiences; serve on the board of a professional organization; and write reviews and monographs for historical journals. Historians in other offices will perform different combinations of tasks.

Following is a list of the competencies and the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed to perform in this particular discipline at the Entry, Developmental, and Full Performance levels. The competencies are in boldface print and are followed by a brief definition. The definitions are then followed by a list of the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to be effective at each level. The competencies and KSAs of the previous level(s) are also required at the next higher level.

ENTRY LEVEL (GS-0170)

Description: Historians possessing the competencies of the Entry Level have the knowledge and analytical skills equivalent to a Bachelor's Degree in American History, American Studies, American Civilization, or Architectural History, as well as a grounding in preservation principals and practices at the level provided by a Bachelor's Degree in Historic Preservation. They have a broad knowledge of American history, architectural history, or landscape history; know how to locate primary and secondary sources; and can research and write basic narrative histories, with some critical analysis of the sources. In addition, they understand how the tangible remnants of the past embody and reflect abstract concepts about historical events, people, and developments. Their knowledge of the laws, regulations, and policies governing NPS preservation programs, while basic, is sufficient to enable them to perform their jobs in accordance with those requirements.

Those beginning historian jobs at the Entry Level may not possess all of the competencies called for in each category. In some cases, individuals may be able to demonstrate some of the competencies of the Developmental Level without being proficient in all Entry Level competencies. Before advancing to the Developmental Level, however, historians must acquire all essential competencies at the Entry Level. Close supervision and a high level of formal and experiential training is common at this level to help individuals meet that goal.

I. Professional Discipline

Provides general information and knowledge about American history.

Broad knowledge of American history, architectural history, or landscape history.

Basic knowledge of the theories, principles, practices, and techniques of historical methodology (see Research and Survey).

II. Preservation Law, Philosophy, and Practice

Provides general information and knowledge on the identification, evaluation, documentation, registration, treatment, and management of cultural resources.

Basic knowledge of historic preservation history and philosophy, including the laws, regulations, standards, and National Park Service policies and guidelines relating to historic preservation and cultural resource management.

Knowledge of NPS cultural resource inventories, archives, records, and computerized databases and their utility.

III. Research and Survey

Conducts basic research on historical topics and participates in cultural resource surveys.

General knowledge of research methodologies and resource repositories.

Ability to gather historical materials and data, and to determine the relative importance of historical evidence.

Ability to apply National Register Criteria for Evaluation to cultural resources.

Ability to prepare basic histories on specific topics according to established research designs.

IV. Program and Project Management

Contributes to the successful completion of preservation projects.

Knowledge of basic planning policies and procedures (NPS-2 and/or the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Preservation Planning; 36CFR63 and 36CFR800) .

Ability to apply and integrate, or guide others in applying, Section 110 and 106 requirements into the preservation projects at their earliest stages.

Ability to work with partners inside and outside the National Park Service in cooperative projects.

V. Writing and Communication

Presents basic information on historical and preservation topics, issues, and programs in oral and written form to NPS managers, colleagues, other professionals, and the public.

Ability to write and speak in a clear, logical, and organized style.

Ability to prepare documentation, especially physical descriptions and historical data, on cultural resources in a variety of formats and for a variety of purposes.

Ability to draft general correspondence, prepare written reports of factual information, and carry out other basic writing communication assignments.

Ability to provide general information and guidance on historical topics and preservation issues in oral and written form.

VI. Training

Supports training and public programming in history and preservation.

Ability to recommend, collect, and package appropriate materials for training handouts, workbooks, and other uses.

Ability to instruct non-historians on staff about historical topics and methods.

DEVELOPMENTAL LEVEL (GS-0170)

Description: Historians who satisfy the competencies at the Developmental Level hold the knowledge and skill usually conferred by a Master's Degree in American History, American studies, American civilization, or architectural history, and also the proficiency in historic preservation equivalent to a Master's Degree in historic preservation or public history with a specialization in preservation or cultural resource management. Having fulfilled the Entry Level competencies required for their job, they have achieved a greater level of ability, responsibility, and independence in each category.

At the Developmental Level, historians easily conduct research in primary and secondary sources, know how to evaluate and interpret a variety of source material, and can synthesize information from these sources into coherent historical arguments. They can study cultural resources and discern their important physical and associative characteristics. At this level, historians participate in the planning and development, as well as implementation, of a variety of interdisciplinary cultural resource projects. They also have begun to participate in the ongoing dialogue of the larger professional fields of history and historic preservation.

Generally, incumbents at the Developmental Level may not have mastered every Developmental Level competency in all categories when they begin working at this level, but through training and directed assignments, they will achieve them before advancing to the Full Performance Level.

I. Professional Discipline

Provides information and knowledge about American history.

Broad knowledge of American history, architectural history, or landscape history with detailed knowledge on a specific topic.

Working knowledge of the theories, principles, practices, and techniques of the historical method (see Research and Survey).

Knowledge of historical discussion and debate on topics of expertise.

Ability to identify and maintain professional contacts with colleagues within the history profession, including memberships in historical organizations and attendance at conferences.

II. Preservation Law, Philosophy, and Practice

Provides information and knowledge on the identification, evaluation, documentation, registration, treatment, and management of cultural resources.

Knowledge of the origins and development of the historic preservation movement and of historic preservation theory, philosophy, and practice, including a working knowledge of the laws, regulations, standards, and NPS policies and guidelines relating to historic preservation and cultural resource management.

Extensive knowledge of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, and the ability to apply provisions of the act to a variety of situations.

Ability to use NPS cultural resource inventories, archives, records, and computerized databases in cultural resource activities.

Ability to design and conduct activities and create products that reflect sound preservation principles and practices.

III. Research and Survey

Conducts and/or reviews historical research and cultural resource surveys.

Ability to determine the need for research and/or survey, and to outline a scope and objectives of the study.

Strong working knowledge of research techniques and methodologies and the ability to apply them, such as:

Ability to identify and gather primary and secondary source materials in libraries, archives, National Park Service record holdings, and other facilities;

Ability to evaluate critically historical evidence and to place research and survey findings into a larger context;

Ability to draw conclusions of fact from historical evidence.

Ability to identify, evaluate, and document cultural resources according to National Register criteria, standards, and guidelines, and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation.

Ability to write analytical histories on one or more simple or complex topics.

Ability to evaluate critically historical research, planning documents and proposals, and other documents.

Ability to provide basic review of cultural resource documentation in National Register nominations, National Historic Landmark theme and site studies and boundary proposals, HABS/HAER reports, park planning documents, and other materials for the purpose of recommending resolutions to problems and inconsistencies.

IV. Program and Project Management

Completes a variety of preservation projects and activities.

Working knowledge of related disciplines involved in cultural resource activities, such as art and architecture, landscape architecture, archeology, collections management, and interpretation.

Ability to participate in the development and implementation of a variety of interdisciplinary cultural resource research, planning, technical assistance, and reporting projects.

Knowledge of planning policies and procedures and ability to apply them (NPS-2 and/or the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Preservation Planning; 36CFR63 and 36CFR800).

Ability to draft cooperative agreements to accomplish cultural resource management/historic preservation goals.

Knowledge of Federal contracting requirements and procedures, and the ability to draft scopes of work and requests for proposals for the procurement of professional historical/cultural resource management services.

V. Writing and Communication

Presents information on historical and preservation topics, issues, and programs in oral and written form to NPS managers, colleagues, other professionals, and the public.

Ability to prepare and deliver effective talks and papers on historical topics and preservation issues.

Ability to draft policy letters, reports, and briefing papers; write informational articles; and complete other written assignments.

VI. Training

Presents standardized training on historical topics and on preservation history, law, regulation, policies, guidelines, and practices.

Ability to organize, coordinate, and/or direct the logistical aspects of training courses or conferences.

Ability to develop effective goals, learner-centered objectives, agendas, presentations, activities, and participant evaluations for training events.

Ability to use a variety of teaching techniques, as appropriate, including lectures, open or directed discussions, question/answer sessions, media presentations, individual and group exercises, and field studies.

FULL PERFORMANCE LEVEL (GS-0170)

Description: At the Full Performance Level historians possess the historical and historic preservation knowledge and skills equivalent to a Ph.D. They have mastered the essential competencies of the Entry and Developmental Levels, and have achieved an advanced level of responsibility and an extensive amount of independence. They bring a high degree of expertise to their work, and also make a significant contribution to historical and historic preservation professions as a whole.

Historians may not possess every Full Performance Level competency in all categories at the time they begin working at this level. However, through experience and additional formal training, if needed, they will acquire them over time.

I. Professional Discipline

Provides professional expertise in American History.

Scholarly knowledge of aspects of American history, architectural history, or landscape history.

Advanced knowledge of the theories, principles, practices, and techniques of the historical method (see Research and Survey).

Knowledge of ongoing developments in American historiography.

Ability to initiate and sustain working relationships with scholars and professional organizations; contribute to debates and discussions of current historical issues; and participate fully in the activities of the profession, including taking an active role in historical organizations and conferences.

II. Preservation Law, Philosophy, and Practices

Provides expertise in the identification, evaluation, documentation, registration, treatment, and management of cultural resources.

Extensive knowledge of the field of historic preservation, including its origins and history, laws, regulations, policies, standards, philosophies, theories, and practices.

Expertise in the application of historic preservation laws, regulations, policies, and standards to parks; federal, state, and local agencies; private organizations; businesses; and individuals.

Advanced knowledge of NPS cultural resource inventories, archives, records, and computerized databases and their utility in planning and implementing cultural resource activities.

III. Research and Survey

Conducts, manages, and/or reviews original research and cultural resource surveys.

Ability to determine the need for historical research and cultural resource surveys, and to develop research designs.

Advanced knowledge of research and survey methods, including:

Ability to use interdisciplinary sources in research and survey and to synthesize information from such fields ad archeology, architectural history, natural history and conservation, sociology, economics, etc., into a research project.

Ability to identify factors affecting the reliability of historical evidence and to compare and contrast the reliability of a variety of types of historical evidence.

Ability to synthesize sometimes conflicting information for a complex variety of historical evidence.

Ability to place research and survey findings into a larger context.

Expertise in studying cultural resources for the purpose of determining their nature and extent, and assessing their condition, significance, and integrity.

Ability to apply National Register Criteria for Evaluation and Integrity to complex groups of cultural resources, such as historic districts and multiple property areas, and also to properties representing subjects of new scholarship or from recent time periods.

Ability to complete major studies on complex topics.

Ability to assess and/or direct research and surveys, including the selection of sources, research methodologies, completeness, conformance to professional standards and Park Service policies, and soundness of conclusions and recommendations.

Ability to evaluate the sufficiency of historical arguments and documentation in survey reports, National Register nominations, compliance documents, Historic Structures Reports, Cultural Landscape Reports, National Historic Landmark theme and site studies and boundary proposals, HABS/HAER reports, park planning documents, and other materials.

IV. Program and Project Management

Plans, directs, and conducts preservation programs and projects.

Ability to complete and update short and long-term planning for diverse programs and projects to meet and enhance agency and office missions.

Ability to direct and coordinate one or more complex cultural resource programs.

Ability to oversee the development and implementation of a variety of cultural resource research, planning, technical assistance, and reporting projects.

Advanced knowledge of planning policies and procedures and skill in applying them (NPS-2 and/or the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Preservation Planning; 36CFR63 and 36CFR800).

Ability to determine the need for information, guidance materials, and technical assistance, and to design and develop the type of assistance needed to meet that need.

Ability to coordinate the work of a variety of professionals inside and outside the Park Service into a cohesive product (e.g., to work with project agencies, State Historic Preservation Offices [SHPO], staff or contract professionals, the National Register, and the Advisory Council to bring compliance procedures, documents, agreements, and decisions to fruition).

Ability to identify, prepare, direct, or procure studies and inventories needed to support preservation activities.

Ability to identify appropriate partners inside and outside the Park Service for cooperative projects, and to prepare cooperative agreements for the completion of complex cultural resource programs.

Knowledge of federal contracting requirements and procedures, and the ability to prepare scopes of work and requests for proposals for the procurement of historical/cultural resource professional services.

V. Writing and Communication

Presents information on complex historical and preservation topics, issues, and programs to NPS managers, colleagues, other professionals, and the public.

Ability to articulate complex historical and preservation issues in written and oral form.

Ability to communicate effectively information in oral and written briefings, professional conference presentations, training activities, and other forums.

Ability to prepare papers and presentations for professional journals and conferences.

Ability to produce manuscripts of publishable quality.

VI. Training

Provides training on historical topics and on historic preservation history, laws, regulations, policies, guidelines, and practices.

Ability to identify training needs and target audiences for a variety of topics and skills in the fields of history and historic preservation.

Skill in developing and using a variety of teaching techniques, as appropriate, including lectures, open or directed discussions, question/answer sessions, media presentations, individual and group exercises, and field studies.

Ability to lead complex training situations and conferences, which may include agendas with numerous topics and speakers; participants with different backgrounds or levels of knowledge, experience, and motivation; or courses or meetings of several days duration.

National Park Service
Training and Development Division
Essential Competencies
historia.htm

Previous Page TOC Next Page