Registration Guidelines

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These Guidelines link the Standards for Registration with more specific guidance and technical information. They describe one approach to meeting the Standards for Registration. Agencies, organizations, or individuals proposing to approach registration differently may wish to review their approach with the National Park Service.

The Guidelines are organized as follows:
Purpose of Registration Programs
Registration Procedures
Documentation on Registered Properties
Public Availability
Recommended Sources of Technical Information [[Note: Sources are outdated and not included.]

Purpose of Registration Programs

Registration of historic properties is the formal recognition of properties that have been evaluated as significant according to written criteria. Registration results in an official inventory or list that serves an administrative function. A variety of benefits or forms of protection accrue to a registered property, ranging from honorific recognition to prohibition of demolition or alteration.

Some registration programs provide recognition and other broad benefits or entitlement, while other registrations of properties may, in addition, authorize more specific forms of protection. The application of the registration process should be a logical outgrowth of the same planning goals and priorities that guided the identification and evaluation activities. All registration programs should establish priorities for recognition of their authorized range of properties; provide for confidentiality of sensitive information; and establish a means of appealing the registration or non-registration of a property.

Registration Procedures

Explicit procedures are essential because they are the means by which the public can understand and participate in the registration process. Procedures for registration programs should be developed by professionals in the field of historic preservation, in consultation with those who will use or be affected by the program. Prior to taking effect, procedures should be published or circulated for comment at the governmental level at which they will be used. (Procedures for registration of properties in the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Landmarks list, for example, are published in the Federal Register.)

Any registration program should include:

1. A professional steff to prepare or assess the documentation,
2. A professional review, independent of the nominating source, to provide an impartial evaluation of the documented significance;
3. Adequate notice to property owners, elected officials and the public about proposed registrations and the effects of listing, if any, and
4. A means of public participation.

Professional Review: The registration process should include an independent evaluation of the significance of the property and of the quality and thoroughness of the documentation supporting that significance. Such evaluation ensures that significance is adequately justified and that registration documentation meets the technical requirements of the registration process.

State and local preservation programs, concerned with both public and private properties, generally use a review board, panel or commission. This level of professional review has proven to be effective in assessing the significance of properties considered for registration.

Review boards and other forms of independent review should include professionals in the fields or disciplines included in the criteria; representatives of other fields or disciplines may be desirable to reflect other values or aspects of the register. Key personnel must be qualified by education, training or experience to accomplish their designated duties (See the Professional Qualifications Standards.)

The scope of the independent review should be clearly stated in the registration procedures and should not include issues outside the scope of the applicable criteria for evaluation and other areas specified in the procedures. Generally, independent reviewers should not be involved in any primary research or analysis related to properties under consideration; this information should be gathered and organized prior to review meetings. Documentation presented to the reviewers should be made available to the public prior to review meetings or public hearings. Registration of properties should not take place until review of documentation has been completed.

Public Notice: Adequate notice allows property owners, officials and other interested parties to comment on proposed registrations prior to action by the independent reviewers. The degree of protection and control provided by a registration program may be a factor in determining what constitutes adequate notice. For example, adequate notice of proposed inclusion in honorific registers may be less complex than that for registration that results in local controls on alteration or demolition of registered properties.

Notice to elected officials and the public is necessary to distribute information about potential registrations of concern to planning and development interests.

Adequate notice to property owners may be accomplished through means ranging from individual notification by mail to publication of a public notice, depending on the nature of the registration program and the number and character of the properties involved.

Public notices and owner notification about proposed registrations should include the dates and times of public meetings and review meetings, the kinds of comments that are appropriate, and how comments will be considered in the evaluation process. The notice should also state where information can be obtained about the registration program, the criteria used to evaluate properties for inclusion, and the significance of specific properties under consideration.

The procedures should include a means of public participation in the form of submission of written comments or a review meeting open to the public or a public hearing.

The procedures should state time periods within which reviews, notices, comments, public hearings, review meetings and appeals will occur. The time periods should be short enough to allow for efficient recognition of historic properties but also allow adequate time for public comment and participation by those affected. Time periods may vary depending on whether activities are carried out at the local, State, or national level. These time schedules should be widely circulated so that the process is widely understood.

Appeal Process: A means of appeal should be included in the registration process to allow for reconsideration of a property's inclusion. Reasons for appeal may range from existence of additional information about the property supporting or refuting its significance to administrative or procedural error. An appeal process should specify to whom an appeal may be made and how the information that is provided will be evaluated. The appeal procedures should also state the time limit, if any, on appealing a decision and on consideration of information and issuance of a decision by the appeal authority.

Documentation on Registered Properties

Documentation requirements should be carefully weighed to provide the information actually needed to reach a registration decision and should be made public. It should be made certain that identification and evaluation activities obtain and record the information necessary for registration. Documentation should be prepared in a standardized format and on materials that are archivally stable and easy to store and retrieve.
Location: The precise location of a historic property must be clearly identified.

Street address, town or vicinity, and county should be provided. Properties should also be located on maps; these may be USGS maps, county planning maps or city base maps or real estate maps. A uniform system of noting location, such as UTM grid points or longitude and latitude, should supplement mapping. It is recommended that each registration process standardize the preferred choice of maps appropriate to the scope of the process.

Description: An accurate description of a property includes a description of both the current and historical physical appearance and condition of the property and notes the relevant property type(s) for the applicable historic context(s). Discussion should include alterations, deterioration, relocation and other changes to the property since its period of significance.

Significance: A statement of significance should explain why a property meets the criteria for inclusion in the register to which it has been nominated.

This statement should contain at least 3 elements:

1. Reference to the relevant historic context(s);
2. Identification of relevant property types within the context and their characteristics; and
3. Justification that the property under consideration has the characteristics required to qualify it.

Relevant historic contexts can be identified through reference to the preservation plan or other documents where the contexts have been previously described or can be provided by a narrative discussion of the context. (The development of contexts and their use in evaluating properties are discussed in the Guidelines for Preservation Planning and the Guidelines for Evaluation.) A significant property type and its characteristics are identified either through reference to the historic context(s) or by a narrative in the documentation that describes historic contexts. Justification of a specific property is made by systematic comparison of its characteristics to those required for the property type.

Boundaries: The delineation and justification of boundaries for a registered property are important for future treatment activities. It is especially critical when legal restraints or restrictions may result from the registration of properties. Thus, boundaries should correspond as closely as possible to the actual extent and configuration of the property and should be carefully selected to encompass, but not exceed, the extent of the significant resource(s). The selection of boundaries should reflect the significant aspects of the property.

Arbitrary boundaries should not be chosen for ease of description since this can result in the inclusion of unrelated land or in exclusion of a portion of the historic property. Present property lines should not be chosen as property boundaries without careful analysis of whether they are appropriate to the historic property. A single uniform boundary description and acreage should not be applied to a group or class of properties (antebellum plantations, for example) without examination of the actual extent of each property. The selected boundaries should be justified as appropriate to the historic property.

Boundaries should be clearly and precisely described, using a verbal boundary description, legal description, accurate sketch map, or lines drawn on base maps, or a combination of these where needed to specify the limits of the property being registered. When used, maps should show the location of buildings, structures, sites or objects within the boundary.

Updating Information on Registered Properties: A change in the condition of the significant features of a property may require a change in the official registration record. Alteration of a significant architectural feature, for example, could mean that a property is no longer significant for its architectural design.

Additional significance of registered properties may be identified through development of new historic contexts. Research may reveal that a property is significant in other historic contexts or is significant at a higher level. For example, a property previously recognized as of local significance could be found to be of national significance.

A change in location or condition of a registered property may mean that the property is no longer significant for the reasons for which it was registered and the property should be deleted from the registered list.

Public Availability

Lists of registered properties should be readily available for public use, and information on registered properties should be distributed on a regular basis. Lists of properties registered nationally are distributed through publication in the Federal Register and to Congressional Offices and State Historic Preservation Offices. Comprehensive information should be stored and maintained for public use at designated national, State and local authorities open to the public on a regular basis.

Information should be retrievable by the property name, and location, historic context or property type. The specific location of properties that may be threatened by dissemination of that information must be withheld. These may include fragile archeological properties or properties such as religious sites, structures, or objects whose cultural value would be compromised by public knowledge of the property location.

Part of a series of articles titled Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation.

Last updated: May 13, 2020