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NHL Theme Studies

National Historic Landmarks are often identified through theme studies.  Theme studies are an effective way of identifying and nominating properties because they provide a comparative analysis of properties associated with a specific area of American history, such as the fur trade, earliest Americans, women's history, Greek Revival architecture, Man in Space, or labor history. Theme studies provide a national historic context for specific topics in American history or prehistory. In order to make the case for national significance, a theme study must provide that necessary national historic context so that national significance may be judged for a number of related properties.

Some theme studies are mandated by Congress, while others are determined by the National Park Service. They 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 at hand are encouraged. Academic and professional standards are followed in the preparation of theme studies which provide a context from which the most appropriate properties within that theme are identified. They provide assistance in the evaluation of historic properties at all levels and can be used to educate the public about the nation's heritage.

Please consult our full list of theme studies to see if a theme study that relates to your topic has been conducted. If an electronic copy is available, a link to a pdf of the study is included. You can also read about our most recent theme studies.

The thematic framework for history and prehistory is a conceptual tool for evaluating the significance of cultural resources within or outside the NPS. The framework is an outline of major themes and concepts that help us to conceptualize American history. It is used to help identify cultural resources that embody America's past and to describe and analyze the multiple layers of history encapsulated within each resource.

The civil rights framework represents the first chapter in a larger study on the history of civil rights that will help the National Park Service evaluate proposals for new units in the park system.

Special studies carried out by the NHL Program may also be of interest.