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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin: How to Prepare National Historic Landmark Nominations

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U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service


What are NHL Theme Studies and How are They Prepared?
Usually, NHLs are identified through theme studies. Theme studies are the most 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, space exploration, or labor history. Theme studies provide a national historic context for specific topics in American history. 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 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If no theme study exists, or if the theme study is incomplete or outdated, the applicant must document the context within the individual nomination form.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.

Figure 2.

Guidelines for Developing Historic Context


Identify and provide facts about one or more historical themes for the nation as a whole to which the property relates through its historic uses, activities, associations, and physical characteristics. Discuss how the property reflects an important aspect of that theme or has contributed in an exceptional way to the diverse geographical and cultural character of the Nation. The facts should be organized by theme, geographical place, and period of time. Also, explain how the property relates to other properties nationwide having similar associations. (For a complete discussion of historic context that may be applied to National Historic Landmark nominations in some cases, see National Register Bulletins: How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation and How to Complete the National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form.)
Properties Significant for Criterion 1
Explain how the event or pattern of events made an important contribution to the history of the nation, and how related types of properties reflect these events.
Properties Significant for Criterion 2
Explain why the person with whom the property is associated is important to the history of the nation. Identify also other properties associated with the person and explain their role in the career of the person.

Properties Significant for Criterion 3

Explain how the property represents a great ideal of the American people. Discuss the great ideal and why it is an ideal to the people of
the United States. Identify other properties that could be associated with this ideal and thoroughly explain that association.

Properties Significant for Criterion 4
Explain why the type, period or method of construction represents architectural features that are significant in the development of the nation; or
Provide facts about the career and work of the artist, architect, engineer, or landscape architect to explain how the person was accomplished in his or her field and made contributions to the art, architecture, or landscape architecture of the nation and why the property being nominated is an outstanding example of his or her work.
Properties Significant for Criterion 5
Explain why the property and its integral parts reflect some exceptional historic movement, event, way of life, culture or architectural style or period which is important to the development of the nation. Identify and explain the association of related types of properties to the same movement, event, way of life, culture, architectural style or period.
Properties Significant for Criterion 6
Explain why the information the site is likely to yield is important to the knowledge of the prehistory or history of the nation.

Using the Thematic Framework
Public Law 101-628, Section 1209, directed the NPS to revise its thematic framework for history to reflect current scholarship and represent the full diversity of America's past. Before this, the NPS had been using a theme structure developed in 1987 based on earlier attempts to organize American history into identifiable national themes. The revision presents a larger and more integrated view of history, as it stresses the interplay of race, ethnicity, class, and gender within and among the framework's broadened topics. The 1996 thematic framework is attached as Appendix A.

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.

• People: People provide one of the over-arching contexts within which to study the past. Issues such as gender and ethnicity are not confined to any particular place, time, or topic in history. Nor are they the only issues; culture also provides continuity and a perspective from which to view events. Such an approach may help to avoid the division of American history into limited categories.

• Place: The relationship of people to place is central to evaluating particular properties for national significance since it is physical properties that are designated NHLs. Relationship to place permeates each of the topics and broad spheres of human activity.

• Time: Human actions develop through time; however relevant chronological dates vary greatly, and it is cumbersome to attempt to include each possible relevant time period for all of the themes. Therefore it is most efficient to define time periods according to the study that is being undertaken. An example of variable dates for a similar "event" is the timing of contact between indigenous people and European explorers or settlers.

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
In the past, theme studies have been prepared using a variety of formats. New theme studies will be in the format of a Multiple Property Submission (MPS) which will consist of

1) a historic context (the patterns or trends in history by which a specific occurrence, property, or site is understood and its meaning and ultimately its national significance within history is made clear),

2) a discussion of the individual properties which may exist and relate to the historic context,

3) the associative and physical attributes a property must have in order to be considered for designation,

4) geographical data,

5) the methodology used in preparing the Multiple Property Submission, and

6) a bibliography of sources.

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.

[photo] Rokeby, Ferrisburgh, Vermont This property was the Robinson family farmstead for four generations and rare surviving documentation that the Robinson family kept attests to its use as a stop on the Underground Railroad. These documents also provide accurate insights into an understandably shadowy segment of American history. The Underground Railroad illustrates a historic topic or movement that has been studied thematically.

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"


Racial Desegregation in Public Education
Great Camps of the Adirondacks
Village Sites of the Middle Missouri Subarea
Underground Railroad Resources in the United States

MPS FORM SECTION B. "Associated Historic Contexts"
Multiple Property Listing
The Development of Cemetery Design in the United States

Historic Contexts

Frontier Graves, Homestead Graveyards, and Churchyards, 1620-1947
The Development of Rural Cemeteries, 1831-1880
The Emergence of the Lawn-park Cemetery, 1855-1929
Military Cemeteries, 1862-1947
The Development of the Memorial Park, 1917-1947

MPS FORM SECTION C. "Form Prepared By"
Follow the instructions as given on page 9 of the National Register Bulletin, How to Complete the National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form.

MPS FORM SECTION D. "Certification"
The information for Section D. "Certification" generally will not apply as most NHL nominations do not go through state or federal agency (other than the National Historic Landmarks Survey) review.

MPS FORM SECTION E. "Developing Statement of Historic Contexts for NHL Theme Studies"
The historic context should be written as a concise description of the historical theme against which a property or a group of properties will be evaluated. The historic context statement must be developed in sufficient depth to support the relevance, the relationships, and the national importance of the properties to be considered. Historic context may emphasize economic, social, and political forces, such as certain industries, arts, literature, and military subjects. A historic context may also be associated with the life of a person or groups of persons that influenced the destiny or character of the nation. Architectural styles, building and structural types, as well as building materials and methods of construction may also serve as the organizing device for the historic context. A historic context for the precontact period may involve an examination of sites within a culture area.

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 Requirement"
The Multiple Property Submission must state clearly the necessary requirements or qualities of historical association and integrity that make a property or properties within a theme nationally significant and therefore eligible for NHL designation. Close study of the historic context statement will highlight those trends or topics which have the potential to be illustrated by tangible properties. Nationally significant associations, high integrity and close relationship to the historic theme (context) are the thresholds needed for NHL consideration and designation. This section must also cite and justify the appropriate NHL criterion or criteria.

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"
The geographical data defines the limits of the area where properties included within the multiple property group exist or are likely to exist. The geographical area covered by the multiple property listing should incorporate the area covered by its related historic context or contexts.

MPS FORM SECTION H. "Summary of Identification and Evaluation Methods"
A concise explanation of the methods used to prepare the Multiple Property Submission should be provided. This information should contain:

• how the historic context was determined;
• how the research on the historic context was conducted;
• how were those properties which might still exist and which illustrate the nationally significant topics or subtopics in the historic context determined;
• the survey methods used to identify properties to be considered; and
• how was the decision of what constitutes the high integrity needed to be considered made.

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"

[photo] Haymarket Martyrs' Monument, Forest Park, Illinois In 1886, during a workers' rally being held to protest police brutality against strikers, a bomb went off in the midst of the crowd killing several police officers who had come to demand an end to the meeting. Four of the "anarchists" were eventually hung for the bomb. This monument marks the burial site of the martyrs and has served as an enduring symbol of workers' struggles and was thereby designated under the Labor Theme Study.

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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