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A. Cultural Resource Management

As custodian of the national park system, the National Park Service is steward of many of America's most important natural and cultural resources. It is charged to preserve them unimpaired for the enjoyment of present and future generations. If they are degraded or lost, so is the parks' reason for being.

Almost every park in the system has cultural resources, the material evidence of past human activities. Finite and nonrenewable, these tangible resources begin to deteriorate almost from the moment of their creation. Once gone they cannot be recovered. In keeping with the NPS organic act of 1916 and varied historic preservation laws, park management activities must reflect awareness of the irreplaceable nature of these material resources.

Cultural resource management involves research, to identify, evaluate, document, register, and establish other basic information about cultural resources; planning, to ensure that this information is well integrated into management processes for making decisions and setting priorities; and stewardship, under which planning decisions are carried out and resources are preserved, protected, and interpreted to the public.

1. Research

Research for identification, evaluation, documentation, and full understanding and interpretation of cultural resources is essential to informed decision-making for park planning and operations, including maintenance and visitor services. Without basic inventory data and research on resources, park planning processes cannot provide for their protection.

The NPS is responsible for identifying and planning for the protection of cultural resources significant at the local, state, and national levels, whether or not they relate to the specific authorizing legislation or interpretive programs of the parks in which they lie. Even where natural or recreational resources are the primary reason for a park's establishment, cultural resources must be identified, evaluated, understood in their cultural contexts, and managed in light of their values.

2. Planning

Among other things, effective cultural resource management serves to (1) integrate cultural resource concerns into other park planning and management processes, (2) avoid or minimize adverse effects on cultural resources, (3) provide information for interpretation and public understanding, and (4) identify the most appropriate uses for cultural resources and determine their ultimate treatment (preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, etc.), through processes that include involvement by groups with cultural or religious ties to park resources.

Park plans involving cultural resources should be prepared and reviewed in interdisciplinary efforts that include planners, cultural resource specialists in relevant disciplines, and representatives of state historic preservation offices, local governments, associated Native American groups, and other interested parties.

Parks are part of larger cultural environments. Social and economic trends outside park boundaries can profoundly affect the Service's ability to manage and protect park resources, and not all cultural resources related to a park may be within its boundaries. NPS staffs should seek to participate actively in the planning processes of neighboring jurisdictions and organizations, including other governmental agencies, Native American governing bodies, and local associations. In turn, representatives of these groups should be asked to participate in park planning processes.

3. Stewardship

The NPS Management Policies requires that "pending planning decisions, all cultural resources will be protected and preserved in their existing conditions." In reaching decisions about resource treatment, moreover, preservation should always receive first consideration. Data recovery, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction may sometimes serve legitimate management purposes. However, these treatments cannot add to and will likely subtract from the finite material, and sometimes even data sources, remaining from the past. Decisions about them should be based on awareness of long-range preservation goals and the interests and concerns of traditionally associated groups.

The Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments declared in 1936, "It is well to bear in mind the saying: `Better preserve than repair, better repair than restore, better restore than [re]construct.'" As a corollary it noted, "It is ordinarily better to retain genuine old work of several periods, rather than arbitrarily to `restore' the whole, by new work, to its aspect at a single period." Internationally accepted historic preservation standards continue to stress the protection and perpetuation of authentic surviving resources.

B. Purposes and Goals of This Guideline

Authority for cultural resource management activities derives from a variety of laws, outlined in Appendix B, including the 1916 NPS organic act. Also fundamental are the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation. The NPS Management Policies states basic principles governing the management of cultural resources in the national park system, consistent with law and the Secretary's Standards. This guideline, succeeding others of the same title that were designated NPS-28 in the previous NPS directives system, elaborates on these policies and standards and offers guidance in applying them to establish, maintain, and refine park cultural resource programs.

This guideline is intended to aid managers, planners, staff, and cultural resource specialists. Like Release No. 4 of the guideline, it places greater emphasis than earlier versions on the needs of park managers and staff and non-specialists. It outlines the basic principles and ingredients of a good park program. Changes reflecting the 1995 NPS reorganization constitute most of its differences from Release No. 4.

Specialized and technical information for specific program areas will continue to grow. Therefore, this guideline also serves to refer users to the variety of technical manuals, handbooks, and other sources of such information. Each chapter and Appendixes F through N cite useful sources. Other supplementary technical guidance, largely in handbook or manual formats, is planned or in development. This basic "tool kit" of technical information will continue to grow and evolve, and users are encouraged to contribute their advice and recommendations to this process.

C. Organization of the Guideline

The first five chapters are broadly applicable to all cultural resource programs. Chapter 1 is an overview of the fundamental concepts that shape the guidance provided in subsequent chapters. It is an introduction to cultural resource management for those new to the field and for non-specialists. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 treat the broad program functions of research, planning, and stewardship as they apply to all cultural resource types. They outline the overall shape and content of a park cultural resource management program and describe how park planning and management operations relate to cultural resources. Chapter 5 discusses compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act as a planning and operations function. The remaining chapters focus on aspects of cultural resource management related specifically to the major resource types recognized in the Management Policies: archeological resources, cultural landscapes, structures, museum objects, and ethnographic resources. Each chapter provides additional guidance for research, planning, and stewardship.

D. Resource Types and Interdisciplinary Involvement

The resource types in the Management Policies relate to certain cultural resource disciplines. Although each type is most closely associated with a particular discipline, an interdisciplinary approach is often necessary to properly evaluate and document particular resources. The Secretary's Standards encourage interdisciplinary collaboration by setting forth standard processes for preservation planning, identification, evaluation, and registration that apply to all cultural resource types. Thus, for example, historians, historical architects, archeologists, and historical landscape architects can all participate in a single survey to identify both historic structures and cultural landscapes. These resource types can be evaluated and documented in a single historic resource study, thereby increasing the study's effectiveness.

The resource types in the Management Policies and this guideline have been adapted for management purposes from the categories used for listing properties in the National Register of Historic Places: building, district, site, structure, and object. A cultural landscape might include buildings, structures, and objects and be listed in the National Register as either a site or a district. Archeological resources may be listed in all National Register categories. National Register documentation often needs to reflect a multidisciplinary approach to resource evaluation.

E. Standards

The Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation provide all federal agencies, state historic preservation officers, and other organizations with guiding principles for archeological and historic preservation activities and methods. These standards and guidelines, consistent with the Venice Charter and other internationally accepted preservation principles and standards, appear in their entirety in Appendix C. They deal with preservation planning; identification, evaluation, and registration of cultural resources; historical, architectural, engineering, and archeological documentation; and treatment of historic properties.

All cultural resource management activities in parks are subject to the Secretary's Standards. The park management standards–gauges of satisfactory accomplishment–that appear throughout this guideline are fully consistent with the Secretary's Standards. Any differences in language are to clarify or elaborate on how the Secretary's Standards apply in park management. While the Secretary's Standards do not cover every aspect of park management addressed in this guideline, they are governing principles in all areas they do cover.

F. Implementation of the Guideline

This guideline is a major management tool, but it is only one part of a process that involves each individual who manages or cares for park cultural resources. Integration of preservation concerns into park operations and management requires understanding of the unique needs of specific resources, both in daily activities and in long-range planning. Only the leadership of park managers and the commitment of individual employees will ensure good cultural resource management and preservation.

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