Forum Journal & Forum Focus

Managing the Past for the Future 

12-09-2015 17:35

America has an impressive array of historic landscapes that reflect history, cultural richness, development patterns, and a changing relationship with the environment. Places as diverse as small one-acre residences; community parks and park systems; campuses and institutional grounds; suburbs and other planned communities; urban, industrial, and commercial areas; battlefields; and rural vernacular settlements of several thousand acres are all historic landscapes. This resource diversity requires equally diverse management programs employing a wide array of techniques.

Management of historic landscapes is a new and exciting dimension of historic preservation. However, recognition of America's rich legacy of historic landscapes as cultural resources has ushered in a variety of management challenges for modern-day stewards of this heritage. As with other cultural resources, the development of a preservation program for a historic landscape is based on an understanding of the history and significance of the resource. This information is used as a basis for making decisions that maintain historic character and, in turn, perpetuate this landscape heritage into the future. Today, stewards of significant historic landscapes are charged with the preservation of a dynamic, complex resource, which, by definition, was shaped by management and requires management to sustain it.

This article reviews some of the challenges of developing a landscape-management program. Throughout the article, the need to recognize change as an integral quality of landscape resources is emphasized. A number of issues are presented and various management strategies are illustrated with examples drawn primarily from National Park Service (NPS) experience. The importance of developing a management program within the context of a preservation philosophy for the site is discussed. Vegetation and traditional land use are addressed since application of historic preservation policies, guidelines, and standards to these dynamic landscape components present some of the most difficult issues in managing a historic landscape. The article concludes with a brief description of a number of new initiatives in this rapidly developing field of landscape preservation.


One of the basic building blocks of a landscape-management program is an overall preservation philosophy to guide the stewardship of these resources. The development of a preservation philosophy for a landscape, as with other cultural resources, involves selection of an appropriate treatment and management strategy. The philosophy is based on a sound understanding of the landscape's historical development and significance, and an identification of the features that define its character and are important to understanding its value.

Definition of a preservation philosophy is critical since it provides managers with a context for making decisions regarding change in a landscape. This context is especially important for a landscape resource because of the variety of built and natural features that often exist. Without a clear understanding of the relationship of these features to one another, management may address treatment in a piecemeal manner resulting in a landscape that never existed historically.

Over the course of the past two decades, scholars and practitioners have emphasized the need to define a preservation ethic for landscape resources. In defining this ethic, existing preservation policies and standards, which have provided the framework for preservation in the U.S. for several decades, are being interpreted and applied to historic landscapes.1 The resulting revision of policies, standards, and associated guidelines address historic landscapes and provide basic direction for defining a preservation philosophy for these resources.

Prior to 1988 the NPS management policies regarding the value of landscapes was limited to historic sites and historic gardens and was primarily focused on topography and vegetation. This policy illustrated a recognition of the importance of specific features of the landscape but did not identify the landscape in its totality as a distinct type of cultural resource. In 1988 "cultural landscapes" were formally identified in Management Policies: Management of the National Park System as a type of cultural resource in the system and policy was established that recognized the importance of considering both built and natural features and the dynamics inherent in natural processes and continued use. This policy mandated the recognition and protection of significant historic, archaeological, ethnographic, and design values and provided a framework for making management decisions regarding landscape resources.2 The recognition of cultural landscapes in the management of public lands also is occurring internationally. Recent revisions in cultural resource-management policies in Poland and Canada provide for clearer identification of the value of cultural landscapes than in the past. In December 1992 the World Heritage Committee amended its guidelines to allow nomination of cultural landscapes as World Heritage Sites, a designation that indicates the resource is of universal value.

The establishment of a preservation ethic for landscapes has been further enhanced by the recent revision of the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Historic Preservation Projects, which broadened the language of the Standards to include landscapes.3 The Standards are intended to establish a universal preservation philosophy for all cultural resources. They have evolved from decades of preservation experience throughout the country, are based on broad principles germinated by an international community of professionals, and have been incorporated into NPS policy since the late 1930s.4 A companion document entitled Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Landscapes has been initiated to provide specific interpretation of the Standards to historic landscapes.5 The tenets of the Standards and Guidelines are based on the assumptions that the historic materials and features and their unique craftsmanship are of primary importance in historic landscapes, and that they will be retained, protected, and repaired to the greatest extent possible through management.

Both the Standards and the Guidelines emphasize the importance of defining a primary treatment for a property to ensure consistency in the actions that are undertaken. In reality, in light of the complexity of many landscapes, a variety of actions will occur, such as preservation of existing historic features, replication of missing historic features, addition of nonhistoric features, and alteration or removal of existing features. What is important is that each action is determined to be appropriate within a specific preservation philosophy that has been developed, based on the value of the landscape as a cultural resource.

Finally, in defining a landscape preservation philosophy, all site-management goals, such as public access, significant natural resources, contemporary use, and interpretation, in addition to historic preservation, should be considered. Threats and resource conflicts also need to be evaluated and realistic cost estimates developed. Many of these components of the management program have physical implications for a landscape. By fully integrating all site-management goals, a preservation philosophy can assist in identifying how these goals can be best accomplished with the least impact to the significant physical features of the landscape. The management objectives for Boxley Valley, an 8,000-acre rural agricultural area along the reaches of Buffalo National River, are good illustrations of the integration of multiple management goals.6

The overall management objective for Boxley is to perpetuate a harmonious relationship between the private agricultural community and the historic scene, natural resources, and appropriate visitor use. Following is a list of more detailed objectives. To maintain this special landscape of Boxley Valley, the Land Use Plan/Cultural Landscape Report focuses on practical ways to:  

  • maintain a clean, free-flowing river, and, to the extent feasible and practical, maintain it within its present alignment;
  • preserve, in the most practical manner, the significant material evidence of the past-sites, structures, and open fields;
  • continue agricultural use of economic benefit to local residents, using practices that conserve soils, water, vegetation, and wildlife;
  • maintain a community of residents in the valley, preserving that community's special character and sense of place while managing to accommodate appropriate change;
  • perpetuate the rural pastoral landscape and enhance opportunities for its enjoyment by motoring visitors;
  • provide for other appropriate visitor use at the levels and of the kinds that are compatible with other objectives.

In summary, a preservation philosophy provides management with a tool to guide all physical work undertaken in a landscape in a manner that respects the significance of the resource, maximizes the retention of historic features which are essential to its integrity, and ensures that the site is presented honestly and accurately.


One of the greatest difficulties in any landscape-management program is the application of a preservation philosophy to the dynamic quality inherent in historic landscapes-a resource in which change, function, and use are as significant as design and material. Virtually all historic landscapes evolve from and are dependent on natural resources. It is the interconnected systems of land, air and water, vegetation and wildlife and their dynamic qualities that differentiate historic landscapes from other types of cultural resources.? As a result, a landscape must be managed as a process, and not an object. Management decisions involve identifying the type and degree of change that can occur while maintaining the integrity of a landscape.

Management of change is, in fact, what has created, shaped, and sustained historic landscapes. Neglect or abandonment are two of the most serious threats to preservation of these resources. It is the perpetuation of the history of landscape stewardship through current management that preserves the significant physical features that illustrate the history of a place. Therefore, an understanding of the historical type and level of intervention is necessary in order to continue the history of management or to find ways to substitute for it.

The following sections on vegetation management and traditional land use describe through example a range of management strategies. These examples have been selected to illustrate the variety of issues facing historic landscape managers and a range of management options available. Since landscape management is a new and evolving area of preservation, sharing approaches can be helpful in generating ideas for application to other sites. Ultimately, however, the development of site-specific solutions is critical. Robert Z. Melnick has emphasized this in his work on vernacular landscapes stating "there are no single answers which can be applied everywhere ... specific solutions must be developed for a specific landscape, with an explicit recognition of its political, social, cultural, economic and physical contexts ... to suggest there is an answer, just one answer, denies the individual qualities of these places and of the players involved."8

Vegetation Management

One of the principle components that distinguish landscapes from other types of cultural resources is vegetation. The use of plants for food, medicine, industry, and aesthetic creations reflects social, cultural, and economic history. Vegetation features may include solitary plants that function as specimens, as well as aggregations of such plants as hedges, hedgerows, allees, orchards, perennial borders, and woodlots. Vegetation is part of the historic material of a landscape that needs to be preserved. However, because vegetation is living material, experiencing a cycle of growth, change, and eventual death, its preservation requires frequent management and intervention.9

Understanding the Significance of the Vegetation The significance of a vegetation feature in a landscape is a critical factor in determining how it should be managed. Plant material may be closely associated with a person, trend, or event and, therefore, take on special significance. For example, the fruit trees at the Adams National Historic Site (NHS) were one of the reasons John and Abigail purchased the property south of Boston in 17 7 and subsequent generations of the Adams family continued to plant and experiment with fruit trees.10 The orchard is an important feature of the landscape in light of its association with the Adams family. The type and variety of plant material may also contribute to the significance of a historic property. An inventory of the orchards at the Moses Cone Estate on the Blue Ridge Parkway, uncovered several unusual varieties of apples that date from the turn of the century. J t These historic cultivars are part of the historic record at this site and are also a type of biological diversity.

The importance of plant material may also be derived from its function in the landscape as part of a particular design or land-use practice rather than from its association or unique genetic makeup. At Eleanor Roosevelt's rural retreat, Val-Kill (now Eleanor Roosevelt NHS), in Hyde Park, New York, a line of red pines was an effective screen between the drive and the stone cottage during the 1950s. As the pines matured, the lower limbs were lost with a resulting loss of screening. In order to regain the function of the pine hedge as a landscape feature, the trees were removed and replaced in-kind. A decision was made that the significance of the red pines as a hedge in the landscape was more important than the fact that they were original plantings from the time when Mrs. Roosevelt lived on the property. Similarly, in such vernacular landscapes as an agricultural district perpetuation of a particular crop may not be as important as the retention of the overall landscape patterns.

Retaining Extant Historic Vegetation and Landscape Character through Maintenance Retention of existing plant material and its form and scale in the landscape is a high-priority objective in landscape maintenance. Good horticultural practices can enhance the longevity of important plant material. Although genetics is a major factor in determining plant longevity, external factors also can playa role. For example, practicing good tree management including regular inspection, pruning, irrigation, fertilization, integrated pest management, and protection from disturbance can increase the life span of a tree. The American elm on the south lawn at the Frederick Law Olmsted NHS was retained as a focal feature by Olmsted, Sr., in the landscape design for his office and residence in Brookline, Massachusetts. Staff at the site have developed a detailed inspection program for the elm to monitor the overall condition of the tree including specific pest and disease problems (such as Dutch elm disease) and for prioritizing maintenance work.

Such routine maintenance activities as pruning may also be critical in retaining the historic character of the landscape. Certain landscape features require annual pruning, such as the boxwood hedge at the Adams NHS, which is maintained at a height of eight inches to retain the straight linear form. In contrast, pruning at the Frederick Law Olmsted NHS must be done so that the characteristic natural appearance of the vegetation is maintained.

Facing the Inevitable: Replacing Historic Plant Material Because vegetation has a distinct life span, lasting anywhere from one to several hundred years, the need for replacement is inevitable. It is important when planning replacements that the features and materials that give the landscape its historic character be retained. Additionally, the extant plants on a property are one of the site's historic documents. An accurate inventory of plants prior to replacement is critical in order to retain that historic record. Exact replacement-in-kind is the ideal method of keeping the historic landscape record intact. In situations in which exact replacement is not possible, maintaining accurate records of any replacements is critical.

Important landscape features composed of multiple plants such as allees, hedges, or massings of ornamental shrubs may require periodic replacement of individual plants that match the existing ones. At the SaintGaudens NHS, the Cornish, New Hampshire home and studio of nineteenth-century sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, more than one mile of hedges divides his landscape into intimate garden rooms. The hedge was originally primarily white pine transplanted from the surrounding fields. Park maintenance staff have developed a replacement strategy that integrates new material into the existing hedge. In contrast, if the individual elements of a multiple plant feature-such as a hedge or allee-are deteriorated, missing or out of scale with the original intent, so that the historic feature as a whole is no longer discernable, the entire feature should be replaced. This ultimately may be necessary for the hedge at Saint-Gaudens NHS.

The important role that a consistent strategy of replacing plant material can play in retaining the integrity of a landscape is illustrated by an outstanding example of stewardship of the specimen tree collection at the Vanderbilt Mansion NHS in Hyde Park, New York. This remarkable collection was originally part of the estate of Dr. David Hosack, who consulted the landscape gardener Andre Parmentier (between 1828 and 1835) on the layout of the grounds. Many trees of the previous owner, Dr. Samuel Bard, were probably incorporated into Hosack's collection and this was, in turn, augmented during the Vanderbilt residency (1895-1938). In 1940 the estate became part of the national park system and secured the personal support of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Shortly after the transition to a national park, President Roosevelt, who was keenly interested in this tree collection, established a policy of tree replacement by type. Detailed records of tree replacement were kept and a recent analysis of these records demonstrated the remarkable stewardship of this collection over the last fifty-two years of NPS management. Today, this collection of specimen trees continues to be sustained by park maintenance staff, who still adhere to a consistent policy of replacement in-kind.12

In landscapes on which the historic plant material is extant, opportunities exist for exact, in-kind replacement through propagation. The opportunity for long-term perpetuation of this living historic fabric is a unique historic resource preservation strategy and should be used whenever possible and appropriate. Propagation of existing plant material has many advantages including genetic continuity with the historic period. This may be important for plant material that is directly associated with a historic figure or event. The John Quincy Adams elm on the lawn of the White House, planted by President John Quincy Adams in 1826 in memory of the reconciliation of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, has been propagated in order to maintain the living link with this historic association. Additionally, identification of the variety of existing historic plant material is often difficult and must be verified over the course of several years. Obtaining replacement material for incorrectly identified material would, of course, result in inadvertent alteration of the historic plant material. In contrast, clonal propagation of original material ensures accurate replacements.

Some species and varieties of plant material, even if correctly identified, are very difficult to replace because they are not readily available. Many historic species have disappeared from cultivation because of changes in style or have been replaced with hardier, disease-resistant, or more productive species. Other plants, including many native species, are not available from commercial sources because there is so little demand for them. The ongoing loss of many species and cultivars makes in-kind replacement even more difficult.13 Historic landscapes are the ideal habitat for these rare plants. Stewardship of historic properties should, to the maximum extent possible, include the preservation of historic plant material to prevent further loss of historic species and cultivars.

In some cases, replacement of the original species or variety may not be possible because of changes in the site's growing conditions, disease and insect problems, or simply because the original is no longer available. In these cases, substitution of plant material may be necessary. In decisions on substitution, care should be taken to match the visual, functional, and horticultural characteristics of the historic plant as closely as possible. These attributes may include the form, shape, and texture of the original, as well as its seasonal features, such as bloom time and color, fruit, and fall foliage. If it is determined that replacement with substitutions is necessary, it is important to keep accurate site records to allow future generations to distinguish between historic fabric and later alterations and additions to the landscape.

Recognizing the Biological Depth of the Historic Landscape Many historic landscapes also contain such vegetation communities as forests and meadows, some of which require management, others of which will remain without intervention. Some of the historically managed communities may be significant features of a historic landscape and will require maintenance. In developing management programs for these areas, it is important to recognize that these areas are also habitats for vegetation and wildlife. This natural-resource value may be thought of as “historical depth” to the historic scene. Natural resource values must also be taken into consideration when prescribing maintenance regimes since these choices can have ecological consequences.

At Saratoga NHP, one of the management objectives is to represent a field/forest pattern that was present at the time of the battle of Saratoga in 1777. Traditionally, the fields have been maintained through mowing. However, on some steep hillsides mowing was unsafe, and in other areas the thatch in the fields became increasingly thick and difficult to mow. Concurrent with this maintenance problem, a plant inventory indicated that this management system appeared to be retaining, if not encouraging, the dominance of Centaurea macuiosa (common knapweed). The park began experimenting with fire management in combination with mowing and recent evaluations of this program indicate that this regime is enhancing the native grass, Andropogon, in some fields and is more cost-effective in retaining the fields. This management system is successfully maintaining the desired historic scene and is contributing to native plant habitat in the park.

The main entrance to Eleanor Roosevelt's Val-Kill follows a one-lane gravel road past an old farm field. Today this field is managed by park maintenance staff to retain the historic character of this special refuge. A biological inventory of the site revealed that this field was a terrestrial habitat for the Blanding'S turtle, a threatened species. This field is part of the wildlife corrid or for this species as it moves between nesting and feeding areas. Prior to these findings, mowing was done in late May, which is the peak nesting season for the turtles. In order to avoid impacting the turtle population, the park maintenance staff modified the mowing and hay harvesting schedules. The field is now mown after July 1 in order to avoid turtles traveling to and from nesting areas.14

In some cases the populations of rare species that are found in traditionally managed areas, are, in fact, sustained through active intervention. In these areas, if the traditional management regime was halted, the species would be lost. The landscape of the Yorkshire Dales NP in England is one of small, wall-enclosed fields, each with its own barn. This working rural landscape remains in private ownership and is still agricultural. Traditionally, the farmers grazed the fields or made hay. A long continuity of this land use has resulted in a special habitat known as species-rich hay meadows. With recent intensification of agriculture in some areas, this type of habitat and associated species have become quite rare and consequently have high natural resource value for their biological diversity. National Park staff are working with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Nature Conservancy Council and the Countryside Commission to make grants available as incentives to encourage local farmers to continue traditional management and thereby sustain the ecologically rich meadows.

Traditional Land Use

Many historic landscapes are significant because of the pattern of land use that has evolved as a result of such traditional activities as mining, fishing, and agriculture. These landscapes often reflect beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and values of people both past and present.15 When the use of the landscape is one of the primary reasons for its significance, management must attempt to achieve a balance between providing for the perpetuation of the land use and retaining the tangible evidence that is representative of its history. Physical change may be essential to the continuation of the land use. Therefore, the focus of management is on perpetuating the use while maintaining the general character and feeling of the historic landscape, rather than preserving an appearance at a particular period of time. As a result, individual features become less important than the overall structure and character of the landscape.

The continuity of traditional management retains historic character and may, in some cases, be important in sustaining habitat for plants and wildlife (as noted in the previous section). However, shifts in economic climate and lifestyle changes can make retaining traditional uses difficult. Managing a process such as land use, or the more ephemeral qualities of the cultural traditions associated with use of the land, provides one of the most difficult challenges in landscape management. Management cannot assure continued traditional use of a landscape nor can it preserve cultural practices. All that can be done is to provide the mechanisms that allow the use or traditions to continue and, whenever possible, provide incentives for continuation.

The techniques for recognizing and preserving significant landscapes within existing communities are evolving. Within the NPS, the traditional approach to the management of many national parks involved restoring the landscape to its appearance prior to European settlement. This often resulted in the removal of inhabitants and all physical features of the cultural imprint on the landscape. The recognition and understanding of the value of historic landscapes has resulted in new perspectives in management, especially concerning areas where people have established strong traditional ties to the land.16

Management of Boxley Valley in the Buffalo National River (NR) in Arkansas over the past two decades illustrates a significant change in the approach to preserving traditional land use. Buffalo NR was established in 1972 to preserve the Buffalo as a free-flowing river. Boxley Valley is located in the upper drainage ofthe river and extends seven miles long and two miles wide. At the time the park was established, the valley included twenty-four bottomland farms with more than fifty inhabitants, many of whom were descendants of the early-nineteenth-century settlers, representing a traditional Ozark Valley landscape with more than 200 structures on 8,000 cultivated acres.17

The legislation establishing Buffalo NR identified Boxley Valley as an area to remain in private use in order to retain the existing community and the rural agricultural landscape. However, by 1982 seventy-five percent of the lands to be retained in private use were acquired in fee by the NPS. As a result, many farm complexes were vacant and neglected and some were removed. The population of the valley decreased and those who were left were embittered. In 1983, in an effort to improve park management of the valley landscape and perpetuate agricultural use of the land, the development of a formal plan was initiated. Based on two years of resource evaluation and public involvement, the Land Use Plan/Cultural Landscape Report for Boxley Valley outlines a strategy for returning the farms acquired by the NPS to private ownership.18 The NPS retains easements regarding farm management, water quality protection, historic structures, and visitor access. Additionally, the plan allows for limited new construction according to specific design guidelines. The primary intent of the plan is to provide the opportunity for continued traditional use of the landscape by the people who have distinctive associations with the land, while preserving the historic character of the valley.

Since the plan's approval, several families have entered into negotiations to buy back their farms and homes. Six "sellbacks" of NPs-owned farms have occurred and three more are proposed. Additionally, 417 acres of agricultural land, many containing historic structures, are managed under the parks' historic-property leasing program. New construction has occurred including a variety of farm-related structures and in one case, a new single-family residence.19 Through these landscape-management techniques, the NPS is working in partnership with the inhabitants to preserve this significant landscape. As a result of the change in management, the goals of the plan are being realized. The decline of the valley has stabilized and growth has occurred resulting in a restored sense of community.

The designation of Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve (NHR) in 1978 recognized the need to protect and preserve this significant landscape through a nontraditional approach for the NPS. Ebey's Landing NHR is a 17,400-acre rural landscape in Washington State that represents a continuum of land use spanning more than a century. It has been continually reshaped by its inhabitants, yet the historic mix of farm, forest, village, and shoreline remains. Patterns of settlement associated with the first donation land claims and the subsequent historic development of the area are visible today in the landscape. The moderate climate, productivity of the prairies, and overall splendor of the landscape have attracted generations.20 As the first National Historical Reserve, management involves a special partnership between the federal, state, and local governments to protect the landscape. Planning, implementation, and maintenance is a joint effort and is based on a mutual desire to protect the resource. Unlike most NPS areas, only a small percentage of acreage is owned by the United States, primarily purchased for interpretive and visitor facilities. The majority of NPS interest in land involves scenic easements.21

In order to establish a management and administrative framework for the Reserve a number of actions have occurred. A Comprehensive Plan has been developed to "provide for a balanced approach to preservation and development, private interests and the public welfare." The plan "represents a case for the need of responsible citizen participation to protect a viable working community and a rare and valuable remnant of the American past." Following the completion of the comprehensive plan, a land-protection plan was developed that identified critical lands within the Reserve and the minimum interests needed in those lands to carry out the objectives of the Reserve. The goal is to protect significant agricultural lands through exchanges or donation of development rights and scenic easements, with outright purchase as the last alternative. In order to administer the Reserve, an interlocal agreement among the NPS, Island County, the Town of Coupeville, and Washington State Parks established the Trust Board of Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve. Finally, a cooperative agreement between the Trust Board and the NPS defines the authorities and responsibilities of the board and provides funding up to fifty percent of its annual operating cost.22

The goal of managing Ebey's Landing is to "maintain the reserve as a viable and functioning community that respects its past while planning for its future, and that it be developed in such a way that the incoming facilities (and subsequent visitors) do not binder the lifestyle of the people who have made the Reserve the place that it is.,,23 Many issues remain for achieving this goal, such as the appropriate methods of interpretation, education, and promotion of the Reserve. However, the partnership among federal, state, and local governments established at Ebey's Landing provides a model for the recognition of other nationally significant areas within existing local communities.

New management concepts need to be considered and existing techniques, such as fee-acquisition, easements, and leasing, need to be carefully evaluated in determining the most appropriate strategy for managing a particular historic landscape. With regard to nonfee acquisition, the articulation of the significant qualities of the landscape that must be preserved is critical to successful management; however, presently it is often inadequate. It is difficult to truly measure the success of the landscape-management programs at Boxley Valley or Ebey's Landing, in light of the limited perspective available. However, both case studies illustrate complex approaches to providing a framework for management that preserves the physical components illustrating the evolution of the landscape, along with providing the opportunity for traditional land uses to continue as part of a viable, thriving community.


Given the current issues in the field of historic landscape preservation, a number of new initiatives are under way that will strengthen landscape-management programs and prepare for the challenges ahead.

Inventory and Research

A number of landscape inventory efforts are under way by state historic preservation programs and, most recently, by the NPS. A statewide survey of historic designed landscapes recently was completed in Rhode Island encompassing more than 300 properties, including private residences, public parks, cemeteries, and institutional grounds.24 The state of Georgia conducted a survey of residential landscapes associated with historic buildings and districts. The survey, which has become known as Georgia’s Living Places, identified nine types of residential landscapes in the state, such as the landscape of Work, Swept yard, and New South Landscaping.25 In an effort to identify the scope of the cultural landscapes in the national park system, the NPS has initiated a cultural landscapes inventory in six regions. The purpose of the inventory is to identify cultural landscapes and to provide information on their location; record information related to their historical development, character-defining features, and management; assist in determining treatment and management decisions, and to record those decisions.

Unfortunately, the current voids in landscape history research nationwide hamper evaluation of landscape resources. In particular, historic contexts need to be developed to provide a comparative understanding of the landscape as a product of its time. To address this lack of historic context, there are ongoing efforts to fund a National Historic Landmark Theme Study on the history of landscape architecture. Additionally, the NPS is currently undertaking a four-year theme study of national park landscapes designed under the management of the Service between 1917 and 1942 to begin developing the historic contexts related to the landscape resources in the system.

Historic landscape preservation is an interdisciplinary field and successful management draws upon a number of professions, such as landscape architecture, cultural geography, history, archaeology, ethnography, horticulture, and ecology. Staff responsible for management of significant landscapes, drawn from a diverse array of academic backgrounds, need opportunities for training and professional exchange in current preservation practice in this rapidly evolving field. Fortunately, over the last few years the number of training courses on historic landscape preservation has dramatically increased. For example, a National Historic Landscape Maintenance Workshop has been offered for two consecutive years, funded by the NPS Cultural Resource Training Initiative. Additionally, a strategic training plan is currently under development by the NPS in cooperation with the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. This plan will identify landscape preservation curricula for various professional audiences.

The importance of hiring staff with expertise in one of the professional fields of landscape management should also be recognized by managers of historic landscapes. Over the course of the last four years, the NPS has added two positions in the Washington Office and five in the regional offices to manage new cultural landscape programs. Additionally, a few parks have added professional landscape preservation staff. Access to professional advice on preservation maintenance and planning is critical for developing a landscape preservation program for a historic property. In response to requests for technical assistance from national parks in the North Atlantic Region, the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation was established at the Frederick Law Olmsted NHS as part of the regional cultural landscape program. A third partner in the Olmsted Center, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, provides expertise in horticulture through a cooperative agreement. The Olmsted Center provides technical assistance to parks, conducts landscape preservation training, and develops new technologies and maintenance procedures for historic landscapes. Pooling regional and park expertise has proven to be a cost-effective approach of providing technical assistance on preservation maintenance and planning.

Application of Computer Technology To Landscape Maintenance

There have been a number of efforts in recent years to be more systematic and comprehensive in resource evaluation, preservation maintenance planning, and record keeping. NPS staff at the recently established Olmsted Center have been working in cooperation with park staff to develop landscape preservation maintenance guides for NPS sites throughout the Northeast. For example, at Saint-Gaudens NHS, where several historic landscape features are more than 100 years old, an inventory and inspection of landscape features was used to develop recommendations for feature-specific preservation practices, such as rejuvenative pruning procedures, pest monitoring, propagation, and replacement. Recommendations were incorporated into an annual work calendar with an associated record-keeping form for documenting information on individual features over time. These guides assist maintenance program managers in day-to-day operations and in making decisions on long-term program development for preservation of important landscape features.

Information collected for these preservation maintenance programs can also be used by maintenance staff in the development of the site-specific computerized Inventory and Condition Assessment Program (ICAP). lCAP is currently under development by the NPS Washington office and will operate in conjunction with the existing Maintenance Management Program. Together they will provide a computer-based standardized system for inspecting historic landscape features and generating an annual maintenance work program.

Access to computerized graphic information, such as maps and photographs, is useful in managing a historic landscape. Concurrent and consistent with the development of lCAP, staff at the Frederick Law Olmsted NHS have been developing a computerized visual information system for the property's living collection of several hundred plant species. Using a computer-aided drafting program with an integrated database management system, a property map with important landscape features was digitized. An associated database includes background information on individual landscape features (such as identification, original planting date, and location) as well as data used in daily resource management (such as size and condition). The resource management data can be regularly updated and used to generate routine and cyclic grounds maintenance schedules. This visual information system facilitates data management and analysis and provides a format for illustrating and recording changes to the landscape over time.26


In facing the challenges ahead, new partnerships among organizations involved in various aspects of landscape preservation offer vast potential to maximize existing financial and staff resources, avoid duplication of effort, and foster innovative collaborations. The function of these partnerships will vary from broad resource planning and management to technology development to hands-on maintenance. As such, the participants involved in these partnerships also will be diverse. As part of these partnerships, and the overall stewardship of historic landscapes, focus must be placed on enhancing the recognition of historic landscapes as an integral component of cultural resource management. The role of interpretation of the landscape in building a strong base of support for preservation must be realized.

Partnerships between government and the private sector and between levels of government, which are based on a shared vision, can play a vital role in preserving the nation's landscape heritage. Partnerships are integral to the management of many national parks, as illustrated in the discussion of Buffalo NR and Ebey's Landing NHR, and the variety of park partnerships is increasing. Programs are being established based on the premise that partnerships are essential to preservation and management. For example, the American Battlefield Protection Program is a partnership between all levels of government and private organizations to determine the most effective methods of protecting significant battlefield landscapes. Another example represents a mutually beneficial collaboration between the NPS and the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. This partnership enhances interpretation and public education programs for the arboretum and also makes the technical horticultural expertise of the arboretum available to the NPS in landscape preservation efforts, in particular for the identification and propagation of historic plant material. This could be a model for other arboreta and botanical gardens throughout the U.S., many of which are historic landscapes.27

Opportunities exist for international collaboration through exchange programs and volunteer organizations that offer education and work experience. The United States Committee, International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/lCOMOS) internship program recruits applicants and places qualified candidates with cooperating organizations. The NPS, in cooperation with The Countryside Institute, a Vermont-based nonprofit conservation organization, and a consortium of other organizations in the northeastern United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom has offered a one-week International Countryside Stewardship Exchange every other year since 1987. Participants in the exchange work in international teams with local communities on a sustainable land conservation agenda for working vernacular landscapes.28

In light of the complexity of most historic landscapes and the limited budget available for implementing a preservation program, many managers are exploring the idea of involving the public directly in the preservation of the landscape through community stewardship programs, volunteer organizations, and programs such as "adopt-a-tree." An excellent example of this type of partnership is the NPS "volunteers in the Parks" program. This volunteer effort last year alone encouraged more than 67,000 individuals to donate their time to the parks. The NPS has begun to use this program only for landscape preservation. Volunteers can be extremely helpful; however, training and supervision are essential to ensure that the work accomplished is consistent with preservation goals for a landscape. Some programs, such as Boston City Parks, have offered hands-on training programs for volunteers. This direct public involvement enhances stewardship of these resources and can build public support for their preservation.

Interpretation of historic landscapes to the public is vital for increasing the recognition of the value of these resources. Many sites have established tours of the landscape as part of their interpretive programs, while others have developed self-guiding brochures. The interpretation of the landscape can address the history, design, or cultural traditions associated with and physically represented in the landscape. However, it also can address how the landscape is managed, including such issues as selection of a long-term treatment strategy, the challenges of replacing historic plant material, and historic landscape maintenance techniques.29 Therefore, interpretation can assist the public in appreciating the landscape as part of our national heritage, along with understanding the challenges faced in preserving it.

In looking toward the future, there are many challenges ahead for this new area of historic preservation. However, numerous exciting initiatives are under way and tremendous opportunities exist for collaboration in building an awareness and a constituency for landscape preservation. Ultimately, the connection between the nation's landscape legacy and the quality of people's lives needs to be made in order to ensure preservation of this heritage.


The authors would like to thank NPS staff for their contributions regarding the examples used in this article and for reviewing and commenting on drafts. In particular, we thank Charles Pepper, supervisory horticulturalist, and Lauren Meier, historical landscape architect, at the Frederick Law Olmsted NHS for their contributions regarding vegetation management and Gretchen Luxenburg, regional historian, Pacific Northwest Regional Office, for her contribution regarding Ebey's Landing. Additionally, we thank David Hayes, resource management specialist at Roosevelt-Vanderbilt NHS; Jim Liles, assistant superintendent at Buffalo NR; Isabel Mancinelli, landscape architect at Acadia NP; Bruce Noble, gardener at Saint-Gaudens NHS; and Jim Schaberl, resource management specialist at Saratoga NHP for their assistance Oil the case studies.



1 The development of this preservation ethic has involved the application and interpretation of two documents that have codified the preservation program in the U.S. since the passing of the 1966 Historic Preservation Act: the National Register of Historic Places Criteria and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation Projects. The National Register Criteria provide the basis for evaluating the significance of a property, while the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation Projects guide the physical treatment of a significant property.

2 National Park Service, Management Policies: Management of the National Park System (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1988), chapter 5:6. In 1981 cultural landscapes were first identified as a resource type in the agency's NPS-28, Cultural Resources Management Guideline, the document that is used to expand, clarify, and apply NPS policies. NPS Management Policies were revised in 1988 and cultural landscapes were officially identified as a cultural resource. Cultural landscape is a broad category under which are four specific types of landscapes: historic designed landscapes, historic vernacular landscapes, historic sites, and ethnographic landscapes. See also NPS-28, Cultural Resources Management Guideline, Release No. 4 (Draft), Chapter 7.

3 National Park Service, Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation Projects (Washington, D.C.: NPS, 1979). The revision was based on the following goals: clarify both language and format; sharpen the focus on treatment philosophies together with a new emphasis on the interpretive ramifications of each treatment; and broaden the language of the Standards to include landscapes. In 1992 the Standards were revised and renamed the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties to more accurately reflect their purpose and to further differentiate them from other sets of standards with similar titles.

4 In 1937, in response to the Historic Sites Act of 1935, the NPS developed policy regarding the treatment of historic sites and structures. These policies applied the international principles articulated in the Athens Charter (1931), based on the recommendations of the then new Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments.

5 In 1988 the NPS Washington office defined a Historic Landscape Initiative. The primary intent of the initiative is "To develop and disseminate uniform standards relating to the allowable treatments of historic landscapes that meet the National Register criteria and 10 adopt these standards within the NPS and as guidance for federal, state, and local governments and the private sector." Since that lime, the initiative has been expanded to include the development of technical information and training regarding landscape preservation.

6 Land Use Plan/Cultural Landscape Report, Boxley Valley, Buffalo Nation River (Denver, Colo: National Park Service, April 1985).

7 Ian Firth, Biotic Cultural Resources: Management Considerations for Historic Districts in the National Park System (Atlanta: Southeast Region, National Park Service, 1985). 4.

8 Robert Z. Melnick, "Where Am I Now? Regionalism and Rural Landscape Protection," in Proceedings of the Landscape Preservation Seminar, University of Massachusetts, March 25-26, 19H8 (Amherst, Mass: Division of Continuing Education, University of Massachusetts, 1988),69.

9 Lauren Meier and Nora Mitchell, "Principles for Preserving Historic Plant Material," Cultural Resources Management Bulletin vol. )3, no. 6 (1990): 17-24.

10 Wilhelmena S. Harris, "Furnishings Report of the Old House, The Adams National Historic Site", vol. 9,19661968, Type-written document (photocopy), Adams National Historic Site, Quincy, Mass.

11 Ian J. W. Firth, A Cultural Landscape Report on the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina (Atlanta: Southeast Region, National Park Service, August 1990).

12 Patricia M, O'Donnell, Charles A. Birnbaum, and Cynthia Zaitzevsky, Cultural Landscape Report for the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Cultural Landscape Publication No. 1 (Boston, Mass: North Atlantic Region, National Park Service, 1992),335-336.

13 The continuing loss of historic plant varieties is described in a number of publications including: Christopher Brickell and Fay Sharman, The Vanishing Garden: A Conservation Guide to Garden Plants (London: John Murray in associations with the Royal Horticultural Society, 19H6); David Stuart and James Sutherland, Plants from the Past, Old Flowers for New Gardens (New York: Viking, 19R7); and Scott G. Kunst and Arthur O. Tucker, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone? APT Bulletin vol. XXI, no. 2 (19R9): 43-50.

14 "David J, Haves. "Blanding's Turtle Research at Roosevelt-Vanderbilt NHS," Park Service vol. 10, no. I (1990): 21.

15 Linda Flint McClelland, Timothy Keller, Genevive P. Keller, and Robert Z. Melnick, National Register Bulletin 30: Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Rural Historic Landscapes (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1990).

16 Melody Webb, "Cultural Landscapes ill the National Park Service," The Public Historian vol. 9, no. 2 (Spring 1987): 81-83.

17 Land Use Plan/Cultural Landscape Report, Boxley Valley, Buffalo Nation River (Denver, Colo: National Park Service, April 1985).

18 The Land Use Plan/Cultural Landscape Report, for Boxley Valley received a Presidential Design Award in 1988.

19 Jim Liles, "Boxley Valley, Buffalo National River: NPS Historic District in Private Hands," Cultural Resources Management Bulletin vol. 13, no. 4 (1990): 14-15.

20 Cathy Gilbert, Gretchen Luxenberg, and Allan Comp, The Land, The People, The Place: An Introduction to the Inventory, Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve (Seattle: Pacific Northwest Region, National Park Service, 1984), 5-7.

21 Cynthia Orlando and Gretchen Luxenberg, "Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve: Nontraditional Management of a Nationally Significant Resource," in Partnerships in Parks & Preservation, Proceedings and Bibliography, Albany, New York, September 9-12,1991, ed. Ron Greenberg (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1992),95-97.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 Lucinda A. Brockway, "Understanding Historic Landscapes: The Rhode Island Survey," Newsletter of the Catalog of Landscape Records in the United States vol. 5, no. 2 (Winter 1992).

25 Richard Claus, "Historic Residential Landscapes in Georgia," Cultural Resources Management Bulletin vol. 14, no. 6 (1991): 4-6.

26 Lilo Gallagher, "Olmsted Manages Landscapes with GIS," in Highlights of Natural Resources Management, 1991, Natural Resources Report NPS/NRPO/NNR-92/07, ed. Lissa Fox (Denver, Colo: National Park Service, 1992), 43-44.

27 Robert Cook, "A Historic Collaboration," The Public Garden (January 1993): 25-27.

28 The most recent exchange is described in Countryside Stewardship: Report of the 1991 International Exchange (Barnard, Vermont: The Countryside Institute. 1992). This report is available for the Countryside Institute, P.O. Box 1102. Barnard. Vermont 05031.

29 The importance of accurately presenting historic sites 10 the public and the opportunities interpretation presents for providing information on the management of those resources is discussed in Dwight T, Pitcaithley. "Historic Sites: What Can Be Learned from Them')" The History Teacher 20 (1987):207-219; Kay D. Weeks and Lauren Meir "Playing with Time: Interpretive Consequences for Our Great Grandchildren," Courier (Summer 1991): 2029; and Nora 1. Mitchell and Dwight T. Pitcailhley, "Private Residences as National Historic Sites: Issues and Opportunities in Landscape Management" in Proceedings of the Landscape Preservation Seminar, University of Massachusetts, March 25-26, 19BR. (Amherst, Mass: Division of Continuing Education, University of Massachusetts. 19H8),35-44.

Publication Date: May/June 1993


Author(s):Nora J. Mitchell & Robert R. Page