Reconciling the Concept of Significance in American Historic Preservation
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Type of Work177 p.
ProgramMA in Historic Preservation
RightsTo view a complete copy of this thesis please contact Goucher College Special Collections & Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 337-6075.
SubjectsHistoric preservation -- Theses
Hisotric preservation -- United States -- Case studies
Historic preservation in the United States is facing new challenges. In the beginning preservation philosophies and methods developed focused on addressing resources with more clearly defined time frames. Preservation now deals with sites of evolving contexts, layered physical development, and complex histories. The struggle to quantify and define what we know by experience and correlate it to a historic resource is becoming increasingly challenging. As preservation evolves to address a more complex conceptualization of significance, the methods by which it is analyzed and supported have developed demonstrated gaps in their ability to support that complexity. This thesis asks: can we reconcile the disparity that has developed between our concept of significance and the conceptual framework it operates in to meet these challenges? To define and frame these challenges the treatise first considers the role significance now plays measured against the backdrop of what was intended and what is possible. Identifying known issues and debates frames the dialogue, establishes a vocabulary for analysis, and outlines development of the concept and how it is administrated. To understand the effect determination of significance has for a resource, a review of journal articles and papers representing commentary on influences and factors in American historic preservation is made, with discussion of the successes and failures of its procedures. Finally case studies are presented highlighting aspects of significance not addressed or well served by current practices, illustrating unresolved challenges to the stewardship of our historic resources. This thesis finds that while the definition of significance is still sound, there are refinements in how it is supported that would improve our ability to manage historic resources in the United States, primarily by augmenting and refining the language and framework of the National Register to recognize experiential attributes as potentially integral to the integrity of a historic resource; to guide management decisions without specifying them; and to examine associated activities, cultural practices, and building traditions and where appropriate facilitate their protection through recordation and, if appropriate, by way of exception.