I propose a discussion of the National Register of Historic Places nomination form to reimagine the potential of historical research and documentation in the context of abundance of digital tools for the investigation and presentation of architectural and social history. The National Register nomination form dates back to the enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and continues to reflect the technical limitations and, arguably, the ideological assumptions of architectural history during the 1960s. The rise of vernacular architecture and cultural landscape studies have directly challenged the tradition of engaging buildings and neighborhoods with a curatorial approach based in an art history. Questions of style, significance, context, and integrity are now contested and complicated in ways that may be poorly reflected within the limits laid out in National Register Bulletin 16A “How to Complete The National Register Nomination Form.” Beyond the scholarly transformation of architectural and social history, the existing form has been disrupted by the transition from a culture of of scarcity to a culture of abundance described by Roy Rozenweig. The capacity to conduct full-text searches of manuscript census documents across hundreds of years with Ancestry.com, browse dozens of digitized directories on the Internet Archive, download measured drawings or archival photos from a good portion of HABS/HAER, determine the extant status of buildings using Google Maps, create three-dimensional models with Photosynth, and manage nearly unlimited sources with Zotero must force a radical reconsideration of the process of object of local history research and documentation. None of this was possible in 1966. If we started from scratch today, what would the National Register nomination form look like?
Posts Tagged ‘historic sites’
Here’s a bit from my THATCamp application:
Many of the tools of Web 2.0 and social media offer opportunities for collaboration, between institutions as well as individuals, yet the opportunities are not taken. Museums, archives, and universities could make use of tools like Google Wave, wikis, etc to share information. I would like to be part of a discussion the stumbling blocks that prevent collaboration, and possible solutions or routes which could be taken, even if they’re small steps. I’d also love to hear other people’s ideas for collaborative projects.
Here’s where I started from: I work in a historic house museum, and I have friends who are professors, grad students, librarians, and fellow museos. We have great conversations and a lot of our work overlaps. We share the info informally but there isn’t an officially sanctioned way for us to combine and collaborate and make the resulting information available to everyone.
My personal dream-project is some sort of shared wiki or webpage for all the Early American Republic sites and scholars in Virginia. There are so many overlaps in individuals and events; rather than every place recreating the wheel we could benefit from shared ideas.
I’d like to have a conversation about collaborations between different kinds of institutions, both ones which have worked and ones which failed (and the whys of both). It would also be helpful to discuss strategies to encourage TPTB to engage in collaboration.