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NPS Expansion: 1930s







New Deal



NPS 1933-39




Expansion of the National Park Service in the 1930s:
Administrative History

Chapter Five: New Initiatives in the Fields of History, Historic Preservation and Historical Park Development and Interpretation
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I. Significance of the Historic Sites Act and the National Park Trust Fund Board Act

The Historic Sites Act was viewed by many in the historic preservation movement in the United States as "the Magna Charta in the program for the preservation of historic sites" and provided evidence to them that "a new cultural nationalism" had arrived. [60] By committing the federal government to a continuing effort in the preservation of the places important in American history the act profoundly influenced the course of the historic preservation movement in the United States and placed the National Park Service at the forefront of that movement. [61]

The act declared "that it is a national policy to preserve for public use historic sites, buildings, and objects of national significance for the inspiration and benefit of the people of the United States." To execute this policy, Congress conferred a broad range of powers upon the Secretary of the Interior to be exercised through the National Park Service. These powers included the responsibility to:

(1) conduct a national survey of historical and archeological sites, buildings, and objects to determine which possessed "exceptional value as commemorating or illustrating the history of the United States."

(2) acquire personal or real property by gift, purchase, or other means provided that the general fund of the treasury was not obligated without a specific Congressional appropriation.

(3) contract or make cooperative agreements with federal agencies, states, municipal subdivisions, corporations, associations, or individuals to preserve, maintain, and operate historic properties.

(4) initiate a research program to determine the facts and develop an educational program to convey the information to the public.

(5) restore, reconstruct, rehabilitate, preserve, and maintain historic structures, sites and objects of national importance acquired under its provisions provided that treasury funds were not committed without prior approval from Congress.

The act also established the Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments to supercede the National Park Service Educational Advisory Board. The new advisory board was to advise the Secretary of the Interior on matters of national significance, additions to the National Park System, and administrative policy.

For the first time the federal government had developed a general policy broad enough to deal with the problem of the preservation of nationally significant historic sites, buildings, and objects. Armed with this sweeping legislation the National Park Service was in a position to exert a major influence on historic preservation, interpretation, and development on a nationwide basis. Broad and flexible, the new law promised much for the future of the preservation movement in the United States. [62]

The National Park Trust Fund Board legislation, which was largely modeled on the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board created on March 3, 1925, made provision for administering gifts on bequests of personal property by state and local governments, private organizations, and individuals. These bequests were to be held in a trust fund for use by the Service in the acquisition, preservation, and restoration of historic sites and other areas of scientific and geological interest. Money or securities in the fund were to be invested or reinvested from time to time by the Secretary of the Interior in a manner to be determined by the board, consisting of the secretaries of the Treasury and Interior, the Director of the National Park Service, and two individuals to be appointed by the president for five-year terms. [63]

Chapter Five continues with...
Establishment of Branch of Historic Sites and Buildings


Last Modified: Tues, Mar 14 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

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