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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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R. Impact of History on Master Plans: 1935-1941

As early as 1936 the Branch of Historic Sites and Buildings was preparing plans to incorporate historical site sheets in the master plans for historical and battlefield areas in the National Park System. This was designed to bring about a closer coordination of the research work at the parks and monuments with the park development programs as outlined in the master plans. Early examples included historical tour sheets, "culture" sheets, and educational sheets showing historical points of interest along with the roads and trails system. [100]

By October 1937 it had been determined to use a separate historical sheet in the master plans for historical areas. This sheet would show the "historic" ground cover, buildings, fences, bridges, and roads. The master plans of the battlefield areas would have an additional sheet(s) showing battle line positions, troop movements, batteries, fortifications, ground cover, extant remains, and actual extent of the battlefield area. [101]

As a result of numerous conferences between the Branch of Historic Sites and Buildings, the Branch of Plans and Design, and various regional representatives, a set of guidelines was established in May 1938 for the preparation of historical sheets in master plans for historical and archeological areas. [102] The guidelines, which were sent to all field historians, were designed to assist them in preparing data for incorporation by the field representatives of the Branch of Plans and Design in the master plans. The data was viewed as important both for its "scientific" value and usefulness for park planning purposes. The guidelines read in part:

The historical sheet in the master plan for a historical area is intended to serve both as a base and as a guide for future park planning. By reference thereto, one should be able to tell what features existed at the historic period in the area, and by comparison with other maps one should be able to perceive the magnitude and character of the work of historical conservation, the degree of success attained by our past efforts, and the amount and character of the effort still to be expended if the historical area is to be fully developed and properly interpreted.

The base historical map should give information regarding all the physical features of the area as they existed at the time of the maximum historical importance of the area. . . . and all other important physical objects or features existing in the area and likely to have influenced human action or to have operated as conditioning forces during the battle or events which gave the area its prime historical significance. . . .

The first step in the preparation of a base historical map is the selection of the period of the map. This we have already stated should be the date of the battle or event which gave the area its prime historical significance. . . .

Having selected the period which the base historical map is to represent, the historical information should be superimposed upon the work sheet, care being taken to employ standard symbols now in use. Modern intrusions in the historical area should not appear on the base historical map, but all data should be as of the historic period represented. . . .

The historical information put on the base historical map must be supported by historical evidence derived from primary sources such as authentic and reliable maps made in historic times, old surveys, military maps of the period, official military and engineering reports, diaries and letters of officers or travellers of the period. . . .

In order to facilitate the documentation of special features and special areas on the base historical map, a grid should be superimposed upon the work sheet or blank map selected for use. The key line of the grid should run through some key point in the Park and each square of the grid can be designated by reference to the alphabetical symbols and numbers running along the left side and the top of the sheet respectively. [103]

These guidelines were later incorporated into the manual of standard practice for master plan preparation in 1941 . According to the manual, a variety of historical and archeological base maps were to be included in the master plans for areas designated as being of special historical or archeological significance. The maps were to include such sheets as historical base, troop position, archeological base, and historical or archeological tour. In addition the maps would be accompanied by a general statement describing the site, assessing its significance, defining its period of maximum historical importance, evaluating its scientific, educational, and commemorative value, and containing a list of bibliographical references. An interpretive statement and historical or archeological narrative would also be prepared. [104]

Chapter Five continues with...
Interpretation: 1935-1941


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

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