Some theme studies are mandated by Congress, while others are determined by the National Park Service, and generally prepared under cooperative agreements or contracts with other governmental entities or private organizations. In the development of theme studies, partnerships with the academic community, independent scholars, and others knowledgeable about the subject at hand are encouraged. Academic and professional standards are followed in the preparation of theme studies which provide a context from which the most appropriate properties within that theme are identified. They provide assistance in the evaluation of historic properties at all levels and can be used to educate the public about the nation's heritage. Those currently in progress are listed below. A full list of Theme Studies is also available. Theme studies available electronically are indicated by the link provided from the title. All other theme studies are either out of print or otherwise unavailable.
The thematic framework is a significant departure from the thematic outlines previously used by the National Park Service. It, however, better serves the National Park Service and other interested parties in evaluating historic properties, in assessing how well American history is represented in existing park system units and other protected areas, and in enhancing park interpretive programs to provide a fuller understanding of the Nation's past. For a copy of the revised thematic framework please click here.
CURRENT NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK THEME STUDIES
American Aviation Heritage Theme Study - Few technological advances have transformed the American economy, society, culture, and national character as the development of powered flight. Our nation's leadership in both civil and military aviation set the foundation for the twentieth century to be an American century. With the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight in 2003, it is recognized that the preservation of properties nationally significant in the history of aviation is an important goal for the future education of American citizens. However, while many aircraft, rockets, and spacecraft have been preserved in museum settings, many sites, structures, buildings, and objects associated with this story are not protected for future generations.
To ensure that this important part of our nation's heritage is preserved and protected the National Park Service and the United States Air Force are partnering to prepare a Theme Study on the history of American aviation to identify the sites, districts, buildings, structures, and landscapes that best illustrate or commemorate key events in the history of this nationally significant historical theme. The theme study was launched on March 10, 2003, at a public event at the Huffman Prairie Flying Field. Work on this theme study will continue beyond the 2003 centennial, as potential National Historic Landmarks are identified, evaluated, and nominated for this high honor.
For more information about the National Park Service and the centennial of flight visit:
Thematically Related Nominations for American Aviation.
American Civil Rights - In 2000, Congress directed the National Park Service to prepare a nationwide study of the story of American Civil Rights. Completed in January 2002 (rev. 2008), Civil Rights in America: A Framework for Identifying Significant Sites, represents the first chapter in a larger study on the history of civil rights that will help the National Park Service evaluate proposals for new units in the park system. The National Park Service is proceeding with more detailed studies of additional chapters in the civil rights story by evaluating the long history of issues about equal access to public accommodations, housing, employment, and voting rights. Two volumes in the series are currently available, Civil Rights in America: Racial Desegregation of Public Accommodations and Civil Rights in America: Racial Voting Rights.
Architecture Theme Study - The Architecture Theme Study is concerned with the development and expression of building design within the United States. Comprising one of the largest theme studies within the National Historic Landmarks Survey, it deals with the careers and works of nationally significant architects, structures of outstanding value in design, the evolution of significant architectural styles, and structures richly representative of important types or major geographical regions. Adirondacks Camps is an example of a recent architectural theme study.
Earliest Americans Theme Study - Properties associated with America's earliest inhabitants represent some of the nations most significant and most threatened groups of cultural resources. Responding to this challenge, the National Park Service is working with its partners in the government, scholarly, avocational, tribal, and historic preservation communities to develop the Earliest Americans Theme Study. This project is a multi-year effort to recognize and protect nationally significant archeological properties associated with Americas first inhabitants.
Japanese Americans in World War II - In 1991, Congress authorized the National Park Service to prepare a National Historic Landmark theme study on Japanese Americans during World War II. The purpose of this study is to identify historic places that best exemplify and illustrate the period from 1941 to 1946 when Japanese Americans and Japanese aliens were ordered to be detained, relocated, or excluded pursuant to Executive Order 9066 and other actions. Thirty-seven properties were identified in H.R. 543, the enabling legislation for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This theme study is based in large part upon Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites, as well as information included in Report to the President: Japanese-American Internment Sites Preservation. The Japanese Americans in World War II theme study was completed in August 2012.
Labor History Theme Study - In 1991, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 102-101 authorizing a National Historic Landmark Theme Study on American Labor History. The purpose of this draft Labor History Theme Study is to identify the key sites in American labor history, including the history of workers and their work, of organizing unions and strikes, of the impacts of industrial and technological change, and of the contributions of American labor to American history. The draft theme study includes a general overview of labor history and essays on extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and public and white-collar labor. The essays show how labor history can identify potential National Historic Landmarks against the complex backdrop of civil rights, race, gender, and democracy. An overview is provided with the intent that additional research will yield new chapters illustrated by authentic places in labors continuing story. The draft study is intended to serve as a vehicle through which government, the private sector, organized labor, the academic community, and other interested parties can cooperate to recover, interpret, and preserve the key sites in American labor history in its fullest variety. Sample nominations for National Historic Landmarks associated with labor history are provided here.
Maritime Heritage of the United States Theme Study - The Maritime Heritage of the United States Theme Study is being conducted by the National Maritime Initiative, the office within the NPS which specializes in preserving America's maritime heritage. As part of this theme study the National Maritime Initiative will gather information on the history, significance, appearance, and integrity of large historic vessels, lighthouses, shipwrecks and hulks; make onsite inspections; and prepare formal nominations to be presented to the NPSs Advisory Board. The first phase of the study focused on large preserved historic vessels. As a result, 120 vessels have been designated as National Historic Landmarks. In the current phase of the theme study, the Historic Light Station Inventory Theme Study, nominations for light stations are being prepared for future presentation to the NPS Advisory Board.
Racial Desegregation in Public Education in the US - In 1998, Congress authorized the National Park Service to prepare a National Historic Landmarks Theme Study on the history of racial desegregation in public education. The purpose of the study is to identify historic places that best exemplify and illustrate the historical movement to provide for a racially nondiscriminatory education. This movement is defined and shaped by constitutional law that first authorized public school segregation and later authorized desegregation. Properties identified in this theme study are associated with events that both led to and followed these judicial decisions. In observance of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision, the National Historic Landmarks Survey developed an update for the Racial Desegregation in Public Education in the United States theme study. Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP), a program of the National Register of Historic Places, offers three lesson plans associated with the history of desegregation in public education in the United States - From Canterbury to Little Rock: The Struggle for Educational Equality for African Americans, New Kent School and the George W. Watkins School: From Freedom of Choice to Integration and Brown v. Board: Five Communities that Changed America.
Underground Railroad Theme Study - In 1990, Congress directed the Secretary of the Interior through the National Park Service to conduct a study of alternatives for commemorating and interpreting the Underground Railroad. One of the objectives outlined in the directive was the designation of sites related to the Underground Railroad. Some of those properties that have been designated NHLs for their national significance under the theme of the Underground Railroad are currently featured in the National Register Travel Itinerary: Aboard the Underground Railroad. A review of historical scholarship about the Underground Railroad and suggestions for using a variety of sources to construct responsible and meaningful site interpretations can be found in Exploring a Common Past: Researching and Interpreting the Underground Railroad.
World War II and the American Home Front -Through a partnership with the Organization of American Historians (OAH), the National Park Service has compiled a theme study that addresses the question: How did the United States change during World War II? The study focuses on themes that saw great changes during this period, such as civil rights, migration and resettlement, gender roles, labor relations, economic mobilization, technological advances and architecture. The study identifies the high-water-marks of each theme and provides guidance for registration requirements including the preparation of National Historic Landmark nominations.
Thematically Related Nominations for the War of 1812 - The National Park Service is currently in the process of evaluating the feasibility of a Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. The study will determine whether the routes utilized by the British and American forces during the 1814 Chesapeake Campaign should be designated as a National Historic Trail. The proposed trail would commemorate the British invasion of Maryland, the Battle of Bladensburg, the burning of the White House and Capitol, and the Battle for Baltimore during the summer of 1814. Under consideration are eight land and water trail segments which follow the historic routes taken by both the British and American forces and the battles that inspired the writing of our National Anthem.