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Home arrowNews arrow ACHP Member and Staff Contribute to New Volume Honoring 50th Anniversary of NHPA

ACHP Member and Staff Contribute to New Volume Honoring 50th Anniversary of NHPA


ACHP Expert Member Lynne Sebastian and Office of Federal Agency Programs Director Reid Nelson have contributed chapters to the recently published volume The National Historic Preservation Act: Past, Present, and Future. As Sebastian writes in her chapter,"How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going?" "it is healthy for participants in any discipline or movement to pause periodically and take stock of where they've been, where they are, and where they ought to go from here." The essay collection indeed provides a retrospective look at the Great Society legislation and offers a look at a way forward for the act.

Nelson provides a comprehensive look at the history of the Section 106 review process and the evolving role the ACHP has played in promoting and ensuring federal agency compliance with the procedures designated by Section 106. The National Park Service oversees and implements a significant portion of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), but since the passage of the law in 1966, Section 106 review has become one of the most recognized hallmarks of the law. Nelson examines the growth and success of Section 106, while also looking toward opportunities for growth and increasing inclusivity in historic preservation. “Perhaps the most important goal in the long run is to ensure that historic preservation is meaningful to our diverse publics and responsive to their interests,” Nelson writes. Thoughtful use of the Section 106 process can provide recognition for traditionally underrepresented communities, whose histories and cultures nonetheless infuse the built environment throughout the nation.

Sebastian provides an assessment of the successes, shortcomings, and opportunities for historic preservationists since the passage of the NHPA. Particularly in regard to the archaeological fieldwork that has flourished since 1966, Sebastian stresses the importance of interpretation and analysis, acknowledging that while findings that contribute to the archaeological record are significant, interpretation of archaeological findings to increase understanding of life in the past is important to “generate true public benefit in return for work that the public has funded." Interpretation that increases public engagement and knowledge is a key opportunity for improvement for archaeologists and preservationists alike.

Asked about the important takeaways of the anthology, Sebastian said that "the National Historic Preservation Act in general and Section 106 in particular are about balancing preservation and development, and we put the law and the process and our support from the public at risk when we ignore the need for balance." The NHPA has saved countless historic buildings and sites, increased public awareness, and promoted education since its passage 50 years ago, and the act remains flexible to evolve along with changing cultural mores into the future, an idea that the contributing authors continually stress.

Nelson says the The National Historic Preservation Act: Past, Present, and Future is "geared toward practitioners, people that have worked under or implementing Section 106, whether they’re federal agency officials, state or tribal historic preservation officers, [or] the interested public.” The law still has an important role to play in protecting the sites that embody the identity of communities across the country.

The National Historic Preservation Act: Past, Present, and Future (Routledge, 2016) is available to purchase online through the publisher and on Amazon.