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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Traditional Cultural Properties, Properties of Traditional Religious and Cultural Importance, and Ethnographic Landscapes



Chris Moreno asked me some questions in an email this morning.  Since I imagine Chris is not alone in his puzzlement about these matters, I asked him if I could post his questions and my responses; he agreed.  Here they are:

Chris’ question: 

In relation to (National Register) Bulletin 38 (http://www.nps.gov/nr/publications/bulletins/nrb38/), what is the rule of thumb for ascribing affiliation to a potential traditional cultural property (TCP)?  More specifically, for it to be eligible as a TCP, can more than one cultural group ascribe affiliation?  Any insight on multiple affiliation and TCPs would be helpful.

My response:

First, a TCP is a TCP if those who value it say it's a TCP.  The National Register doesn't determine TCP-nes; it determines eligibility.  But as either a TCP or a Register-eligible TCP, of course multiple groups can assign significance to it.  Consider the site of the Solomonic and Herodic temple in Jerusalem -- a major TCP for Jews, Christians, and Muslims; the fact that one ascribes significance to it doesn't mean the others can't, or that an objective outside governmental body (e.g. the U.N., or God) shouldn't recognize all three ascriptions.

Chris’ question: 

What is the main difference between TCPs and Properties of Traditional and Religious Importance from an National Register evaluation standpoint?

My response: 

Logically, "properties of traditional and religious importance" are TCPs, but not the ONLY kinds of TCPs, since anyplace to which a group of people ascribes tradition-grounded cultural significance can be a TCP (e.g. tribal plant gathering areas, urban neighborhoods, areas where a community traditionally recreates, etc.).  Historically, "properties of traditional and religious importance" (actually "properties of traditional religious and cultural importance") was the terminology adopted in the 1992 amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act to smack down the three agencies (BLM, Forest Service, and BIA) that had refused to recognize Bulletin 38, but since it was tribes and intertribal organizations pushing the amendment, and I as amendment-drafter didn't think it proper to refer to my own freshly minted term (TCP), the amendment simply refers to tribal properties of traditional and religious importance.  In retrospect I'm sorry we didn't find a way to make the terms synchronous, but that's the way it goes.  See pages 35-36 of Places That Count (http://www.amazon.com/Traditional-Cultural-Properties-Resource-Management/dp/0759100713) for details.

Chris’ question:

Lastly, is there any specific National Register criterion that you know of that applies to Ethnographic Landscapes?

My response:

"Ethnographic" landscapes (I hate the term, because it implies that such places are important because ethnographers say so, rather than because people in communities say so) can be eligible under any of the NR criteria, but most often are eligible under Criterion A (association with significant events, patterns, etc.).  For an example, see http://www.amazon.com/The-Mushgigamongsebe-District-Traditional-ebook/dp/B008AK7AJQ/ref=la_B001IU2RWK_1_21?ie=UTF8&qid=1345553507&sr=1-21

Hope this helps, but remember that I speak, above, for no one other than myself, and you certainly can't count on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation or National Park Service to say anything similar.

Tom King

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