Applying Gender Theory to the Documentation and Management of Cultural Landscapes

Women's history is closely linked with gender issues, and gender theory can contribute to and enrich women's history scholarship and applications.  As Jill Cowley explains in this article, "Place and Gender:  Applying Gender Theory to the Documentation and Management of Cultural Landscapes," published in 2001, at a high point in NPS activities promoting diversity, and is still relevant today.  Topics covered include gender as a social construction, gender and women's history, balancing gender representation, exploring gender roles, differences among women and men, and gender as one of many diversity factors. While women's history studies include discussion of some gender parameters, studies using a "gender lens" more often include both women and men, their experiences and influences on cultural landscapes and other historic properties, and a gender focus involves asking questions such as how gender identities have influences social relationships, community actions, historical trends, and the evolution of landscape at different times in history.  Women are integrated into the overall story, and not included as an "add-on".  One of the many examples cited in the article is that of the Sisters of Loretto religious community in Bernalillo, New Mexico, where, contrary to the stereotypical women-private realm and men-public realm binary, nuns lived and worked within the public and visible school and church compound, and the brothers lived in the private residence behind the orchard, separated from the school and church.  Other examples are primarily from national parks in the U.S. Southwest.  

Putting Women in the National Register of Historic Places

Getting women's history documented and findable in the National Register of Historic Places takes a little extra effort.  As Gretchen Brock, National Register & Survey Program Manager, has written in Preservation Posts (the online journal for the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources), in the first decades that followed the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act, "as was common in the discipline of history in general during that time period, very few early nominations to the National Register in Georgia included any mention of women or children associated with historic houses." Naming conventions tended to include only the name of the male head of house (e.g. the John Smith House), rather than husbands and wives together (e.g. the John and Mary Smith House)--even when documentary research showed that it was not uncommon, especially in the late 19th century, for the deed to be in the woman's name.

Read more: Putting Women in the National Register of Historic Places

National Historic Landmark Status

What does it mean to be a National Historic Landmark?

If you have been following news of the NCWHS effort to add women's history content to the NHL program, you might like to learn more about what the NHL program does and means.  The numerous designations within the National Park Service can be challenging to master: in terms of those places managed by the NPS there are National Historic Sites, National Historic Parks, National Monuments, and a range of other types and kinds of places to visit, while the agency also administers programs like the National Register of Historic Places, which recognizes thousands of properties nationwide (places not owned by the NPS, but by private individuals; local and state governments; tribal entities; non-profit organizations; and corporations and other businesses) for the historical and architectural significance.  

Read more: National Historic Landmark Status

Preservation documentation in the NPS

What is a Historic Structure Report?  As the National Park Service explains in Preservation Brief 43, "A historic structure report provides documentary, graphic, and physical information about a property's history and existing condition. Broadly recognized as an effective part of preservation planning, a historic structure report also addresses management or owner goals for the use or re-use of the property. It provides a thoughtfully considered argument for selecting the most appropriate approach to treatment, prior to the commencement of work, and outlines a scope of recommended work. The report serves as an important guide for all changes made to a historic property during a project-repair, rehabilitation, or restoration-and can also provide information for maintenance procedures. Finally, it records the findings of research and investigation, as well as the processes of physical work, for future researchers."

Sites contemplating having such a report prepared may want to review one of the many that the NPS History program has made available online.  These include the reports for the 1891 Clara Barton house (Clara Barton National Historic Site) in Montgomery County, Maryland, and the c.1830s Stanton House (Women's Rights National Historic Park) in Seneca Falls, New York, and many others from throughout the nation as well.

Resources Preservation