The development of American historic heritage policy is surveyed with attention to changing conceptions of what constitutes the American heritage. The National Park Service's role in American preservation policy is examined. Federalism's impact on American preservation is characterized with particular attention to the centrality of local governments in the protection of historic sites. Finally, future challenges to American historical preservation are considered. The author notes that modern states seek to preserve their historical heritage, but what constitutes a “heritage” to be preserved varies across different societies and cultures. In conceptualizing its own historical heritage, a society interprets that distant and “foreign” past. The act of historical retrieval might seem a simple task for Americans, if only because their past is not so distant. However, the challenge in formulating historical heritage policy is not the recovery of the past; the challenge is in finding a narrative about national heritage as a normative guide to choosing what historical past is to be preserved and celebrated. In this volume, historic heritage policy formulation and implementation reveal a great deal about a political system's choices among available cultural values.
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