Deadline is Nov. 1 for TPH/NHPA nominations

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A few weeks ago, I asked readers of History@Work to nominate articles on historic preservation and place from The Public Historian for a yearlong conversation in honor of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in 2016. Several of you submitted nominations via the comments on that earlier post (thank you!). More of you contacted me directly. There’s still time for those of you who haven’t made your nominations yet to do so—but not much. The deadline is this Friday, November 1.

Many people have asked me how it’s going so far. How hard is it to create a curated list of 15-20 articles on historic preservation and place from one journal? Pretty tough, as can be seen from this chart, which I created using JSTOR’s Data For Research, a great tool for those who are interested in light data mining within scholarly materials. I focused my query on The Public Historian and included the term “historic preservation” (certainly one could use other related terms, but I wanted to hone in as closely as possible on our topic). According to JSTOR, The Public Historian has published a total of 820 articles on historic preservation over the journal’s history. Even more interesting is when they were published:


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As we can see, historic preservation has consistently been a topic for The Public Historian but one that fluctuates, with a peak in the mid-1980s, two in the early 1990s, and then a small one at the present. Since we’re only partway through our 2013 publishing year, it’s likely that the drop-off at the end of the chart will even out and possibly rise.

Out of this huge body of material, 52 articles have been nominated so far. Five were nominated twice, two were nominated three times and one spectacular piece was nominated four times.

How do the nominations track over time? The chart below shows a breakdown by decade of article publication (any article nominated more than once was only counted once).

pie chart

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Unsurprisingly, the 2000s and 2010s together have the most nominations, with the 2010s on track to produce another peak of publication about historic preservation. Given that the journal only began publishing in 1978 and that three articles were nominated from that two-year timespan, those three articles must be considered quite significant and well-remembered by those nominators. The prominence of the 1990s may partly be a function of who is making the nominations (mid-career and later professionals who are probably very familiar with the literature from this period). But more importantly it tracks with the overall trend of publication seen in the first chart. As that shows, historic preservation hit its stride in the 90s, perhaps because of the 25th anniversary of the NHPA, which occurred in 1991. It’s possible, too, that the high number of articles written in that period are a result of that early wave of public history and historic preservation students getting jobs as public historians (in academy and outside of it) and making their mark on the field.

Several people have asked me about trends in terms of specific article topics. That’s a bit harder to codify, in part because article abstracts are not available before the early 2000s so there is not a clear data set to use. Nominators definitely took my suggestion to heart about being broad in what they proposed. Generally speaking, articles that analyze historic preservation with regard to race (African American, primarily) and gender are represented. International subjects have been nominated to a degree that surprises me, given that the NHPA is an American law, but clearly there has been long interest by the journal in historic preservation outside the US. Articles dealing with environmental issues, at the forefront of many of our minds currently, also appear. What’s missing? It’s hard to say. There’s nothing about sexuality and little about race beyond historic preservation associated with African Americans. There’s probably more to say on archaeology, too, and on preservation before the NHPA. Certainly, articles published in the 1980s, especially considering that peak moment, would be valuable to include. With 768 articles that haven’t been nominated yet, there’s plenty of fodder. What would you add?

~ Mary Rizzo is Co-Editor of The Public Historian and Public Historian in Residence at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities.  She blogs at and tweets @rizzo_pubhist.

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