NPS ...Links to the Past
Links to the Past

Do you want to LEARN more about America's cultural resources? And LEARN about everything the NPS is doing to protect them for future generations? Here are our key products, which may take the form of a distance learning program, a directory, a database, a case study, a lesson plan, a teacher's handbook, an illustrated guideline, or various other formats. The ways you can LEARN will grow and change as we post new materials, so come back often!

Choose how to LEARN by . . .



Collage of interpretive education program at Zion NP; interpretive education program at Fort Frederica NM

Learning Subjects

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America's Hidden Battlefields: Protecting the Archeological Story
America's battlefields teach us about some of the most important events in our history--and there is much more to a battlefield than immediately meets the eye! An important piece of this irreplaceable landscape is the reality of that long-ago battle that lies hidden underground. Through the protection, study, and interpretation of archeological evidence, we can enhance our understanding of those events, and ensure that the battle itself is remembered.

Ancient Architects of the Mississippi
Eight hundred years ago, the lower Mississippi Delta was home to some of the most highly organized civilizations in the world. This feature tells you about life along the Mississippi at that time, the builders of great mounds, and the activities of travelers and traders. It also provides you with a myriad of voices about the Delta's past.

Explore, Learn and Participate in Archeology
Explore the thousands of archeological sites and museums throughout the country, and learn about the diverse people and cultures that created our national legacy. Roll up your sleeves and learn alongside professional archeologists.

Interpretation for Archeologists: A Guide to Increasing Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
This guide encourages archeologists to learn methods and philosophies of interpretation for engaging the public’s hearts and minds with archeological resources. Guided activities, fun facts, and case studies guide users to realize the role of interpretation in facilitating meaningful relationships with the resources. Users of this guide will gain knowledge, skills, and abilities for encouraging people to care about archeology and to develop an ethic of stewardship as a result.

Midwest Archeological Center
See the sites! Learn about the past as you navigate through some of the archeological projects undertaken by MWAC staff. This web site also has information on the variety of tasks involved with cultural resource management, opportunities for involvement in archeology, as well as publications, courses, and links to other great web sites.

Managing Archeological Collections
This source of technical assistance and distance learning concerns the long-term management and care of archeological collections, including objects, records, non-cultural materials, reports, and digital data. Ten sections cover a wide range of issues, concerns, and best practices for archeologists, curators, CRM managers, and many others. Each section contains a review quiz to test your knowledge, an extensive bibliography, and a page of useful links to related materials.

National Archeological Database Reports Module
U.S archeologists have produced hundreds of thousands of reports on the results of their investigations. This module of the National Archeological Database is an expanded bibliographic inventory of approximately 240,000 reports on archeological investigation and planning, mostly of limited circulation ("gray literature"). NADB-Reports can be searched by state, county, cultural affiliation, keyword, year of publication, title, and author, among others.

Archeology Technical Briefs
A listing of NPS technical publications in archeology is available for public education, legal issues, site preservation, and programmatic assistance. Ordering information is also available.


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Historic Buildings & Structures

All Wet & How to Prevent It
Water, water everywhere! Without argument, it's essential to us. But in terms of the places where we live or work, unwanted moisture means erosion, corrosion and rot! This mini web-class can help anyone who cares for, or about, a historic house to better understand and deal with the three most common sources of the "wet stuff". We'll show you how it invades historic materials; what goes wrong when moisture is not adequately managed; and how to turn the corner on present and future problems by providing some simple, common sense tips. Then, after you've read everything, take a short quiz to see if you're still "All Wet!"

American Defenders of Land, Sea & Sky
Travel through time and across country to 56 special places in our nation's past--National Historic Landmarks that hold fascinating stories of America's "common defense." Begin with the first shots of the Revolutionary War and "follow history" to the War of 1812, the Struggle for Western Territory, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, two World Wars, and the Cold War. Visit forts, battle sites, old ships and planes, a modern submarine, and a pioneering space vehicle! See special places where peace treaties were signed; view monuments that honor those who have been lost to war. Links to a Guide for Teachers, Parents, and Other Educators.

Checklist for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings
This series of questions in a "checklist" format has been designed to help anyone who is considering the rehabilitation of a historic building.

Electronic Rehab
This popular web class should be useful for anyone interested in learning more about the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation, but was designed especially for historic building owners; new members of design review and historic preservation commissions; architects, contractors, and developers; maintenance personnel and others involved in the care of historic buildings; and students in historic preservation courses. Features two quizzes.

From the Roof Down and Skin Deep
The "skin" of a historic house includes the roof, chimney, exterior walls, woodwork, windows, porches, doors, and above-ground portion of the foundation. Since the "skin" serves as the primary defense against the weather, regular maintenance and repair are critically important. In this distance learning program, you'll learn how the various parts of your historic house were tightly connected when it was built; how to keep surfaces and features in good repair over time; and what happens if you don't. Includes a Quiz!

Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Gallery of Measured and Interpretive Drawings
This online gallery of drawings captures the structural, operational, and contextual significance of nationally and regionally significant engineering and manufacturing sites.

Preservation Briefs
The Briefs assist owners and developers of historic buildings in recognizing and resolving common preservation and repair problems prior to work. They are especially useful to preservation tax incentive program applicants because they recommend those methods and approaches for rehabilitating historic buildings that are consistent with their historic character.

Preservation Tech Notes (PTN)
These Tech Notes provide traditional and innovative solutions to specific problems in preserving cultural resources for architects, contractors, and maintenance personnel, as well as for anyone seeking the tax credit for rehabilitation. TPS is going online with 10 of the most popular Tech Notes. See these samples:

REHAB YES/NO Learning Program
This program helps guide new district commissioners in their own community review processes and helps owners plan their work to consistently preserve historic character! Discover the basic issues that often arise when rehabilitating historic buildings for continuing or new uses. Ten projects met the Secretary of the Interior's “Standards for rehabilitation,” while ten did not.

Telling Historic Preservation Time
This web guide demonstrates that historic preservation clocks don't move in quite the same way that the normal one does. What's different about these interpretive and seemingly arbitrary "clocks" is that they can be temporarily stopped through Preservation; moved forward through Rehabilitation; moved backward through Restoration; or re-started through Reconstruction. It is these ideas about time that constitute the philosophical framework for historic preservation treatments.

The Good Guides!
These guides cover all aspects of caring for historic buildings--from choosing appropriate treatments to actually doing the work in ways that meet historic preservation standards. Both the popular classics and brand new web offerings are easily accessible.

The National Register Information System (NRIS)
Search the NRIS database for properties listed in the National Register by state and/or county. The National Register will soon premiere a more advanced search that will let you look up a property by such categories as "name," "architect," and "street address." You will be able to find information such as when a property was constructed, it's architectural style, and why it was listed in the National Register.

The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation & Illustrated Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings
This popular guidance on rehabilitating historic buildings is now available in a user-friendly "e-version". The Guidelines help property owners, developers, and federal managers apply the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation during the project planning stage. Together with the Standards, the Guidelines provide a model process to follow. The Standards for Rehabilitation (36 CFR 67) are used in the Federal Preservation Tax Incentives Program, administered by the NPS.

The Walk Through
This web class was specially designed to help owners, architects, developers, maintenance personnel, and members of historic preservation commissions identify those tangible elements or features that give historic buildings their unique visual character. Come in and learn how to read a historic building. Take the quiz!

Toward a Common Language
This web guide site is designed to assist historic property owners, managers, and maintenance personnel in understanding various work approaches on historic buildings outlined in The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties--Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction. One approach should be selected and used throughout a project in order to save important history and avoid historical anachronisms.

Working on the Past in Local Historic Districts
This new information site--designed for historic property owners, new members of historic preservation commissions, community officials, and design professionals-- outlines the legal strengths of local historic districts, describes the local preservation ordinance, discusses the benefits of local design guidelines, and makes clear the essential differences between preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction. Includes a Quiz at the end. Each content section is also available in a print-only format.


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American Memory: Built in America
The Library of Congress (LC) selected the collections of the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER) to be digitized as part of its National Digital Library initiative. Currently on this website, the Library offers online searching of the LC-HABS/HAER Catalog and digital display of all available images for structures recorded in the Collections.

Our Shared History
The recent growth in the study and interpretation of African American history within the National Park Service illustrates the comprehensive attempt by many park units to tell their parts of this story to the American people.

Teaching with Historic Places
The Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) program uses properties
listed in the National Register to enliven the teaching of history,
social studies, geography, civics, and other subjects. It offers a
variety of products and activities, including professional development
materials and a series of classroom-ready lesson plans. Many of the
lesson plans are available for free on the National Register Web site.

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Cultural Landscape Currents
Currents is an electronic information series dedicated to the treatment and management of cultural landscapes. Its goal is to examine and promote successful examples of the sound stewardship of cultural landscapes and to share these "success stories" with the broadest possible audiences. All featured projects successfully apply the "Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and the Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes." Currents is co-produced by the NPS's Historic Landscape Initiative and the Cultural Landscape Foundation of Washington, D.C.


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Defining the Terms
These three interrelated web sites define GIS, GPS, and Cartography, their processes, and, where applicable, their instrumentation.

What is GIS?
What is GPS?
What is Cartography?


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Military History

Civil War Battle Summaries
Each summary provides basic statistical data on the location, dates,
commanders, size, and casualties of each battle. It also indicates the
ranking of the battle by military importance and the battlefield's level of priority for preservation. A one paragraph historical narrative describes the circumstances, action, and outcome of the battle.

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System
This is a computerized database containing very basic facts about servicemen who served on both sides during the Civil War; a list of regiments in both the Union and Confederate Armies; identifications and descriptions of 384 significant battles of the war; references that identify the sources of the information in the database; and suggestions for where to find additional information.


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Museums & Collections

American Revolutionary War: National Park Service Museum Collections
This new multi-park exhibit highlights NPS museum collections at American Revolutionary War parks. Featured sites and collections commemorate significant events and individuals of the American Revolutionary War [1775-1783]. Valley Forge National Historical Park is the first park featured, and will be soon followed by Guilford Courthouse National Military Park and Independence National Historical Park. Other parks will be added to the web exhibit later this year.

American Visionaries: Thomas Moran
This exhibit features works from Yellowstone National Park's museum collections displayed in a retrospective exhibit. Works include sketches that Moran produced in the Yellowstone area, sketchbooks filled with field studies and notations, and charcoal drawings. Photographs by William Henry Jackson from the park's archives are featured.

American Visionaries: Frederick Douglass
This exhibit features items owned by Douglass and highlights his achievements. Called the father of the American civil rights movement, Douglass was an abolitionist, human rights and women's rights activist, orator, author, journalist, publisher, and social reformer. The featured items are objects and archival documents at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site at Cedar Hill, Southeast Washington, DC.

Camp Life: Civil War Collections from Gettysburg National Military Park
The exhibit showcases some of the items that were made or used by soldiers in Union and Confederate camps. Many of the activities shown in the exhibit helped soldiers cope with daily life.

Conserve O Grams
The Conserve O Grams series includes short, focused leaflets on how to care for museum collections. They are also published in loose-leaf form.

Lying Lightly on the Land: Building America's National Park Roads and Parkways
An overview and six themes from the museum exhibit of the same name are summarized as an introduction to this feature highlighting colorful period postcards of Yellowstone before the automobile, and eight other parks during the golden age of park road development.

New Lease on Life
This exhibit features the steps that NPS conservators take to ensure the safety of NPS collections during analysis, exhibition, and in long-term storage. Steps include examination, stabilization, research and restoration. Specific examples from parks are on view.

Symbols in Battle
This exhibit features selected Civil War flags in NPS museum collections, including flags from Appomatox, Fords Theater, Fort Pulaski, Fort Sumter, Gettysburg, Kennesaw, Manassas, Richmond and Stones River.

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National Historic Landmarks

Common Questions and Answers about NHLs
The following are the most common questions that owners of potential
National Historic Landmarks and new owners of designated National
Historic Landmarks ask the National Park Service.

NHL Virtual Visits
Take an electronic trip to National Historic Landmarks across the country!

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