Protecting Our Past: Cultural Heritage Policy and Law

Issues such as the return of items of cultural patrimony, the looting and annihilation of irreplaceable cultural heritage monuments, traditional cultural properties and the desecration of national heritage sites worldwide plague our world daily. Protecting Our Past: Cultural Heritage Policy and Law is a reference guide containing resource material about cultural heritage preservation laws. Whether you are trying to list the oldest building in your neighborhood on the National Register, protect a local historical cemetery from development, mitigating an inadvertent discovery of a burial ground or just need some information on cultural heritage preservation policy and law, this reference site will answer your questions or direct you to the appropriate resource to do so. The site offers an in-depth layout of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (UWHC).

Protecting our Past has a straightforward layout, containing an overview page telling about the motivations for creating this resource and the site itself. Each policy, NAGPRA, NHPA and UWHC includes a landing page containing summaries of each policy with links to their governmental homepages, and a Sources section containing outside resources with exploring more detailed information. In addition, the NAGPRA page contains a section about the NAGPRA Review Committee, highlighting what they do and who they currently are. The NHPA section also contains a page dedicated to Section 106, one of the most widely used sections of the policy and a page dedicated to the National Register of Historic Places. Expansion plans include an interactive mitigation section where communities will be able to share their stories and ask for advice, the addition of sample documents such as Memorandums of Agreement/Understanding (MOA/U) and the inclusion of other preservation laws stemming from these policies such as Finland’s Akwé-Kon.

While the majority of the information available in this site is accessible through other avenues, the compilation created here offers a useful resource for finding straightforward definitions for things such as, an “undertaking” or “items of cultural patrimony” that are buried within the pages of the actual federal policies themselves. As current federal administrations change, it can become difficult to obtain straightforward information about federal policies. This project was designed to help alleviate the searching and offer information is a way that is digestible and easy to use for the general public. When trying to mitigate an inadvertent discovery or performing a section 106 review, it can be difficult to obtain specific points of information. This site is intended as a resource for cultural heritage managers, city planners, students or anyone seeking to create an understanding of preservation policy and law. The philosophy of this project is that by creating a space to learn about and discuss cultural heritage policies, communities can come together under the shared premise of protecting our past.

Nicole Raslich

2017-2018 CHI Grad Fellow Cohort

PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology