National Historic Landmarks Photography Contest

When you visit a historic site, what do you see? Do you see just the building or do you see the landscape? What speaks to you about a particular site? Do you ever have a shot that shows off your skill and your feelings for the subject in the photograph? Do you ever impress yourself with your photography skills? Now is the time to share those skills?

How? Enter the National Historic Landmarks 2010 Photography Contest. From the website:

The contest name, “Imaging Our National Heritage” encourages people to use their cameras to capture the meaning of the National Historic Landmark in a photo. We hope you’re inspired to visit our nation’s National Historic Landmarks, seek out the stories that have formed our American history, and create your own image to share.

The contest is easy to enter by posting your photographs to Flickr and tagging them appropriately (read: “2010nhlphotocontest“). The photographs must be of National Historic Landmarks, which you can look up in the database.  Find all of the official rules and specifications on the NHL Photo Contest website (download the documents on the left hand side).  The contest ends September 10, 2010 and NPS employees across the country will vote for the winning entries.

Visit the NHLs and capture your feelings! Enter one image per NHL, but you can submit up to 10 images. You could be famous!

See also Sabra’s post about the contest over at My Own Time Machine.

Old House v. Historic House

Is that an old house? Is that a historic house? Is that the same question?

Well, they are often used interchangeably in passing, casual conversations, but actually there is a definite distinction between the two: old & historic.

Work in historic preservation is defined from the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 (since amended) (legal code 16 U.S.C 470). In the law, “historic property” or “historic resource” means any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure, or object included in, or eligible for inclusion on the National Register, including artifacts, records, and material remains related to such a property or resource.  In other words, a “historic” house would be one only if it is on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Historic means “historically significant.”

The brief explanation of how properties are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places is that they (generally) must be at least 50 years old and they must have contributed to or played a significant role in national heritage. The longer explanation involves four criteria for evaluation and seven criteria considerations, which can be read here or in National Register Bulletin 15. A side note, most houses are not on the National Register, although they may be listed on a local or state register.

What about the definition for old? That can be a house that has reached the 50 year mark, but is not historically significant. Of course, that is not the say the house is insignificant to its occupants, but in terms of the National Register and the NHPA, it doesn’t count. The distinction is made to assist rulings of the NHPA as well as to assist with tax credits from the National Park Service.

While “old” and “historic” could certainly be discussed more, those are the easy definitions. Still, old houses, even if not historic by NHPA standards, are still important to our heritage and deserve to be loved and maintained. A building not on the National Register doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not eligible – maybe it hasn’t been nominated. If research reveals arguments for national significance, give it a try!

Any other thoughts on the definitions of old or historic?

NPS WebRangers

At many National Parks across the United States, children can become Junior Rangers by completing a book of activities relating to their visit in the park. They talk to park rangers about their answers and then receive a badge, patch, or certificate. To participate in the parks there is an age limit, but now the National Park Service has a WebRanger site for kids of all ages!

The WebRanger website. Choose your own ranger station!

On the WebRangers site, kids can create usernames (or just visit) and begin their adventures. The activities are too numerous to list, but include word games, maps, puzzles, mazes, and many more in order to learn parks’ history, about the work of park rangers, animals, associated people, science, and nature. Kids can even sign up as a Ranger and have a ranger station, track their activities, view webcams, and send e-postcards. Check out the site here.

And the NPS has even more activities for kids interested in the parks, whether it’s a coloring sheet to match the park, fun facts, and much more. Check out the kids archaeology program, where kids can learn about the different types of archaeologists and what they do (it’s not like the WebRangers program, but a good introduction to archaeology).

Way to go National Park Service — the people who are a part of the NPS are always doing great work and really trying to showcase the resources of the parks. So, check it out. I know a few “older” kids who would love to be a WebRanger…

Common Ground

If you haven’t seen the National Park Service’s quarterly magazine, Common Ground, you ought to check it out. You can sign up for a free subscription or download the issues for free. (Currently Spring 2009 is on the website, but Fall 2009 has arrrived in the mail.) While I’m in favor of saving trees, this magazine is so beautiful that I’m really glad it’s a print mailing. The articles are always exciting, interesting, different, and accompanied by breathtaking photographs. It is my favorite magazine to receive in the mail.

The NPS deserves more love and attention than we give it, preservationists and non-preservationists. So start by reading to see what great work the NPS does. Go ahead, read it, sign up. You won’t be sorry. You’ll love it. You could call it Preservation in Pink’s idol in some ways, or at least a mentor.