In the contemporary world, the protection and preservation of cultural heritage are one of the major tasks human society currently faces. The problem of preservation and development of national identity, culture, and history is particularly important for national communities which are historically in a deprived position, such as aboriginal communities in North America, including the USA, or in Australia, as well as in any other place in the world. In such a situation cultural resource management turns to be particularly important since it basically aims at the protection, preservation, and development of cultural properties of different communities. It is obvious that cultural resource management is vitally important nowadays for cultural progress because it contributes to the development of cultural and historical heritage which can be easily lost and simply forgotten in the highly technological and rapidly developing world where there remains little room for culture, spiritual development, ethical norms and moral values. This is why it is necessary to thoroughly analyze the current situation concerning cultural resource management basically within the US and trace its basic principles, functioning and effects at the present moment in order to find out the role it plays for cultural preservation and development not only of certain communities but mankind at large.
The current situation
Speaking about cultural resource management, it is primarily necessary to briefly define this notion in order to properly understand the current situation and recent trends in this domain. According to Kaplan (1998), cultural resource management refers to the management of prehistoric, historic, architectural and traditional cultural properties. In this respect, it is necessary to point out that the term cultural properties imply the properties which are really significant to people, their traditions, and culture. In other words, cultural properties are really meaningful properties which actually constitute national culture and identity and may be applied to any community inhabiting some country, such as different aboriginal peoples inhabiting the US, and the entire world.
Nowadays, in the face of the overwhelming process of globalization it is extremely important because the loss of national identity, which is actually based on cultural identity, is viewed as one of the major problems of the contemporary world (Duffus 1994) and in the US this process is probably even stronger than elsewhere in the world because this country is the world’s leader and pop culture promoted by mass media is rapidly progressing here and is spreading worldwide.
Not surprisingly that American society and government are really disturbed by the recent trends and government’s attempts to develop cultural resource management are getting to be very significant for the future of local communities, including communities of aboriginal people, i.e. different Indian tribes which really face the danger of a complete assimilation and, consequently, vanishing because of the loss of their cultural and historic properties.
The particular feature of cultural resource management within the US is the fact that only government owned lands may be researched, controlled and managed while privately owned are not exposed to the national legislative and administrative impact of cultural resource management and the preservation of prehistoric, historic, architectural and traditional cultural properties cannot be fully guaranteed.
Nonetheless, the efforts of the US government in cultural resource management are still quite significant and should be thoroughly discussed. It should be said that at the present moment the American government owns 655 million acres of land in the territory of the US (Duffus 1994). This land is governed by four major agencies which are actually responsible for cultural resource management within the government owned lands in the US. These are agencies are the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. It is necessary to underline that in the current situation it is very important that these agencies worked in a close cooperation otherwise the threat of low effectiveness of their individual work will be extremely high. Obviously, it is impossible to develop an effective cultural resource management by the forces of one agency only because culture and cultural heritage involve all specters of problems all four agencies deal with.
Furthermore, it should that conservation of land is also extremely important for the preservation of cultural and historical heritage which may be often be totally destroyed by the uncontrolled and unlimited use of lands. It is not a secret that land is a source of information about the history and the past of people inhabiting this territory. In such a situation, the American government created the Bureau of Reclamation, another agency of the federal government, which actually deals with the problem of conservation of land. It should be pointed out that it is due to the work of this agency people learned about the importance of prehistoric and historic heritage because the Bureau of Reclamation aims at the protection of archeological places, historical buildings and objects that is very important in the situation when more and more often the priority is given to the business and the use of land resources (Catton 1997, p.89).
In fact, the Bureau of Reclamation can prevent the exploitation of lands which are historically and culturally important. This agency evaluates the cultural and historical values of lands, buildings, and other objects which are supposed to be used for purposes other than cultural. To put it more precisely before any works are getting started the Bureau of Reclamation researches and evaluates the territory and if the agency admits historical and cultural significance than this territory is federally protected for further scientific researches and, consequently, cultural and historical heritage is preserved.
Naturally, the Bureau of Reclamation cannot work without a serious legal basis and, in this respect, its work is supported by a Cultural Resource Management program developed by the agency and worked since 1974. In fact, this not just a program but it is cultural resource law and its requirements have to be obligatory fulfilled and are equal to federal laws. This is why it is practically impossible to disobey to the norms and requirements of the Cultural Resource Management program.
At the same time, it is very important that the Bureau of Reclamation takes care not only about historic and prehistoric cultural heritage but also about the further education of new generations which actually historical and cultural heritage is preserved for. In such a way, the agency creates conditions for the further continuation of the policy of preservation of cultural and historical heritage since a new generation is taught to respect their past.
In such a situation, aboriginal people often turn to be in the focus of attention of federal agencies dealing with cultural resource management. It is not a secret that traditionally aboriginal people of the US live in the forest and their main activities are gathering and hunting (Catton 1997, p.72). Obviously preservation of forests is getting to be vitally important not only for preservation of cultural heritage of these people but for their survival as a national unit.
In order to achieve this goal a number of programs and laws have been developed and, currently, they basically regulate the interrelationship between aboriginal people and administrative bodies in order to improve their cooperation and make the life of people better corresponding to their cultural needs and historical traditions. Basically these rules and laws honor Indian treaty rights and are intended for the conservation of landscape of forests where aboriginal people live.
Technologically, the conservation of lands and forests is realized by culture management workers that identify archeological and traditional cultural properties which possess historical and cultural value. As a result, before land is used they research the territory and if no archaeological or traditional cultural properties are found that they agree to let the land to be used. Furthermore, if potentially valuable artifacts are found the research has to be started in order to properly evaluate the cultural and historical significance of the land. Finally, if really valuable remains are found that the land is totally protected by federal agencies dealing with cultural resource management and it cannot be used otherwise but for cultural, historical, scientific and educational purposes only.
Management policies: National Park management
Obviously, management policies are of a paramount importance to the general success of numerous programs, rules, and regulations developed by different agencies aiming at the progress of cultural resource management. In this respect, it should be pointed out that cultural resource management provides reclamation which actually guarantees the effectiveness of the federal program of preservation of cultural heritage and develops its basic principles and goals. The work and programs developed by federal agencies fully correspond to the national legislation.
Furthermore, one of the basic tasks of cultural resource management is to clarify its aims and work in order to make it understandable for people and, thus, it will help to provide public support for those programs developed in terms of cultural resource management. Not less important is the significant role of cultural resource management in a proper implementation of numerous programs and coordination of work of all agencies in order to practically realize their goals and principles as well as to clearly define responsibilities of all parties related to the cultural and historical heritage.
In such a situation, the National Park Service is extremely important for cultural resource management. This service aims at preservation and fostering the appreciation of the cultural resources. At the same time, it is also important to underline that the National Park Service does not simply deal with some artifacts, historical objects, etc. but it also deals with ordinary people who actually should inherit this historical and cultural heritage.
As Mackintosh emphasizes, the National Park Service is the steward of many of America’s most important cultural resources (1986, p.49). In general, these resources may be categorized as archeological resources, cultural resources, historic and prehistoric structures, and museum collections (Mackintosh 1986). According to Mackintosh (1986), the National Park Service’s cultural program basically involves the following: a) researches aiming at the identification, evaluation, registration, and establishment of basic information about cultural resources and traditions related to people’s heritage; b) stewardship in order to guarantee that cultural resources are preserved, protected, appropriately treated, and available for public access; c) planning of management processes to make decisions and set priorities in preservation of cultural resources and to provide consultation and collaboration with outside entities.
Also, it should be said that the work of National Park Service is based on the principles of cultural and historical preservation, environmental protection and it fully corresponds to the norms of the current American legislation.
Naturally, a very important part of the National Park Service is the personnel because it is professionalism and high qualification of people working in terms of the National Park Service that can really make its work highly effective. In this respect, it is very important that cultural resource management implies constant development and education of people working in the field of preservation of cultural and historical heritage.
Finally, it should be said that the basic goals are: a) the creation of systematic, adequate, and current information database of cultural resources and associated peoples; b) the provision of protection, preservation, proper treatment, and interpretation of cultural resource; c) the development of approaches in order to effectively manage cultural resources, taking into consideration interests and opinion of associated peoples; d) the development of appropriate and effective methods and techniques for monitoring, protecting, preserving, and treatment of cultural resources; e) the research aiming at the correspondence of cultural resource management to the current legal norms and rules (Mackintosh 1986).
Conclusion: the effects of cultural resource management
Thus, in conclusion, it is possible to say a few words of culture resource management. In this respect, it is worthy to note that its effects is often argued because, on the one hand, culture resource management really contributes to preservation and protection of cultural resources, while on the other hand, it, firstly, basically refers only to government owned lands, and secondly, the emphasis on preservation may seem to be too significant to the extent that profound researches and studies are slowed down. Nonetheless, it is hardly possible to underestimate the positive effect of cultural resource management on the preservation of cultural and historical heritage.
1. Albright, Horace M., as told to Robert Cahn, The Birth of the National Park Service: The Founding Years, 1913-1933. Salt Lake City: Howe Brothers Press, 1986.
2. Catton, Theodore. Inhabited Wilderness: Indians, Eskimos, and National Parks in Alaska. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997.
3. Cox, Thomas R., Robert S. Maxwell, Phillip Drennon Thomas, and Joseph K. Malone. This Well-Wooded Land: Americans and Their Forests from Colonial Times to the Present. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985.
4. Duffus, James. Transfer of the Presidio from the Army to the National Park Service: Statement of James Duffus III, Director, Natural Resources Management Issues, Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division, Before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, Committee on Natural Resources, House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1994.
5. Freemuth, John C. Islands Under Siege: National Parks and the Politics of External Threats. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1991.
6. Kaplan, Robert D. An Empire Wilderness: Travels into America’s Future. New York: Random House, 1998.
7. Mackintosh, Barry. Interpretation in the National Park Service: A Historical Perspective. Washington, D.C.: Division of History, National Park Service, 1986.
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