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This dissertation focuses on the National Register of Historic Places and considers the geographical implications of valuing particular historic sites over others. Certain historical sites will either gain or lose desirability from one era to the next, this dissertation identifies and explains three unique preservation ethical eras, and it maps the sites which were selected during those eras. These eras are the Settlement Era (1966 – 1975), the Commercial Architecture Era (1976 – 1991), and the Progressive Planning Era (1992 – 2010). The findings show that transformations in the program included an early phase when state authorities listed historical resources pertaining to the settlement of the state, and also to Native American village archeological sites. At that time, authorities viewed road and bridge construction projects as threats to historic sites. After the passage of the 1976 Tax Reform Act, common citizens gained considerable site selection power. Motivated by tax advantages, such citizens favored commercial architecture, changing the geography of the National Register. In addition, in 1992 authorities wrote the Highway Bridges in Nebraska 1870 – 1942 documentation, and layed out plans for the selection of bridges, roads, and for the renovation of entire sections of decaying inner-cities.
As part of the dissertation research, data were gathered using the National Park Service’s national register information system database, and were acquired during personal interviews with state historic preservation employees. Information was also noted while directly in the field. In order to examine how minorities are being represented at sites, a field study was conducted which involved visiting thirty-two minority sites (twenty-two Native American, and ten African American sites). Lewis’ (1979) and Meinig’s (1979) landscape analysis approaches informed the field study, and the researcher used the versatile narrative-descriptive approach (as recommended by Mink  and by Tuan ) to analyze and describe the general datum trends. This dissertation serves decision-makers by providing an evaluation of past trends in historic site selection processes and consequently assists them in discerning historical significance and cultural value. It concludes with prognostication about future patterns in historic preservation and recommends research into areas including the fifty-year rule, and nationally-scaled preservation ethics.
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