Published Date

February 1, 2005

From Retrieving the Master’s Degree from the Dustbin of History (2005)


Historians (Developmental Level)

Description:1 Historians who satisfy the competencies at the Developmental Level hold the knowledge and skill usually conferred by a Master’s Degree in American History, American studies, American civilization, or architectural history, and also the proficiency in historic preservation equivalent to a Master’s Degree in historic preservation or public history with a specialization in preservation or cultural resource management. … [At this level,] historians easily conduct research in primary and secondary sources, know how to evaluate and interpret a variety of source material, and can synthesize information from these sources into coherent historical arguments. They can study cultural resources and discern their important physical and associative characteristics. At this level, historians participate in the planning and development, as well as implementation, of a variety of interdisciplinary cultural resource projects. They also have begun to participate in the ongoing dialogue of the larger professional fields of history and historic preservation. . . .

I. Professional Discipline

  • Provides information and knowledge about American history.
  • Broad knowledge of American history, architectural history, or landscape history with detailed knowledge on a specific topic.
  • Working knowledge of the theories, principles, practices, and techniques of the historical method (see Research and Survey).
  • Knowledge of historical discussion and debate on topics of expertise.
  • Ability to identify and maintain professional contacts with colleagues within the history profession, including memberships in historical organizations and attendance at conferences.

II. Preservation Law, Philosophy, and Practice

  • Provides information and knowledge on the identification, evaluation, documentation, registration, treatment, and management of cultural resources.
  • Knowledge of the origins and development of the historic preservation movement and of historic preservation theory, philosophy, and practice, including a working knowledge of the laws, regulations, standards, and NPS policies and guidelines…
  • Ability to design and conduct activities and create products that reflect sound preservation principles and practices.

III. Research and Survey

  • Conducts and/or reviews historical research and cultural resource surveys.
  • Ability to determine the need for research and/or survey, and to outline a scope and objectives of the study.
  • Strong working knowledge of research techniques and methodologies and the ability to apply them, such as:
  • Ability to identify and gather primary and secondary source materials in libraries, archives, National Park Service record holdings, and other facilities;
  • Ability to evaluate critically historical evidence and to place research and survey findings into a larger context;
  • Ability to draw conclusions of fact from historical evidence. …
  • Ability to write analytical histories on one or more simple or complex topics.
  • Ability to evaluate critically historical research, planning documents and proposals, and other documents. …

IV. Program and Project Management

  • Completes a variety of preservation projects and activities.
  • Working knowledge of related disciplines involved in cultural resource activities, such as art and architecture, landscape architecture, archeology, collections management, and interpretation.
  • Ability to participate in the development and implementation of a variety of interdisciplinary cultural resource research, planning, technical assistance, and reporting projects.…

V. Writing and Communication

  • Presents information on historical and preservation topics, issues, and programs in oral and written form to NPS managers, colleagues, other professionals, and the public.
  • Ability to prepare and deliver effective talks and papers on historical topics and preservation issues.
  • Ability to draft policy letters, reports, and briefing papers; write informational articles; and complete other written assignments.

VI. Training

  • Presents standardized training on historical topics and on preservation history, law, regulation, policies, guidelines, and practices.
  • Ability to organize, coordinate, and/or direct the logistical aspects of training courses or conferences.
  • Ability to develop effective goals, learner-centered objectives, agendas, presentations, activities, and participant evaluations for training events.
  • Ability to use a variety of teaching techniques, as appropriate, including lectures, open or directed discussions, question/answer sessions, media presentations, individual and group exercises, and field studies.

Next section: Appendix 4


  1. The National Park Service established “essential competencies” for the agency’s historians at three levels: Entry, Developmental, and Full Performance (roughly equivalent, in terms of academic preparation, to a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a doctorate). Only the competencies from the Developmental Level are reproduced here. A few competencies that refer exclusively to policies and procedures at the NPS have been deleted. See for the complete document. []