Preserving the Imagined Past: Reconstructions and the National Park Service
Ries, Elizabeth S.
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The National Park Service (NPS) has been a consistent leader in cultural resource management and historic preservation for almost 100 years. Along with historic structures, the NPS is responsible for the management and maintenance of reconstructed structures. Reconstructions, or the “imagined” past, have been contested over the years in terms of their authenticity and interpretive value. While the question of reconstructions continues to be debated, the NPS must contend with over 200 reconstructed features within the nation’s park system. This paper provides a critical examination of the contemporary issues related to maintaining the “imagined” built environment. Working from examples at three national parks, physical factors are addressed, as well as how the age of the reconstruction affects the planning and methods of maintenance of each resource. Conclusions integrate the maintenance issues facing the NPS with the future, long term preservation implications of using reconstructions to interpret the American past.