EDonaldson Header


Landscape History
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Brawner Farmstead

School House Ridge North

Other Cultural Landscapes

Projects & Publications

What's a Landscape Historian?

Landscape historians research the history of cultural landscapes, or parcels of land containing both natural and cultural resources.  This research includes everything from land ownership to buildings, roads, fences, trees, views, and spatial organization.  Seeking out this information requires visits to local historical societies, State and National Archives, museum archives, private and university collections, and of course the site itself.  Taking photographs of a site over time, in different seasons and under various conditions, is an important part of the job, along with online research and map making.  The finished product is typically a report or other document on site history.  For the National Park Service, these documents include an analysis of landscape features, an assessment of impacts to the historic character of the site and recommendations for how to preserve historic character moving forward.  Most landscape historians are trained as landscape architects or historians, but Emily's background as an anthropologist and archaeologist prepared her quite adequately for this type of work.  "Landscape history" is not currently available as a major in universities, but maybe one day it will be?

Cultural Landscapes and the National Park Service

Emily worked on landscape histories for the National Park Service (NPS) between 2007 and 2010.  For the most part, she wrote two types of reports: Cultural Landscape Reports (CLRs), and Cultural Landscape Inventories (CLIs).  In the simplest terms, these two document types help the NPS to not only become more familiar with its various properties and cultural resources, but to maintain the historic character of its landscapes.  Thus, park personnel can refer to these reports in making changes to NPS properties and gauge how to shape landscapes in a way that is sensitive to their history.  In the best case scenario, this might mean not cutting down a 200-year-old tree, or rehabilitating a nineteenth-century structure rather than tearing it down to replace it with a modern one.  The CLR and the CLI help individual parks determine which natural and cultural resources are most important in preserving the historic integrity, or authenticity, of a specific site.    

Read more about the NPS and its cultural landscapes program here.

Emily's projects ranged from Cape Cod dunescapes to the Civil War battlefields of Virginia.  The links at left cover a small sampling of them.  All historic information is taken from Emily's Cultural Landscape Reports or Inventories on these properties.  Enjoy, and please VISIT our wonderful and unique National Parks

Becoming a Cultural Landscape Historian

There are many different paths to becoming a landscape historian.  If you Google "Cultural Landscapes" or "Landscape Historian" or some variation on those themes, you'll be sure to get some ideas.  Cultural landscape historians most typically have backgrounds in landscape architecture, history, architectural history, anthropology, archaeology or some combination of the above.  Emily was trained in archaeology and anthropology in college, then worked as an archaeologist for a few years before receiving further (Masters) training in anthropology.  She then began her work in cultural landscape history as an intern with the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation.  Through participation at conferences and a little networking, she was then able to gain a contract position as a cultural landscape historian with the U.S. National Park Service in Washington, DC.  The National Park Service and the State Historic Preservation Offices employ cultural landscape historians throughout the country.  There are also a number of private firms and landscape architecture companies that either staff or contract landscape historians.  Please feel free to email Emily with questions if you are curious about working in the field of cultural landscapes.