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Historic context (theme, place, and time) is one of the most important aspects of evaluating and establishing the historic significance of a property. Historic contexts provide information about historic trends and places that are linked by important themes in the prehistory or history of a community, state, or nation during a particular period of time. Historic context provides the framework for evaluating the significance of place, and thus determining its eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. On this page, you will find a list of thematic and contextual documents that address particular themes and places. These documents may be used to prepare National Register of Historic Places nominations, Multiple Property Documentation Forms, survey reports, narrative documents, and for other place-based research projects.
Among the links presented in this list are three types of documents that have been approved by the National Park Service, known informally as “cover” documents. Two versions of these forms, Thematic Resources (TR) and Multiple Resource Area (MRA) were used until 1991. These versions were replaced by the Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF), which is used at present. Thematic Resource cover documents address individual buildings, sites, structures, objects, and historic districts that are thematically related. For example: Religious Structures of Woodward Ave. Thematic Resource. Multiple Resource Area cover documents address individual buildings, sites, structures, objects, and historic districts that are geographically related. In these documents, historic places are linked by a common place rather than by a common theme. For Example: Lapeer Multiple Resource Area. Despite their age, the TR and MRA documents contain useful information, often about the development of communities. The bibliographies may also contain useful references and sources. The Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF) is the current version of this type of document. The MPDF is not a nomination and does not, by itself, result in a listed property. Rather, it is used to nominate and register thematically related historic properties simultaneously or to establish the registration requirements for properties that may be nominated in the future. The MPDF streamlines the nomination process by providing and organizing information common to the property type(s) and historical themes presented in the document, and by simplifying the evaluation process.
Historic Contexts are narrative reports or documents that address specific historical, architectural, or archaeological themes, often relative to a specific place. While similar to an MPDF, historic contexts do not provide registration requirements and are not approved by the National Park Service. For example: An Honor and An Ornament: Public School Buildings in Michigan.
Other documents in this list, produced by other state and federal agencies, provide information for common property types and themes.
The year of publication or approval is provided in the table below to give the researcher a sense of when the documentation was completed.
None of the documents in this list should be considered a complete history of a place, a person, or a theme. Nor will these documents alone be sufficient to list a property in the National Register. Rather, these documents should be viewed as a starting point, with some able to provide more information than others. MPDFs, with identified property types and registration requirements, will be the most useful, but TRs, MRAs, and other documents will still provide valuable information and save time and effort.
NOTE: Many of the links available below direct to external websites such as nps.gov and archives.gov and may take a moment to load. Feedback on the links presented here? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Allegan Multiple Resource Area||Allegan||Allegan||1987|
|Plainwell Multiple Property Submission||Plainwell||Allegan||1991|
|Petoskey Multiple Resource Area||Petoskey||Emmet||1986|
|Genesee County Multiple Resource Area||Multiple||Genesee||1982|
|Port Hope Multiple Property Submission||Port Hope||Huron||1987|
|Port Hope Multiple Property Submission (Additional Documentation)||Port Hope||Huron||1987|
|Downtown Lansing Multiple Resource Area||Lansing||Ingham||1980|
|Downtown Lansing Multiple Resource Area (Additional Documentation)||Lansing||Ingham||1980|
|Mason Michigan Historic Multiple Resource Area||Mason||Ingham||1985|
|Iron County Multiple Resource Area||Multiple||Iron||1983|
|Kalamazoo Multiple Resource Area||Kalamazoo||Kalamazoo||1983|
|Isle Royale National Park Fire Towers||Isle Royale||Keweenaw||2021|
|Shipwrecks of Isle Royale National Park||Isle Royale||Keweenaw||1984|
|Lapeer Multiple Resource Area||Lapeer||Lapeer||1985|
|Tecumseh Multiple Resource Area||Tecumseh||Lenawee||1986|
|Residential Architecture of Alden B. Dow in Midland, 1933-1938||Midland||Midland||1989|
|Residential Architecture of Alden B. Dow in Midland, 1939-1941||Midland||Midland||1980|
|City of Monroe Multiple Resource Area||Monroe||Monroe||1980|
|Center Saginaw Multiple Resource Area||Saginaw||Saginaw||1982|
|Owosso Multiple Resource Area||Owosso||Shiawassee||1980|
|Saline Multiple Resource Area||Saline||Washtenaw||1985|
|Canton Township Multiple Property Submission||Canton Twp.||Wayne||2000|
|Apartment Buildings in Detroit, Michigan, 1892-1970||Detroit||Wayne||2017|
|Branch Banks in Detroit, Michigan, 1889-1970||Detroit||Wayne||2017|
|Cass Farm Multiple Property Submission||Detroit||Wayne||1997|
|East Jefferson Avenue Residential Thematic Resource||Detroit||Wayne||1985|
|Public Schools of Detroit||Detroit||Wayne||2011|
|Religious Structures of Woodward Ave. Thematic Resource||Detroit||Wayne||1982|
|The Civil Rights Movement and the African American Experience in 20th Century Detroit||Detroit||Wayne||2021|
|Historic Resources of the University-Cultural Center Phase I||Detroit||Wayne||1986|
|Historic Resources of the University-Cultural Center Phase II||Detroit||Wayne||1986|
|West Vernor Highway Survey Area, Detroit, Michigan||Detroit||Wayne||2002|
|Thematic & Statewide|
|Woodland Period Interior Archaeological Sites of the *********, Upper Peninsula of Michigan, ca. A.D. 1-A.D.1600 (NPS)||Restricted||Restricted||2019|
|West Michigan Pike||Multiple||Multiple||2010|
|Highway Bridges of Michigan||Multiple||Statewide||1999|
|The Agricultural Landscape of Michigan (MDOT)||N/A||Statewide||2004|
|An Honor and An Ornament: Public School Buildings in Michigan||N/A||Statewide||2003|
|Michigan's Railroad History: 1825-2014 (MDOT)||N/A||Statewide||2014|
|Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America||N/A||Statewide||2016|
|Light Stations of the United States (NPS & NCSHPO)||N/A||National||2002|
|United States Coast Guard Lighthouses and Light Stations on the Great Lakes (USCG)||N/A||National||1979|
|U.S. Government Lifesaving Stations, Houses of Refuge, and pre-1950 U.S. Coast Guard Lifeboat Stations (USCG)||N/A||National||2013|
|USPS Nationwide Historic Context Study: Postal Facilities Constructed or Occupied Between 1940 and 1971 (USPS)||N/A||National||2012|
|NPS National Historic Landmark Theme Studies||N/A||National|
|Fruitful Legacy: A Historic Context of Orchards in the United States (NPS)||N/A||National||2009|
|Growth, Efficiency and Modernism: GSA Buildings of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s (GSA)||N/A||National||2003|