Care > Planning


"Martha Demas: Let's start by asking the basic question of how each of you defines management planning.

"Christina Cameron: Management planning is the long-term vision that you set out for a site. Within it there are also short-term objectives. A management plan must be rooted in the values of the place and be created through a multidisciplinary team. The other essential element is that it is a public document. It is a commitment by those entrusted with looking after a site.

"Carolina Castellanos: My definition is very similar. Management planning is an integrated participatory process, driven by significance. It also means trying to preserve a series of values that we have prioritized at this moment in time and that will certainly change as time evolves."

Building Consensus, Creating a Vision : A Discussion about Site Management Planning, Site Management, Vol. 16.3, Fall 200, Conservation: The Getty Conservation Institute Newsletter, Getty Conservation Institute.


Racine. Laurel. On the Inside Looking Out — Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Furnished Interiors, CRM, vol. 9, 200, National Park Service. [Download PDF format file.]

Preservation Planning and the Research of Historic Furnished Interiors

Before any changes are made to the historic furnished interior, its current condition must be fully recorded. Careful planning prior to treatment can help prevent the loss or diminishment of resources and can inform future decisions concerning the treatment of a historic furnished interior. An on-going record of the investigative, decision-making, and physical treatment processes should be kept to inform future administrators and planning efforts. In all treatments for historic furnished interiors, the following general recommendations

  • Documentation of the actual work process is an essential and often overlooked part of any treatment.
  • Planning and research for historic furnished interiors must be an interdisciplinary process. The treatment of the historic building and the cultural landscape should be taken into consideration when selecting a treatment option. However, protecting and preserving significant resources are more important than selecting a single treatment tied to one date or date range.
  • Historical research must be undertaken to provide an overview of the building's construction history, analysis of historical occupancy, history of furnishings, and evidence of room use. This research should also address the cultural and historic value of the interior and evaluate its significance within the context of other related interiors. Preparation of a historic structure report and historic furnishings report is the most common method for compiling this documentation.
  • This baseline information is needed before a treatment option is selected and a full treatment plan developed.
  • Site-associated documentation and physical evidence are of prime importance to the preservation planning process.
  • Assessing an interior as a continuum through history is critical in understanding its cultural and historic value. Based on analysis, individual features may be attributed to a discrete period of introduction, their presence or absence substantiated to a given date, and therefore the interior's significance and integrity evaluated.
  • The ease with which furnishings can be rearranged or removed from a setting requires a more flexible definition of integrity of location. The integrity of an interior is not necessarily lost by the removal of character-defining features (movable furnishings) from their original location. However, if a historic site has an intact, preserved interior, it is critical that every aspect of the historic furnished interior be documented before any objects are moved or otherwise changed by the commencement of project work.
  • Historic furnished interiors include textiles and other fragile materials that often require replacement to ensure the protection of original fabric and to maintain integrity of design and feeling. As a result, a flexible definition of integrity of materials is required. The degree of replacement may determine the appropriate treatment. Replacement of fragile items must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Factors in Choosing Treatment

A treatment is a physical intervention carried out to achieve a historic preservation goal — it cannot be considered in a vacuum. There are many practical and philosophical variables that influence the selection of a treatment for a furnished interior:

Change and Continuity.

Change is inherent in furnished interiors, the result of material deterioration and human activities. Despite change, an interior will usually retain continuity of architectural form, and may retain continuity of use, features, or materials.

Relative Significance in History.

A historic furnished interior may be locally, regionally, or nationally significant for its association with an important event or person. An interior also may be a rare survivor or the work of a master craftsman or interior designer.

Integrity and Existing Physical Condition.

Integrity is the authenticity of a furnished interior. Existing conditions can be defined as the current physical state of the interior's spaces, interior architectural features, finishes, furnishings, and interior design. A historic furnished interior can retain its integrity, but be in poor condition, or vice versa.

Conservation in Context.

Prior to any project work beyond stabilizing objects, the overall consistent appearance of the historic furnished interior must be addressed. In considering the conservation and re-creation of objects, the issues of age, wear, and cleanliness must be discussed. Ideally, a newly conserved or re-created object should not stand out from the assemblage. The treatment and re-creation of objects must be considered within the context of the whole historic furnished interior.


Historic, current, and proposed use of the interior must be considered prior to treatment selection. Historic use is directly linked to its significance, while current and proposed use can affect integrity and existing conditions.

Management and Maintenance.

The institution's overall mission should not be forgotten in the face of planning for a historic furnished interior. It should be determined whether such an interior fits into the mission statement and whether the institution has the resources to commit to such a venture without neglecting other cultural and natural resources. Alternatives to historic furnished interiors are formal exhibits, a period room, series of period rooms, or historic furnished vignettes (furnished portions of rooms).


A sound interpretive strategy for a historic site cannot be developed before an interior's history, character-defining features, significance, and integrity are evaluated. Serious mistakes, resulting in the loss of irreplaceable original features, can occur when pre-conceived interpretive goals and management considerations shape treatment decisions. Likewise, interpretive objectives and needs must be considered as part of the planning process.


The guidelines are in draft form. The Northeast Museum Services Center is in the early stages of collaborating with Heritage Preservation during the final phases of the project. We need better illustrations of recommended practices from institutions and organizations representing all regions of the country. Once the illustrations are in place, there will be one more review and the document will be published.

Laurel Racine is a senior curator at the Northeast Museum Services Center, Charlestown, Massachusetts. Contact her at 617-242-5613 or <> with requests for copies of the final draft and suggestions for possible illustrations for the document.

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