Managing cultural resources for climate change

Posted in: Cultural Resources


The framework was developed using Cape Lookout National Seashore, located on a 56-mile long chain of barrier islands on the North Carolina coast, as study site. CALO’s cultural resources range from historic districts Portsmouth Village and Cape Lookout Village with historic buildings and structures to archeological sites and a feral horse population.
The framework was developed using Cape Lookout National Seashore, located on a 56-mile long chain of barrier islands on the North Carolina coast, as study site.

Unfortunately, we’ve all seen how recent hurricane events have significantly impacted Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida. These weather events may negatively impact cultural resources. Historic buildings and archeological and cultural sites are vulnerable to strong storms, changes in rising sea levels, flooding and erosion.

A recent pilot study caught my attention: Assessing Historical Significance and Use Potential of Buildings within Historic Districts. Undertaken by North Carolina State University, the study identified and tested a method to prioritize climate adaptation changes to historic resources. The assessment weighs two main factors to prioritize among the many historic resources of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. The first factor considers historical significance such as the association, condition and character of the historic buildings. The second reviews use potential of buildings considering things such as operational use and visitor, scientific and interpretive uses.

By weighing and scoring the factors, decisions about climate adaptation planning and priorities can be made. This is especially useful when trying to make decisions for a large number of buildings within a historic district and limited financial resources.

This is one of a few studies that provides a practical tool for management of historic resources and climate change.

As mentioned in our recent climate change blog, another great study is the National Park Service’s Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy. This study sets out a vision and approach to manage impacts to cultural resources by climate change.


Christina Slattery

About the Author

Christina Slattery specializes in historic preservation of transportation and engineering structures. She evaluates the significance of properties ranging from missile defense systems to road corridors, and develops creative mitigation strategies for projects.

Read more posts by Christina Slattery

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