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About the AHLP

President's Message

Dear Members of the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation,

It seems fitting that this message comes to you during the shortest days of the year in the northern hemisphere. It reflects the somber mood of extended periods of social isolation and frequent lockdowns, the loss of sleep caused by the stress of growing economic uncertainty, and of course, the gnawing anxiety and heart-wrenching sadness with the increasing hospitalization rates and daily loss of life. Forgive me if this seasonal message is rather bleak; this year of pandemic has been a rough one.

December brought the solemn news that a long-term member of the Alliance, Anne Hoover, had passed in mid-November. Our deepest sympathies go out to her extended family and friends for their loss. Anne was a stalwart attendee to the annual meetings of the Alliance regardless of location or venue; she was always full of energy and delight, eager at the prospect of learning new facts and exploring sites during our afternoon excursions. (A quick tip shared with conference organizers from year to year, was to scan the tour bus for Anne’s presence before performing a headcount, she was famous for her lingering at the scheduled destinations, soaking up the ambience as if it was nourishing her soul.) From our meeting in Detroit, I learned that she had a surprising knack for playing feather ball. The AHLP will sorely miss her effervescent presence.

The Board of Directors of the Alliance has decided to proactively cancel the upcoming annual meeting for 2021, believing that the health risks for an “in-person” conference are too steep. We debated holding the yearly gathering remotely, but we know that our annual meeting is a shared and communal experience. The impromptu conversations, the meeting with community representatives and local scholars, seeing familiar faces, and hopefully forming new friendships are the essence of our annual conferences. Zoom, and other remote technologies, quickly appeared to be an inferior substitute. We will soon announce an activity that we hope will act as a stop-gap for our engaged members to discover and share knowledge of historical and cultural landscapes, so please keep your eye on our website for more information in the new year. As for those slated to present at Natchitoches, Louisiana in 2020, we will honour your acceptance at the next in-person conference, and we will provide you with that information as soon as it is clear that it is safe to meet.

As we find ourselves in the winter equinox and the nadir of daylight, thankfully, we know that the days will start to become longer, and this winter will also eventually pass.

Sincerely yours,
Martin J. Holland
President, AHLP

What is the AHLP?

The Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation is an interdisciplinary professional organization which provides a forum for communication and exchange of information among its members. It is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of historic landscapes in all their variety, from formal gardens and public parks to rural and natural expanses.

The Alliance was founded in 1978, when a small group of people from diverse backgrounds met at New Harmony, Indiana, to share their mutual interests and concerns about the growing field of landscape preservation. From this initial symposium came recognition of the need for increased commitment to the interdisciplinary nature of the field.

Today the Alliance is an international organization with members from more than 30 U.S. states, several Canadian provinces and Europe. Members include educators, private practitioners and representatives from non-profit organizations and government agencies. Geography, history, horticulture, landscape architecture, planning, public administration and architecture are just some of the professional specialties represented. This multi-faceted character is one of the great strengths of the Alliance.

The Alliance is incorporated in Wisconsin as a non-profit organization.

The Pitch(pdf)

What Does The AHLP Do?

The Alliance is a landscape preservation advocacy group. Alliance members are engaged in a multitude of activities related to the protection and presentation of historic landscapes. Its mission is to educate the public about historic landscapes, their values, threats and ways to preserve their important characteristics. The main thrust of the Alliance is to offer a forum for communication for its diverse membership.

Alliance members are involved in a wide range of projects in restoration, rehabilitation and conservation including:

  • preparation of heritage landscape inventories and assessments
  • master planning for historic sites
  • historic cemetery and battlefield conservation
  • study of industrial, agricultural, heritage conservation districts
  • development of rural protection strategies
  • development of vegetation management strategies and study of native plant communities
  • accessing sources of material for historic structures
  • writing of histories of landscapes and creators/designers of these landscapes
  • oral history collections

Members also teach, write, develop policies, and advocate for the preservation of historic landscapes. Many are involved in management, from standards to on-site activities including implementation.

What are Historical Landscapes?

“Landscape implies far more than high-style aesthetics; it is a document of the shared aspirations, ingenuity, memories, and culture of its builders.”
J.B. Jackson, Cultural Geographer

To define what is meant by historic landscapes is to risk burdening the reader with an overwhelming array of thoughts and perspectives. Needless to say, there are many definitions which have been developed over the years. The more recent acceptance of the term ‘cultural landscapes’ provides the basis for the following definitions.

Cultural Landscapes

Cultural Landscapes represent the combined works of nature and of man and are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal. (UNESCO/ICOMOS Expert Group, World Heritage Convention Operation Guidelines, February 1995)

The following cultural landscape types have been defined by UNESCO. (The US National Park Service, Parks Canada and other groups all have definitions on this topic. Please refer to their websites for further information. See links.)

Clearly defined landscape designed and created intentionally by man

This embraces garden and parkland landscapes constructed for aesthetic reasons which are often (but not always) associated with religious or other monumental buildings and ensembles.

Organically evolved landscape

This results from an initial social, economic, administrative, and/or religious imperative and has developed its present form by association with and in response to its natural environment. Such landscapes reflect that process of evolution in their form and component features. They fall into two sub-categories:

  1. The relict (or fossil) landscape: one in which an evolutionary process came to an end at some time in the past, either abruptly or over a period. Its significant distinguishing features are, however, still visible in material form.
  2. The continuing landscape: one which retains an active social role in contemporary society closely associated with the traditional way of life, and in which the evolutionary process is still in progress. At the same time it exhibits significant material evidence of its evolution over time.

Associative cultural landscape

The inclusion of such landscapes on the World Heritage List is justifiable by virtue of the powerful religious, artistic or cultural associations of the natural element rather than material cultural evidence, which may be insignificant or even absent. (UNESCO World Heritage Convention, Operational Guidelines, February 1995)