The cultural resource community – agencies, state historic preservation offices, and consultants – has recognized the need and benefit for historic contexts to guide resource identification and evaluation. At a 1999 National Transportation Research Board (TRB) meeting in Washington attended by New South Associates, one of the recommendations put forth was to develop regional and topical historic contexts, particularly for common and challenging resource types. The TRB study recognized that contexts pulled together existing information on a resource type including previous studies, identify character-defining features of that resource, and present recommendations on the survey and evaluation process. The TRB study recommended the development and use of contexts as a tool to streamline and standardize cultural resource survey and evaluation.
New South Associates is nationally recognized as a leader in the development and application of historic contexts. One of the first contexts developed after the TRB study was a context on historic agriculture in Georgia, prepared by New South Associates in consultation with the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office. Since then, New South Associates has prepared contexts for the Woodland Period, historical archaeology, mining and mineral industries, streetcars, ranch houses, and the Dixie Highway in Georgia; country stores and gold mining in South Carolina; toll bridges in Tennessee; and a multi-state context for rural industries of the Sand Hill prepared for the Department of Defense Legacy program. The Ranch House in Georgia is one of the first contexts to provide guidance on the survey and evaluation of mid-century buildings and received the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s Award of Excellence as well as the prestigious National Council on Public History’s M.C. Robinson Award that recognizes projects that contribute to the formation of public policy.