Cultural landscapes are the natural and cultural resources contained within a defined geographic area that are associated with a specific historic activity, event, person, or culture. Cultural landscapes can be as large as a battlefield site, an entire neighborhood, a viewshed from a historic house, or as small as a backyard garden in the city. The National Park Service recognizes four different categories of cultural landscapes:
• Historic sites;
• Historic designed landscapes;
• Historic vernacular landscapes; and
• Ethnographic landscapes.
Historic sites are landscapes that are significant due to their association with a historic person, event, or activities such as a battlefield. Historic designated landscapes are those deliberately designed or laid out by a landscape architect, master gardener, architect, or horticulturist according to design principles, or by an amateur gardener working in a recognized style or tradition. Historic vernacular landscapes are comprised of land that has evolved based on function as opposed to design. These landscapes result from the everyday activities of inhabitants and include industrial complexes. The final category, ethnographic landscapes, includes those that reflect the cultural values of a people or group. These landscapes can be religious sites, contemporary settlements, or large geographic landforms, such as Stone Mountain.
Cultural landscape studies examine the ways in which people interact with surrounding environments throughout time. In a recent study by New South Associates, staff members created From Beaman Park to Bells Bend – A Community Conservation Project that was a collaborative conservation plan for a rural landscape in northwest Davidson County, Tennessee. The plan’s purpose was to raise awareness of this unique rural area that lies within the Nashville metro region and to seek ways to preserve its rural character.