Traditional cultural properties (TCPs) are cultural resources that have a strong association with the beliefs and identities of a particular culture. As described in National Register Bulletin 38: Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties (Parker and King 1990):
A traditional cultural property, then, can be defined generally as one that is eligible for inclusion in the National Register because of its association with cultural practices or beliefs for a living community that (a) are rooted in that community’s history and (b) are important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community.
Research on TCPs involves a multi-faceted investigation that includes the development of historic and archaeological contexts. A TCP’s identification and evaluation is ultimately rooted in the beliefs of a living community, requiring ethnographic research and oral history interviews to determine how the members of a culture feel about a site or location and the cultural associations of that place. Applying the standards of the Oral History Association, New South Associates’ ethnographers and historians are adept at interviewing representatives of a culture and identifying the relationship of a community’s beliefs and traditions to a specific site. The evaluation of a TCP’s eligibility for nomination to the National Register has less to do with integrity of a site and relies primarily on a property’s cultural associations and values.
While locations with a religious association may qualify as TCPs, they are not limited to religious sites. TCPs may include a broad array of both natural settings and cultural constructions that are associated with a community’s identity. The beliefs that make a location eligible for nomination as a TCP can include spiritual and religious practices, historical associations, or continual land use practices that bond a natural landscape and a community. New South Associates and its staff have completed a large number of TCP evaluations, including work with Native American, African American, and European American communities and including the evaluation of religious sites, natural landscapes, historic towns, and cemeteries. New South Associates’ work on the TCP evaluation of New Echota, the Cherokee Capital in Georgia, has received multiple awards and is the subject of a documentary.