Historic Context Statements: A Primer

This webinar normally comes at a cost of $30 / $40 for members and non-members respectively. Purchase the full-day workshop on March 19th, 2020 (Historic Context Statements) and receive this program at no additional cost.

This one-hour, lunchtime primer will help newer and older professionals alike understand the value and utility of historic context statements. Outlined in National Register Bulletin 24, Historic Contexts are the first step in the Historic Survey process. They are critical to determine survey scope, budget, timeline and appropriate personnel. They also guide survey results and their effectiveness in future planning decisions. Ultimately, a context helps to assess what is important in community history and what is not important. At the planning stage, this tool guides decisions about future community and neighborhood development, including zoning density and changes in use. Contexts may change depending upon survey type, intended use, passage of time and new information.

A reconnaissance level survey asks broad questions about community or neighborhood history, whereas an intensive level survey addresses specific issues such as the history of individual properties, owners, social groups, designers, materials & construction methodology. Contexts help to identify potential historic districts and can lead to development of protections and incentives for property owners.

Contexts also provide data for comparative analysis of individual properties, contributors and non-contributors to historic districts. They help to set district boundaries and determine periods of significance. These parameters are necessary for for both historic designation purposes and CEQA determinations of significance and non-significance.


Diane Kane, PhD, Emeritus Trustee, California Preservation Foundation; Sara Delgadillo Cruz, Preservation Planner, Los Angeles City Planning, Office of Historic Resources; Elysha Paluszek, Associate Architectural Historian, GPA Consulting; Kelley Stanco, Development Project Manager, Policy & Ordinance Development/Historic Preservation Planning, City of San Diego Planning Department.

Learning Objectives

  1. Identifying what a context statement is, and defining dates place and themes
  2. Contexts & Historic Survey Effectiveness: Scope, Budget,Personnel, Time
  3. Contexts, Planning & CEQA: Separating what is important from what is not important
  4. Using Contexts to Refine, Modify and Prioritize Future Work