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Cultural landscapes and park management: a literature snapshot


Cultural landscapes and park management: a literature snapshot (07137cultlandresearch.pdf, 375KB) explores some of the extensive literature available on ‘cultural landscape’ and on ‘cultural heritage management’. The issues central to the review are:

  • What is a ‘cultural landscape’?
  • What does the term ‘cultural landscape’ cover?
  • How are cultural landscape concepts applied to heritage management?
  • Can the concepts be usefully applied to the management of the NSW park system?

The publication provides an overview of different cultural landscape approaches applied in World Heritage, by the US National Park Service, in Europe and across Australia. The review concludes that different agencies use different approaches when applying cultural landscapes to heritage management—the approaches are context specific.

The publication proposes that the landscape concepts that might best suit the NSW park system are those used and applied by the US National Parks Service Conservation Study Institute, concepts also adopted in the European Landscape Convention. These concepts emphasise dynamic processes over a whole ‘territory’ and include ‘ordinary’ heritage places/landscapes, not just remarkable landscapes.

These concepts also recognise the landscape as being continuously transformed by the interactions of nature and people – adding, abandoning, erasing and overlapping but always transforming (Scazzosi 2003, p. 55). The idea of landscape as continuously transforming requires dynamic forms of conservation management and recognises that present-day conservation land managers are active agents in the historical evolution of the landscapes they manage.

Each cultural landscape is situated within a historical/prehistoric and ecological context. For example, a pastoral landscape exists within the context of its environment – uncleared vegetation, cultivated grasslands, eroded landforms and modified watercourses. Pastoral heritage is only made meaningful when contextualised as a historical layer within a landscape of interrelated items (physical traces of history) and narratives (intangible heritage such as stories and memories of landscapes) (Harrison 2004).

A cultural landscape approach recognises that landscape can be continuously transformed by the interactions of nature and people, and can be most effectively managed through the application of integrated approaches. This implies that cultural heritage should be a component of all park management activities including, for example, the management of fire, weeds, pests, flora and fauna, infrastructure, occupational health and safety, and visitors.

Applying a cultural landscape approach

Applying a cultural landscape approach to managing the NSW park system proceeds on the basis of a number of general principles.

  • Landscape is a living entity, and is the product of change, dynamic patterns and evolving interrelationships between past ecosystems, history and cultures.
  • The interactions between people and landscape are complex, multi-layered and are distinctive to each different space and time.
  • Community engagement and dialogue, where all people’s values are noted and respected, are characteristic of a cultural landscape mentality.
  • All parts of Australia’s landscape have community connection and associated values and meanings.
  • A key element of cultural landscapes is the continuity of past and present.

The general acceptance of these principles is central to, and will underpin, a practical approach to cultural landscapes. For information on the cultural landscape approach advocated for park management in NSW see Cultural landscapes: a practical guide for park management.


Brown, S 2007, ‘Landscaping heritage: toward an operational cultural landscape approach for protected areas in New South Wales’, Australasian Historical Archaeology, vol 25: 33-42.

Scazzosi, L 2003, ‘Landscape and cultural landscape: European Landscape Convention and UNESCO Policy’, in UNESCO World Heritage Centre Cultural Landscapes: The Challenges of Conservation, World Heritage Papers 7, pp 55–59, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, France.

Harrison R 2004, Shared Landscapes: Archaeologies of Attachment and the Pastoral Industry in New South Wales, Department of Environment and Conservation, Sydney, and University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.

Page last updated: 26 February 2011