Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2011

Capstone Advisor

Anne Mosher

Honors Reader

Robert Wilson

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Geography | Human Geography


In this paper, I analyze recent economic and political trends by providing an in depth look at the National Heritage Area (NHA) program. By tracing their conception and origination back to the early 1980s, I attempt to place NHAs within the larger framework of deindustrialization and government cutbacks that were occurring at the time. Furthermore, I show how, with their emphasis on building social capital and creating cross-jurisdictional ties, NHAs were a natural response to emerging “new regionalist” ideals in America. By embracing the concept of regional partnerships to enhance economic competitiveness, NHAs signaled a new drive towards geographical thinking throughout much of the country.

After providing a quick survey of the existing academic literature, I take a closer look at the NHA program by making use of three case studies. In telling the stories of these three areas, I attempt to show why there has been such an increasing demand for NHA designation in recent years.

Finally, I show that, because of a lack of enforced standards, the NHA program has become susceptible to partisan forces, both locally and on Capitol Hill. Furthermore, I use testimony from National Park Service officials to show that the program is now in real danger of running out of funds. With such a flawed system of designation, I end by posing some critical questions for a program in need of a direction.

Ultimately, I conclude that, while these issues are troubling, the true significance of the NHA program comes from its reliance upon the idea of geographical place. By embracing the power of geography to drive economic competitiveness, NHAs are just one example of how spatial concerns have become increasingly important in today’s society.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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