Last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation joined preservation colleagues all across the nation in celebrating 50 years of achievement under the National Historic Preservation Act—the critical 1966 law that still shapes our work today. We also took the opportunity of this golden anniversary to draw inspiration from the preservationists who made the act a reality; take stock of the current direction, strengths, and shortcomings of our field; and develop a vision to guide our efforts for the next 50 years.
The document before you—“Preservation for People: A Vision for the Future”— represents the culmination of that effort. It reflects more than a year of aspirational thought and discussion among preservationists, scholars, and others closely aligned with or affected by our work, including architects, artists, community advocates, developers, and municipal leaders. If you attended PastForward 2016 in Houston last November or any of more than 12 other meetings and conferences that we have held since May 2015, your input is reflected here as well.
In crafting this vision, we aimed to celebrate our many collective accomplishments since President Lyndon Johnson signed the act, while also acknowledging continuing opportunities to advance preservation and building reuse as a powerful force for shaping thriving communities. What we found time and again in these conversations was strong alignment regarding where we need to go as a movement: to ensure that the benefits of preservation to people are front and center in our work and to adapt our tools and campaigns in support of this fundamental philosophical orientation.
With that in mind, the vision offers specific recommendations to help translate our aspirations into concrete and attainable objectives. The National Trust is already beginning to use some of these in our work, and we hope other preservation practitioners, organizations, agencies, and individuals will also begin to adopt those recommendations that are relevant to their missions.
“This is not a … magic carpet that will float us to Utopia,” wrote our magazine editor, Helen Duprey Bullock, about “With Heritage So Rich,” the seminal report that laid the foundation for the 1966 act. “But,” she added “it is the best chart we have ever had to guide us to a better destination.” We hope that this vision serves as a similar roadmap for our joint efforts, that it provokes discussion and encourages new thinking, and that it inspires you as we all work to move preservation forward in the decades ahead.
Stephanie K. Meeks is the president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
What are your thoughts about the future of preservation? How have you incorporated the concepts from "Preservation for People" into your efforts to save places, or how do you plan to incorporate them? We want to hear your feedback and questions about the vision document as well as your ideas about how preservation can remain relevant and energized as we look to the next 50 years. Join discussions, post questions, and respond to your colleagues' ideas on Forum Connect—an online community for leaders in the preservation field. All are welcome to join and get connected.