Preservation & Interpretation

As preservationists and museum professionals re-examine the historic house museum model, the methods and narratives used in interpretation emerge as a focus. Creating access—not only through broader representation but also by providing visitors with a clearer understanding of a site’s meaning—is key. As a result preservationists are developing tools and techniques to enliven sites through art, stronger community engagement, and new technologies. Learn how house museums and historic sites are moving beyond the velvet ropes.

More on Historic Sites

Visit Preservation & Historic Sites for more tools and resources to protect historic sites in your community.


Activating Historic Spaces

Activating historic spaces requires engaging audiences, existing and new, in the reimagination of a site. Successfully activating places requires a dual connection: the contemporary reanimation of the place must both credibly incorporate its past and authentically resonate with its present-day visitors. There are many ways to achieve this effect—commercial or nonprofit, utilitarian or aesthetic, transient or permanent. But whether using art installations to awaken a dormant industrial site, drawing the forgotten narratives out of a riverside landscape, or incorporating the story of a minority-owned restaurant into its revival, it is the commitment of audiences, customers, and patrons that truly determines the resurgent relevance of a historic space.

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Web Companions

Activating Historic Spaces Through Innovative Reuse

Getting It in Writing: Negotiating Agreements with Artists at Historic Sites

Interpreting Slavery at National Trust Historic Sites

For the last two decades, historic sites around the country have been engaged in a steady, thoughtful  discussion about slavery and race. This conversation isn’t always comfortable or easy, but it happens consistently and it happens with the authenticity and veracity that can only happen in an old place, in a place where history happened and history is preserved and history is connected to the present. In this series the Preservation Leadership Forum blog takes a look at National Trust Historic Sites and how their interpretation of slavery has evolved and changed over the years.

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