Aspire Award

American Express Aspire Award

The American Express Aspire Award recognizes an emerging leader in the preservation field who has made significant achievements in preservation. The Aspire Award highlights the promise and potential of the preservation field through its talented emerging leaders. Award winners will be honored at PastForward 2021.

For inspiration, learn more about past years' awardees.

View a video of the 2020 joint Aspire Award recipients: Zulmilena Then, Allison Toonen-Talamo, and Melissa Mortimer.

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  • Individuals nominated for the Aspire Award must have ten or fewer years of experience in the preservation field.
  • Nominations submitted in previous years that were not selected to receive an award may be updated and resubmitted.
  • Nominations may be made without the knowledge of the nominee, but nominees must be present at the award ceremony, either in person or virtually as agreed upon with the National Trust, to receive recognition.
  • Self-nominations will be accepted.
  • Nominations for posthumous awards will not be accepted.
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation Trustees, Advisors, and staff are not eligible to receive a National Preservation Award for individual achievement during the period of their active service and for three years thereafter. 
  • Properties owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation will not be considered, nor will individuals or groups of individuals for their work relative to National Trust properties.

Award Criteria

To be considered for the American Express Aspire Award, nominated individuals must meet the following criteria:

  • Have ten or fewer years of experience in the preservation field
  • Demonstrate a serious commitment to preservation through their work, both paid and volunteer
  • Raise the visibility of preservation through their efforts
  • Be an innovator in the field and demonstrate measurable impacts of their work
  • Have influence in their community 

Award Benefits

The American Express Aspire Award recipient will receive:

  • Complimentary registration for two (2) to the PastForward conference
  • A physical award which will be presented at an awards ceremony during the PastForward conference


  • Recipients must appear at the awards ceremony during the PastForward conference
  • Recipients are responsible for their own travel and lodging to PastForward
  • Recipients will be available to provide quotes and background information for press releases and other media surrounding the award and the award presentation
  • Recipients may be asked to give brief remarks during the awards ceremony
  • Recipients may be asked to write a blog post for the Preservation Leadership Forum blog and/or may be asked to contribute to Forum Journal
  • Recipients may be asked to serve as panel members for educational sessions at PastForward
  • Recipients will be asked to publicize their award through their social media channels, if applicable

Key Dates

  • January 4, 2021: Nomination period opens
  • February 15, 2021: Nomination forms due at 11:59 p.m. (your local time)
  • By July 1, 2021: Nominators and award recipients notified. The nominator will be notified for those not selected.
  • November 1-5, 2021: The award ceremony is currently scheduled to take place at PastForward 2021 in Washington, D.C. the week of November 1-5, 2021. Award recipients are required to be present, either in person or virtually as agreed upon with the National Trust, at their award presentation.

Nomination Process and Procedures

Nominators must complete one nomination form (requirements listed below) and submit it before the February 15, 2021 deadline in order for the nominee to be considered. Self-nominations are accepted.

Nominations must conform to the procedures outlined on this page to be considered for an award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A link to the nomination can be found at the bottom of this page. Please be sure to read all guidelines and eligibility information before starting your nomination.

Nomination Requirements

In order to be considered for an American Express Aspire Award, a nomination including the following must be submitted by February 15, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. (your local time):

  • A completed nomination form that includes:
    • A concise narrative (7,500 characters or less including spaces) that describes the individual’s preservation achievements and addresses the award’s specific criteria (listed above)
    • Up to 5 brochures or news clippings
    • Up to 3 letters of recommendation
    • Up to 10 photos. We strongly recommend including a headshot of the nomiee and photos demonstrating their preservation work.
    • Up to 2 video files related to the nominee's work. Examples: footage of preservation projects, community testimonials, news cuts, etc.

Nomination Form

All nominations must be submitted online. Paper submissions will not be accepted. 

Click here to access the National Preservation Awards submission form. To begin your nomination, you will need to sign up for a Submittable account or sign in to an existing Submittable account if applicable. Once you have signed into Submittable, the submission form will become available. Answer the first question according to which award category you are submitting a nomination for. If you wish to be considered for multiple categories, you will need to submit multiple nominations. Once you begin your nomination, you will be able to save your progress and return to the site to continue working on the form by clicking "Save Draft" at the bottom of the page.

If you have any questions, please contact Lizzy Barringer at