Looking Back on 2016

By Priya Chhaya posted 12-30-2016 13:41


In 2016 we celebrated the anniversaries of the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Park Service, but the year has also brought significant change. Going into 2017 we know that we’ll be facing a number of challenges to saving places, including threats to preservation through tax reform and the ongoing questions facing historic and cultural resources as a result of climate change. We, as advocates, will have to work harder and more creatively to tell the stories of the people and places that comprise our diverse historical fabric and to ensure their protection.

In the coming year, Forum will be there to support preservation leaders as we have in years past—providing news, tools, and trainings to help you in your work. We will continue to focus on the future of preservation with an updated version of “Preservation for the People: A Vision for the Future.”  This crowd-sourced document represents the collective thinking of the many people who shared their ideas about the future of preservation with the National Trust over the past 18 months. The final document, which will be released in early 2017, will incorporate additional comments that were shared at PastForward Houston.

And our new website will allow us to continue to expand the resources and tools available to preservationists on the ground. We’re excited for what’s to come and will share that with you in early 2017, but let’s take a moment to look back.

Cyclists down Louisville's Main Street. | Credit: Courtesy Louisville Images


This year the National Trust launched our ReUrbanism initiative, including the Atlas of ReUrbanism—a mapping tool from the Preservation Green Lab that illustrates the capacity of adaptive reuse and older, smaller buildings to strengthen and support communities in cities across the country. Learn more by reading about the 10 principles of ReUrbanism or by watching a TrustLive panel, featuring Rick Lowe of Project Row Houses, discussing the role historic preservation can play in the rebirth of livable, vibrant, equitable, and creative urban communities through reinvestment and reuse of existing places.

And this fall the president and CEO of the National Trust, Stephanie Meeks, released The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities, which she co-authored with Kevin C. Murphy. The book uses unique empirical research to describe the many ways that saving and restoring a city’s historic fabric can help create thriving neighborhoods, good jobs, and a vibrant economy. Meeks explains the critical importance of preservation for all communities, the evolution of the preservation field to embrace the challenges of the 21st century, and the innovative work being done in preservation today. Meeks shared some of these ideas during the PastForward 2016 Opening Plenary.

A More Inclusive and Diverse Preservation Movement

This year preservationists continued efforts to recognize and celebrate a diverse cultural legacy. Highlights include a TrustLive presentation from documentary filmmaker John Valadez—who discusses the role historic sites play in racial healing and social justice—and the Forum Journal summer 2016 issue, “The Full Spectrum of History:  Prioritizing Diversity and Inclusion in Preservation.” This issue recaptured and built on conversations initiated at the PastForward 2015 Diversity Summit. Finally, hear how the quest to protect a more inclusive history is playing out through the lawsuit of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock Sioux Tribe vs. U.S. Army Corp of Engineers from this Forum webinar analyzing the legal landscape of the case. 

Luftwerk’s INsite installation transformed the Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe–designed Farnsworth House with light and sound, creating a new experience for visitors to the site. See a video of the installation. | Credit: Leon Liss, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Activating Historic Sites

This year Forum also focused on activating historic places as a strategy to better teach history, tell stories, and promote reconciliation and healing. The spring 2016 Forum Journal, “Activating Historic Spaces,” provided several examples of re-imagining sites in order to engage and resonate with contemporary audiences. In Houston we heard from Nina Simon about how her work at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History strives to celebrate relevance, engage new audiences, and open doors for a broader range of interests. Finally, we highlighted both the theoretical and the practical aspects of activating historic sites in a series of blog posts:

At the PastForward 2016 Closing Luncheon, Theaster Gates of the Rebuild Foundation said, "Helping to make buildings beautiful is one part, but it's also about how those buildings serve … people." In the coming year, we will continue to embrace the capacity of preservation not only to save beautiful places but also to serve diverse, vibrant, and equitable communities.

Have a happy new year, and we’ll see you in 2017!

#ForumWebinar #Diversity #ForumJournal #ForumBenefit #PastForward #Advocacy #ReUrbanism

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