What You May Have Missed in 2018: Preservation Leadership, Forum Style

By Priya Chhaya posted 12-27-2018 09:04


Happy end of the year from Preservation Leadership Forum! Before you continue reading, you should know that while, yes, this is our annual roundup of the things you meant to read, listen to, and participate in over the last year, it is not a comprehensive list of everything that has happened in the world of historic preservation in 2018. Rather, this post highlights some of the most exciting, impactful, and engaging work that the National Trust for Historic Preservation—and especially Forum—has done this year.

Signed Space Shuttle Atlantis Model, Destiny Module, International Space Station, 2017. From Interior Space: Preserving the International Space Station through Photography   | Credit: Paolo Nespoli and Roland Miller; image courtesy of NASA and the Italian Space Agency

What are your professional 2018 highlights? Visit Forum Connect, our free online community, to share your achievements, resources, and thoughts. We would love to hear from you!

Now on to the recap.


Our Government Relations team spent 2018 working on a wide range of issues related to the preservation of historic resources around the country, and they kept us informed every step of the way. They shared their lessons learned from the 2017 campaign to save the historic tax credit (HTC) while continuing to work on strengthening the credit throughout 2018. We’ve also been working to protect America’s public lands—and we could still use your help! Sign the petition to protect the Bears Ears National Monument as well as the petition in support of the Antiquities Act. We’ve also continued to work toward the passage of the Restore Our Parks Act and to support historic leasing in our national parks.

Ellicott City flood in May 2018. From Smart Growth and Resilience in the Face of Another Ellicott City Flood | Credit: Shannon Baranoski

Our legal team, meanwhile, has been hard at work fighting to protect the James River, a National Trust for Historic Preservation National Treasure in Jamestown, Virginia. We are currently waiting on a ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals   cregarding the James River, but we’ve already seen wins at some of our other National Treasures, including the Scenic Landscapes of New Hampshire and the Princeton Battlefield in New Jersey.

Start 2019 off right by signing up for our monthly advocacy newsletter. Also make sure to check out our archive of both Forum and Public Policy webinars, including this one about what to expect following the 2018 election.

Telling the Full History

One of the central tenets of Preservation for People: A Vision for the Future is the need to not only tell a full history but also listen to and amplify underrepresented voices. This year we spoke to Angelo Baca of Utah Diné Bikéyah about his work to protect Bears Ears and formally launched the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (we are now accepting letters of intent for the second round of grants). The Research & Policy Lab began a new study about cultural heritage and displacement in African American neighborhoods, and we look forward to important new data in 2019.

Our Historic Sites have continued to showcase new modes of interpretation. We learned about the role music can play in telling the story of the enslaved at Cliveden in Philadelphia and about the power of virtual reality at Villa Lewaro in Irvington, New York. Across the country, we continued our work to interpret women’s history—read the most recent issue of Forum Journal and watch the Forum Webinar from April 2018 to learn more about women’s stories.

New Preservation Tools

In 2018 we explored many new preservation tools and strategies. Conversations about the role of technology continue to permeate the field, and a recent Forum Journal issue, “Technology Transforming Preservation,” examined the use of geographic information systems (GIS), spatial analysis, augmented reality, social media, and other cutting-edge technologies in the work of saving places. We also hosted webinars about social photography and video and historical storytelling through technology.

A jazz performance to celebrate the re-opening of Washington Hall on June 10, 2016. From Washington Hall: More Than a Restoration Project | Credit: Jenny Tucker, Sticks and Stones Photography

We’ve been exploring new preservation tools—such as Opportunity Zones, which we’ll be discussing during our January 17 webinar. Earlier in 2018, we released a report outlining the importance of state HTCs.

We continued the conversation about the strategies for promoting building reuse, and National Trust staffer Brian Turner introduced us to a new tool for exploring America’s historic post offices.

Preservation for People

In 2018 we remained focused on the future of preservation. We considered the three major concepts from our vision document with Forum Blog posts about diversity by Saima Akhtar, about partnerships from Ethiel Garlington, and about equity and sustainability from Leslie Canaan. All of these authors emphasized the need to build an inclusive, people-centric movement—as did Sarah Marsom, this year’s American Express Aspire Award recipient, in her post about building the young preservationist movement.

Resilience, Intangible Heritage, and the Culture-Nature Connection: PastForward 2018

Of course, fall at the National Trust always brings with it our annual conference, PastForward. In 2018 our conference themes were resilience in the face of climate change, intangible heritage, and the relationship between culture and nature. Preservationists from around the world gathered in San Francisco in November to learn about the urgency of climate mitigation, consider the stories we tell and the histories we preserve as distinct from physical structures, and strengthen the connection between preserving built resources and conserving natural ones. While these conversations have been going on for years in certain corners of our field, PastForward 2018 provided us with an opportunity to bring them to the forefront of preservation practice.

Mrs. Lillie Pearson in Tillie’s Corner Food Shop in 1948. From Holistic Approaches, Inclusive Change | Credit: Tillie’s Corner Arhives

Check out the excerpts from the 2018 TrustLives, and stay tuned in 2019—we’ll continue to share resources and tools—and continue discussions—from the conference. And don’t miss the 2018 National Preservation Awards, including the recipients of the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Award (we are now accepting nominations for the 2019 National Preservation Awards).

The National Trust is heading into the new year ready for transitions. Our president and CEO, Stephanie K. Meeks, is stepping down at the end of 2018. At her final PastForward, she reminded us about the strides preservation has made over the course of her eight-year tenure and expressed her hope for the future. “Our work can be difficult and complicated,” she said, “But the reason preservation continues to attract new advocates all over America is because it is also infused with joy and love for our country and our communities.”

We’re looking forward to what 2019 may bring. Check back in early January to find out what you can expect in the coming year.

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