Goal 1: Growing, Collaborative Networks
Cultivate and support collaborative, effective grassroots preservation networks and partnerships with allied fields to address critical needs.
Preservation is powered by people who care about their communities and their history. Over decades, an impressive array of regional, state and national networks has developed to connect and support these local preservation efforts. Because we are most effective when we work together, as the movement matures and conditions change, investment in the organizational infrastructure of the preservation field is needed.
More effective information sharing, stronger collaborations, and new partnerships can help refresh and grow the grassroots preservation movement. Support is needed for new groups, as well as established organizations seeking to transition leadership. Stronger connections to allied fields such as the arts, community development, housing, and climate action bring new ideas and expand the impact of our work.
A few highlights of the suggested crowdsourced actions generated during focus groups are paraphrased below to stimulate conversation and further brainstorming. The source of each idea is indicated in parentheses at the end of each suggested action. If you would like to add a suggested action to this list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Establish a national design center to support grassroots organizations to assist with developing marketing materials/grant applications, social media videos/TikToks/Instagram reels to bring in younger audiences. (Source: Diversity Scholars focus group)
- Offer a certification or credential program that can increase the profile of smaller organizations doing preservation work to indicate that they meet standards of work quality. (Diversity Scholars focus group)
- Create new partnerships/cross-discipline conversations to learn how preservation impacts other disciplines and pursuits outside of the field. (Source: State Historic Preservation Offices focus group)
- Reduce gatekeeping of preserving diverse heritage, empower people doing this work by connecting them to resources/opportunities/networking/projects/collaborations. (Source: Emerging professionals focus group)
- Offer peer to peer mentoring for preservation in African American neighborhoods. Build a network among grant recipients for African American cultural heritage projects. (Source: Action Fund grant recipients focus group)
- Create a central place and/or platform to share thought leadership and resources around Queer history projects. (Source: LGBTQ heritage professionals focus group)
- Spur more collaboration and partnership with planning fields to bring more expertise and figure out how we fit into the bigger picture. (Source: Latinos in Heritage Conservation focus group
- Partner with realtors, who often serve as the key conduit of information to potential buyers on historic properties and historic designation programs, and well as non-profit community development and housing organizations. (Source: Big city planners focus group)
- We are out of people, out of craftsmen. This is not just a problem in Puerto Rico but also a problem in the entire United States. Allied fields like archeology, arts conservation, and collections management are important. We need to engage with these other disciplines so we can inform each other and continue to grow. (Source: Architect focus group)
- AIA has “knowledge communities” one of which is Historic Resources. Get involved with these existing groups. (Architect focus group)
- Small Business Administration does grants, grants training that works with the government grants system. That may not seem like a fit with preservation, but they are good at grants training. Opportunity to work collaboratively with other organizations that may not fit the mold of traditional preservation partners. (Source: Asian American heritage professionals focus group)
- We need to do more to legitimize the kinds of non-professional work that is happening, to embrace the porous edges of our field. (Source: Historic sites/museums focus group)
- Collaborate with America 250 in preparation for the national commemoration in 2026, embracing their interpretive themes which highlight diversity and inclusion. (Source: Historic sites/museums focus groups/PastForward listening sessions)
- Networking; collaboration; education of preservation students at undergraduate, graduate, and professional level. (Source: PastForward listening sessions)
- Promote regional approaches. Create regional ways to connect with the broader preservation community. The Museum world does this well, but it is missing in preservation. (Source: PastForward listening sessions)
- Relate national preservation issues with international efforts. Use the New Urban Agenda of 2016 as a guidepost for our goals. (Source: PastForward listening sessions)
- Reach out to cultural landscape programs that have private and public collaboration. (Source: PastForward listening sessions)
We hope the case studies below will inspire and inform your work in preservation. To reflect a fuller spectrum of the preservation movement as it continues to grow, we will continue to crowdsource and add additional examples over time. Please send additional case study ideas to email@example.com.
- National affinity groups have emerged as networking tools to connect diverse audiences around shared identities, including Latinos in Heritage Conservation, the Rainbow Heritage Network, Asian & Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation, the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites and more.
- To guide other organizations and individuals seeking to build a successful and sustainable network, the Alabama African American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium has developed a free downloadable 60-page Toolkit for Cultural Collaboration that includes guiding questions, lessons learned, best practices, steps for getting started and more.
- Between 2013 and 2015, more than 100 preservation partner organizations were convened in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the National Historic Preservation Act in October 1966 as the “Preservation50” coalition. After consulting with stakeholders engaged in this collaborative effort, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation put forward a report with the agency’s recommendations called The National Historic Preservation Program at 50: Priorities and Recommendations for the Future.
- A number of states have formed statewide commissions or councils to help preserve, interpret and promote significant sites of African American heritage in their state including the Alabama Black Heritage Council, the Georgia African American Historic Preservation Network, the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission and the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission.
- Collaborative networks connecting historic sites range from thematic and geographic networks such as the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios which fosters peer exchange and engagements, or the Alabama African American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium, to innovative interpretive partnerships such as the Sensory Tools Project which is helping to design inclusive, multisensory exhibition experiences that respond to a range of physical and cognitive abilities and disabilities.
- The National Preservation Partners Network (NPPN) was created in 2018 as a national association of non-profit historic preservation and heritage conservation organizations. NPPN helps preservation organizations grow and be more effective through education, training, communication and shared advocacy.
- The City of San Antonio, Texas, is partnering with the University of Texas at San Antonio Center for Cultural Sustainability to create a Design Assistance Program to provide design and technical assistance for homeowners and small business owners.
- America 250 is bringing together a broad range of partners to work towards this important national commemoration in 2026. Notably, the celebration’s vision strongly encourages inclusion and equality.
- The Alabama African American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium began as a collaboration between twenty historic civil rights places of worship, lodging and civic engagement in Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma and the Black Belt of Alabama. The nonprofit consortium provides opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, training and more to help strengthen the capacity and sustainability of participating sites.
- As part of an effort to address shared national preservation priorities, the National Preservation Partners Network and the National Trust teamed up to create the Preservation Priorities Task Force. Four working groups including staff from state and local preservation organizations, National Trust Advisors, and National Trust staff are working to develop tools and strategies to address issues of affordable housing and density, diversity, inclusion and racial justice, preservation trades and workforce development, and sustainability and climate action.
- The Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium (JACSC) includes organizations across the country with a shared interest in working to preserve, protect and interpret the WWII experiences of Japanese Americans. The group is currently working to renew the NPS funding for Japanese American Internment Sites.
Next Steps: Commitments to Action
We are focused on developing an assessment tool and resources for the National Trust and other preservation agencies, organizations, firms, and leaders around the country to evaluate their existing and future initiatives and shed light on how these goals can further align with the priorities identified in the crowdsourced Leading the Change Together. We aim to share more in the coming months and to provide opportunities for preservationists to showcase their initiatives and leadership in redefining the U.S. preservation movement today. Please check back for updates.
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