People Saving Places at the National Trust
For more than 70 years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has been working to raise awareness of, advocate for, and protect historic places across the country—all thanks to a passionate and dedicated staff. So as part of Preservation Month 2022, we’re taking a moment to acknowledge our teammates, the colleagues who have spent the last two years doing the hard work of saving places despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because this list features people who volunteered to be included, we’re also high-fiving those not called out by name. From our dedicated group of preservation lawyers; the small but mighty team that runs the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund; our stalwart government affairs staff; our tireless preservationists; everyone at our 27 historic sites and our subsidiaries; our conference and training organizers; the development, finance, marketing, and IT staff that keep us running as we shift to a new way of working within the world … we salute you all.
Without further ado, here are six people saving places at the National Trust.
Mary Butler, Senior Creative Director
“Where else can you unroll a 20-foot banner on the Jefferson Memorial, cover an airstream and truck in Route 66 branded graphics, and design merchandise to help save the home of Nina Simone?”
Since 2008, odds are you have seen the work of Mary Butler, the creative director at the National Trust. Butler’s over 25-year experience with brand and design has lent itself to creating the vibrant visuals that have defined National Trust campaigns, and for Butler, “the diversity of places and people I get to learn about and work with bring me much joy, especially as a designer.”
For example, it was a thrill for her to be on the ground for the unveiling of the very large banner for “Save the Tidal Basin,” an ongoing campaign that is building awareness around the daily flooding and challenges of the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C.
One of Butler’s current projects is designing Preservation magazine, and Butler is inspired, every day by the stories included within. One of her recent favorites is “Messages from Angel Island” in the Spring 2022 issue, written by Lydia Lee and photographed by Jay Graham. Butler describes how “most haunting and beautiful is the poetry carved into the walls by detainees trying to pass the time which we featured on the cover. There were so many incredible images, it was hard to choose exactly which ones to feature in this layout. The designer in me was so very humbled to be working with such a powerfully written and beautifully photographed story.”
Catherine Killough, Project Coordinator, Historic Sites
As one of our newer staff members, Catherine Killough has hit the ground running. A project coordinator in the Historic Sites department, Killough supports five of the National Trust Historic Sites as they develop programs as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities American Rescue Plan “For the People, By the People” grant. Killough says this grant “offers us an opportunity to advance equity and reconciliation with a particular emphasis on engaging the descendant communities at the center of our historic sites.”
Killough came to the National Trust as an advocacy professional who has worked on grassroots campaigns related to foreign policy. She entered the preservation space following the events of 2020, where she “felt galvanized to work across movements to better communicate the interconnections between the crises we are grappling with today.” Through her work, Killough is inspired by the historic sites’ commitment to telling the full American story, even as challenges from the pandemic make the work harder.
As someone with an English degree and a MA in Asian Studies, Killough is also hoping to connect another one of her passions to preservation work—animation. She would “love to use animation in preservation to illuminate the hidden stories and memories of the places we strive to protect.”
Emily Kahn, Program Coordinator, National Fund for Sacred Places
When you know, you know. Emily Kahn, who is the program coordinator for the National Fund for Sacred Places, knew she wanted to work in historic preservation since she was 11 years old. After a family trip to Nantucket and Salem, Massachusetts she dedicated her academic and professional work to saving historic places, particularly religious sites.
Today, this work as a preservationist is through outreach and engagement—something that her varied background in storytelling, museum interpretation, archival research, fundraising, and archeology is uniquely situated to do. In her current role (which includes writing about sites in the National Fund for Sacred Places for this website), Kahn works with stakeholders and communities to “identify historic places, understand their significance, discuss strategies for their preservation, and spread awareness about these places to diverse publics.”
Today, Kahn is inspired by the scope of grantmaking at the National Trust. In her current role she has “had the privilege of reviewing applications for the National Fund for Sacred Places, African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, and the National Trust Preservation Funds, and I am consistently blown away by the innovative, creative projects supporting communities through preservation that we are able to support.”
Diana Maxwell, Senior Manager of Grants
Diana Maxwell first recognized the power of place growing up as the fifth generation to live on her family’s dairy farm in Geneseo, New York. Her work at the National Trust began in 2009, as the program assistant in the contracts department, and in her current role as the Senior Manager of Grants she oversees grantmaking for the organization. With a background in communication and a graduate degree in museum studies and historic preservation, she says, “I learned in my studies in historic preservation that I don’t love doing the hands-on preservation work; however, I am so glad that I can help grant projects by getting grant funding to them.”
As a member of the—as Maxwell says—"awesome grants team,” she interacts with every single funding program that the National Trust offers. Part of that work involves reading nearly every application that comes in—work that brings its own dose of inspiration. Earlier this year, Maxwell was one of the reviewers for the National Trust’s “Telling the Full History Preservation Fund Grants,” where she “learned so much reading through the applications we received (more than 400!) and is so glad the National Trust can help these organizations tell the stories of their communities more broadly.”
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Kendra Parzen, Field Officer
Kendra Parzen came to the world of preservation after watching her parents restore their historic home following a devastating fire. A historian and historic preservationist by training, Parzen loves to “uncover and appreciate the ways in which history’s mark is felt in our modern communities and hopes to inspire others to do the same.”
Today, Parzen is a field officer at the National Trust where she works with partners in the preservation community to advocate for historic places. Much of her work is on the ground including some strategic interventions on behalf of places at risk. Parzen says, “One of the most rewarding parts of my job is providing technical assistance and guidance to our grantees and people that nominate sites to our 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list, helping them advocate for the places that matter to them.“
Parzen is inspired by the Chesapeake Mapping initiative, which she has been managing since 2020. The goal of the project is to identify and record places of African American history in the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay. “I’m constantly inspired by the breadth of untold stories of [Black] life in this part of the United States, where many families have roots that go back generations. I’m motivated to uplift those stories and make sure that this history is documented, since we need to know that places exist in order to protect them.”
Seri Worden, Senior Field Director
As the senior field director for the National Trust, Seri Worden has led several high-level projects for the organization—including the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab and the work on the Historic Neighborhoods of Philadelphia. With nearly twenty years of experience in historic preservation, urban planning, and nonprofit leadership, Worden believes that partnering is one of the essential ways to successfully save places. She says, “We in the nonprofit sector must work hand in hand with government agencies, the public, and stakeholders. I lead the Tidal Basin Ideas lab, working with landscape design firms, NPS and Trust for the National Mall to reimagine one of the country’s most significant cultural landscape”
Worden finds inspiration in a variety of ways. One of the projects she is working on—and one of the 2022 listings for America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places—is the James Brooks and Charlotte Park Home and Studios on Long Island. Worden says, “It’s been inspiring to learn about the unsung contributions of female artists, like Charlotte Park, to the Abstract Expressionist Art Movement. Women often took a secondary role to men in 20th century art and their contributions are becoming more fully acknowledged and appreciated.” Worden also appreciates the Backing Historic Small Restaurants program, which emphasizing that food and old places are inspiring, that “authenticity and experience in place and culture is historic preservation.”
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