July 22, 2014

How to Nominate a National Treasure

[Preservation Tips & Tools] How to Nominate a National Treasure from PreservationNation

Today more than ever, historic places that tell America’s broad and diverse story are becoming endangered and threatened. These places contribute to our shared national heritage and that’s something worth protecting, which is why we at the National Trust for Historic Preservation created the National Treasures Program.

National Treasures are where we take direct, on-the-ground action to save these places and promote their history and significance. But we need your help in identifying places of national significance that would benefit from the deep organizational resources of the National Trust. This toolkit explains how you can nominate a threatened historic resource in your area to become a National Treasure.

140722_blog_photo_NominateNationalTreasure_MiamiMarineStadium_InesHegedus-Garcia The National Trust for Historic Preservation at a Miami Marine Stadium event with special guest and trustee Gloria Estefan

When beginning the nomination process, make sure that the historic resource (a building, landscape, monument, or community) meets the following three criteria:

1. The historic resource must be nationally significant, or the preservation work must have national implications.

To qualify for national significance, places should be designated National Historic Landmarks, be listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of significance, or hold some other designation that recognizes it on a national level.


To have national implications, the outcome of successful preservation work should set a precedent or act as a national model to help save or protect other similar historic resources across the country.

Note: It is sometimes possible that a place may be nationally significant, but its significance is not fully recognized. This is particularly true for sites where the history is only now being researched or told, such as Mexican-American sites, LGBT sites, or other under-recognized communities.

2. The historic resource must be threatened.

Examples of threats that endanger a place include closure, demolition, inappropriate development, insufficient protection, lack of funding, and neglect.

3. There must be a clear role for the National Trust for Historic Preservation to help make a difference.

When a historic resource is selected as a National Treasure, the National Trust offers technical assistance in advocacy, marketing, planning, legal assistance, development, heritage tourism and other various areas of preservation to help save the threatened resource.

A National Treasure designation is a beneficial title for an endangered place to have. With this title, historic resources receive the expertise and weight of the National Trust in the preservation movement and have a great chance of being saved and protected from threats.

The Delta Queen, named a National Treasure in 2013, is America's last historic overnight passenger steamboat.

Success stories are always encouraging and often inspire people to get involved in helping to save a place. Because the National Treasures program does just that, there are some guidelines to keep in mind when going through the nomination process.

Variety is good.

The National Trust loves to receive a wealth of applications and encourages people to nominate diverse and unique places. It creates variety within the revolving portfolio of National Treasures, and helps us reach a broad audience.

Currently, although the National Trust is interested in hearing about any place that may qualify, we are particularly interested in finding National Treasures that represent Women’s, LGBT, Asian Pacific Islander-American and Latino history. Sites may be either historically associated with the relevant community, or currently associated with the community. Sites may also be significant for social history or other reasons, and do not have to be architecturally significant.

Patience is appreciated.

With the nomination process, the National Trust encourages patience too, as this is a highly competitive national program. National Treasures nominations receive multiple levels of review within the National Trust, and this process can take some time.

Each campaign is unique.

It’s important to remember that no two National Treasures are the same. Each campaign has a different background story and therefore, will require different advocacy approaches. For example, some campaigns might focus heavily on marketing strategies, while others require legal advocacy.

Nonetheless, protecting and preserving these endangered resources is the ultimate goal. We take on each Treasure as an individual and unique preservation effort, but strategizing and mobilizing for each campaign can foster a united spirit within the community.

Example: Terminal Island

Let’s take a look at our completed Terminal Island campaign. Named a National Treasure in 2012, this once-vibrant Japanese-American fishing village was a major World War I and II shipbuilding center, as well as the birthplace of the worldwide tuna canning industry.

For all its history, however -- including the tragic chapter where its community was relocated to an internment camp during WWII -- the vacant industrial buildings there faced demolition.

The National Trust, partnering with the LA Conservancy, negotiated with the Port of Los Angeles to develop a new plan that favored preserving and reusing the buildings as an alternative to demolition.

The campaign claimed victory in August 2013 when the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved a Port Master Plan that focused on the preservation needs of Terminal Island, recognizing its significant industrial and cultural history. (Read more about the successful campaign here.)

If there’s a threatened historic resource in your area that you think deserves a “National Treasures” title, nominate it here. The National Trust has been preserving and protecting America’s historic places for more than 60 years, and with your help, we can continue the mission in new and inventive ways.

Cassie Keener is an Editorial Intern at the National Trust. She enjoys writing, spending time outdoors, and enthusing about movies and music.

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