Preservation Magazine, Winter 2017

President's Note: Houston, We Have Liftoff

At our recent PastForward Conference in Houston, my seventh as president of the National Trust, our yearlong celebration of the National Historic Preservation Act’s golden anniversary concluded in rousing fashion, and I was once again reminded of both the vibrancy and variety that characterize preservation today. From field studies to learning labs to our special gathering on the next 50 years of our movement, attendees discussed ways to more fully explore the past, inform the present, and enrich our future.

The excitement, optimism, and innovative spirit on hand was often palpable. Documentary filmmaker John Valadez helped us explore the ways that old places can bring us together around issues of social, racial, and environmental justice. Nina Simon, director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, explained how historic sites all over America are reimagining themselves as 21st-century centers of learning and community.

American Express and the National Trust announced our new Partners in Preservation: Main Streets campaign for 2017. And artist Rick Lowe talked about his use of preservation to meet the most pressing challenges facing families today. He and his organization, Project Row Houses, have been transforming once-ramshackle shotgun houses in Houston and other cities into affordable residences, exhibition spaces, and community service centers.

Time and again, PastForward showed us that the work of preservation takes many forms, and there are so many inspiring ways that people are making a positive difference. You can see the same dynamic at work in the Winter 2017 issue of Preservation.

Sometimes, as in the case of Maine’s Halfway Rock Lighthouse, a place can be saved through the generosity and painstaking commitment of one dedicated individual. More often, whether it’s restoring the Sculpture Gallery at Philip Johnson’s Glass House or developing preservation plans for Mission 66 sites such as Arizona’s Painted Desert Community Complex, it takes a village—many advocates and organizations working together to restore a cherished place or preserve a landscape.

Just as the work of preservation is varied, there are many ways to get involved, from volunteering at the local history center to helping repaint an old home. By making an unrestricted donation to a nonprofit or historic site. Or simply by loading the family into the car and visiting a place that matters.

The important thing is to take that one small step from which all others follow: to get more engaged in saving the places around us this year. Preservation is entering 2017 in a very exciting place, and by working together, we can take a giant leap into the future.

Stephanie K. Meeks was the president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation from 2010-2018. She is the author of "The Past and Future City."

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