Preservation Magazine, Summer 2020

President's Note: Resiliency and Recovery

Paul Edmondson.

Over the past several months our world has changed dramatically. These changes evidence how our physical, cultural, economic, and social health are intertwined and interdependent, across all divisions of race, class, wealth, and geography.

First, with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed as if the entire country had shut down. And, like every other sector of our economy and our society, the cultural sector was deeply affected, including the National Trust.

Yet, we adapted. We learned to do our work while sheltering at home, we discovered new ways of communicating, and we developed creative ways to share the power of historic places in digital form. With a generous sponsorship from American Express, we celebrated May as our inaugural Virtual Preservation Month, each day unlocking a new online feature about a special historic place—from art lessons at the studio of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner to the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab (with five of the best landscape architecture firms in the country) to a culinary history of artichokes at Cooper Molera Adobe in Monterey, California. We found new tools to engage Americans with their history, reminding them how the resiliency of historic places and their ongoing stories echo our resiliency as Americans. As preservationists, we have a critically important role to play in our country’s recovery from the pandemic.

Then, layered over the pandemic, came the tragic killing of George Floyd, followed by public demonstrations across the country that rightfully questioned why the values of freedom, opportunity, and justice are still not applied equally to all Americans.

As preservationists, we also have a role to play in helping the nation recover from the longstanding diseases of structural racism and inequity. At the National Trust, we are committed to recognizing and preserving the places that tell the full story of the American people, and—particularly in this moment—preserving and honoring the buildings and landscapes that tell the stories of generations of African Americans, whose history defines the very meaning of the word resiliency. By taking a proactive approach, such as through our African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, we can help to advance the goals of racial justice and equity.

Our history and the places where it happened give us critically important tools and inspiration to heal and unite our society. At the National Trust, we pledge to deepen our commitment to these efforts—and to the achievement of a more just and healthy society—in grateful collaboration with partners around the country.

Paul Edmondson, National Trust President and CEO

Paul Edmondson was the president & CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation from 2018-2023.

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