The Global Family of National Trusts

Posted on: November 5th, 2008 by David J. Brown

Most Americans spent election night in front of the television or computer. Depending on their reaction to the outcome, that may have been followed by either celebrations or a quick crawl under the covers.

But I spent the evening on a plane to Slovakia.

That seems a strange destination as winter approaches, but I was headed to an executive committee meeting of the International National Trusts Organisation (or INTO). We are being hosted by the National Trust of Slovakia in a meeting that will combine INTO internal work and outreach to this small but thriving member of the global family of National Trusts.

This is actually a two-part meeting, but the election kept me away from the first session. On November 3rd, London’s Canada House – home of the Canadian High Commission – hosted an event celebrating the opening of the INTO Secretariat in that city. INTO is a network of National Trusts and similar organizations from around the world, united by their common interest in the conservation and enjoyment of our intangible and tangible heritage – both cultural and natural.

INTO’s mission is

to promote the conservation and enhancement of the cultural and natural heritage of all nations for the benefit of the people of the world, which it aims to achieve through cooperation, coordination and comradeship between the international community of National Trusts, the development and promotion of best conservation practices, increasing the capacity of individual organizations, establishing Trusts where they do not presently exist, and advocacy in the interests of heritage conservation.

That’s an ambitious agenda. Yet it mirrors what we do every day here in America at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States (our official name). And it only makes sense – in this increasingly interconnected global environment – to work with like-minded colleagues from non-governmental organizations to both learn and share in the effort to save the places that matter in communities across the world.

As an INTO press release reported, top Australian environmental lawyer and Chairman of INTO Simon Molesworth, speaking at the Canada House event, stressed that National Trusts are well placed to deal with economic, environmental and social change in the 21st century.

“Many people think that National Trusts are primarily concerned with the past,” noted Molesworth. “In fact we have to understand the world around us today and although we can’t predict the future, we can explore the forces shaping change. This helps us to identify potential future unique opportunities for the National Trust movement.”

INTO was formed in 2007, at a time when built and natural heritage all over the world is under increasing threat from neglect, environmental change, conflict and disaster. But, as INTO’s Director of Finance Geoffrey Read noted, “Increased global trade, physical and digital connections and economic change are having a growing influence on Trusts and international cooperation – the sharing of experience and knowledge, making the best use of limited resources, avoiding duplication – is becoming ever more important. This is a great opportunity for the unique skills and mindset of the National Trust movement to broaden our contribution in support of the world’s marvelous living and built heritage.”

So over the next few days I’ll be reporting through PreservationNation on what we could call “PreservationInternational.” And if you want to learn more about this new organization called INTO, check out the newly launched web site. The electronic newsletters posted there are our first efforts to share the wealth of what the global National Trust community has to offer.


David J. Brown is Executive Vice President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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