[10 on Tuesday] A Who's Who of Preservation Organizations

Posted on: January 28th, 2014 by Sarah Heffern 7 Comments

Elizabeth Vehmeyer, of the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program, learns surveying techniques in Alexandria, Va. (Photo courtesy Megan J. Brown)
Elizabeth Vehmeyer, of the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program, learns surveying techniques in Alexandria, Va.

“It takes a village…” is a common saying when talking about raising children, but the same is true of historic preservation. No building is saved by one person, organization, or agency alone -- it takes a collaborative effort to save a place.

But with so many different groups involved, how do you know who does what? And how do you keep them all straight? Today’s toolkit is a primer on who does what in the preservation world, complete with their acronyms (which are, in my opinion, often the most confusing part).

1. National Park Service (NPS): If you’re like most people, when you hear “National Park Service,” you think of natural sites like the Grand Canyon or historic places like the Statue of Liberty. But parks and sites are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Park Service’s work in preservation. They also are responsible for the National Register of Historic Places, preservation grant programs, the certification program for federal historic tax incentives, and management of the certified local government program (more on this last one later).

2. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP): The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation is an independent federal agency that advises the President and Congress on preservation policy. The ACHP’s main function is to review and comment on federal and federally assisted and licensed projects that affect properties that have been designated as historic.

3. State Historic Preservation Office/Tribal Historic Preservation Office (SHPO/THPO): When preservationists say “Shippo” and “Tippo,” these are the groups they’re talking about. They are the public sector preservation partners on either the state or tribal level. Their responsibilities include: identifying historic properties; considering National Register nominations; reviewing federal projects for their impact on historic properties; administering tax incentive and grant programs; and providing assistance to federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector. They coordinate via an organization called the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, or “Nic-Shpo” for short.

4. Certified Local Governments (CLG): The Certified Local Government program is administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the state historic preservation office to promote preservation at the grassroots level. CLGs are local governments with historic preservation programs that meet the Park Service's prescribed standards, making them eligible for technical assistance and small matching grants. There are nearly 1,900 local governments currently participating in the program.

5. Local Preservation Commissions: Local preservation commissions are the principal local level, public sector preservation partners. Commissions -- which may also go by the name of architectural review board or historic preservation commission -- identify locally significant properties. They are established through the adoption of a local preservation ordinance and have a wide range of responsibilities and powers depending on state and local laws. The local preservation commission is the governmental agency that approves or denies changes to designated historic properties that are privately owned.

Local commissions are supported by the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC), which serves as a "national voice" for the commissions, and also offers education, advocacy, and training.

Culpeper, Va., won a Great American Main Street Award in 2012. (Photo courtesy lewsviews on Flickr)
Culpeper, Va., won a Great American Main Street Award in 2012.

6. Main Street Programs & Organizations: Found in more than 1,200 communities nationwide, Main Street programs combine historic preservation with economic development to restore prosperity and vitality to downtowns and neighborhood business districts. The National Main Street Center (a nonprofit subsidiary of the National Trust) is a good place to start to connect with organizations in your area.

7. Preservation Action (PA): The only national preservation lobby, Preservation Action coordinates a network of preservationists, community activists, and civic leaders who provide grassroots support for preservation on Capitol Hill and in their states and communities.

8. Statewide Preservation Organizations: Unlike SHPOs, statewides are private nonprofit groups that serve as a preservation network and represent preservation activities within a state. They advocate for preservation-friendly legislation in the state government, provide technical assistance, and offer training and education programs.

9. Local Preservation Organizations: Much like their statewide counterparts, these nonprofits advocate for local preservation issues and provide technical/educational assistance. Many also get directly involved in saving properties through loan funds, buying and rehabbing properties, and otherwise helping owners take care of their property. They tend to be more hands-on than statewide organizations.

And last but not least...

10. National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP): Like statewide and local preservation organizations, we are a nonprofit organization, but with a national focus. We have more than a dozen field offices engaged in preservation work on National Treasures nationwide, and our D.C. headquarters staff works on a variety of projects, including advocating for historic tax credit programs, educating preservation professionals via the Preservation Leadership Forum, and sharing the good work of preservationists nationwide via the PreservationNation blog and Preservation magazine.

Tell us: What preservation organizations are you working with? Or have you started one of your own?

Adapted from “Preservation 101” prepared by the Preservation Leadership Forum.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

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7 Responses

  1. Juliana

    January 28, 2014

    Please keep me informed . Im interested in being apart of historic preservation.

    Thank u
    Juliana Rose

  2. Trilby Busch

    January 29, 2014

    A group of us researcher-preservationists started our own nonprofit, the Healy Project, to advocate for and educate people about the work of T.P.Healy and other master builders in Minneapolis.

  3. Laurie

    January 29, 2014

    How about the Archaeological Conservancy? Also a national non-profit. We help to preserve both historic and prehistoric sites.

  4. Gina Tynan

    January 31, 2014

    Within the state of Tennessee, all 9 Regional Development Districts have a staff Historic Preservation Planner, available to provide technical assistance with historic preservation projects within their region. These 9 regional district offices cover all 95 counties in Tennessee. To identify which district you are within, visit: http://www.tennesseedevelopmentdistricts.org/

  5. Meg Baco

    February 3, 2014

    It’s strange when an entity becomes known as the word created by their acronym, instead of a simplified version of their long name. For example, Historic Preservation League of Oregon was known as HPLO, and smartly changed their operating name to Restore Oregon. Even stranger, when people actually say NCPE (nick-pee). I’ve got a list of lots more of these, that include organizations, agencies, policies, laws, etc: http://histpres.com/2011/11/historic-preservation-abbreviations-you-should-know/.

  6. Jenny Arena

    February 5, 2014

    There’s also the national nonprofit Heritage Preservation. Heritage Preservation also moderates the Connecting to Collections Online Community, a fantastic website for collections care resources.

    http://www.heritagepreservation.org
    http://www.connectingtocollections.org

  7. Sarah Heffern
    Sarah Heffern

    February 5, 2014

    Thanks for the acronym list Meg! It’s very handy — and sharable. Expect to see it on the @PresNation twitter account soon.