The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 11, Number 7
Oct 1987


Two New Advocacy Groups

It is always hard to get the attention of the public about a complex problem like preservation that is still only partly defined, and for which there is no simple, affordable solution. Preservation advocates know this, whether they work at a national policy-making level or whether their "public" is made up of the policy-makers in their own institution. Yet two new preservation advocacy organizations have appeared this year whose purposes are not only to draw the public's attention to the preservation problem but to solicit money for doing something about it. Their programs are complementary, but have some overlap: one focuses on historical records (archives, mostly) and promoting both preservation and publishing; the other is concerned with museums, libraries, archives and historical buildings, and is promoting only conservation. (In the museum world, whose usage the second organization seems to be following, "conservation" is the all-inclusive term, denoting not only benchwork but environmental control and all other measures taken to extend the life of the collection.)

The Documentary Heritage Trust of the United States, according to a submitted statement, is a new, nation-wide effort, developed in response to the concern of historians and archivists across the country about the growing problems of preserving America' s documentary heritage. Acting on the recommendations of major archival and historical organizations, whose representatives met on February 21, 1987 in Washington, DC, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) awarded a grant for a six-month project to organize and develop the Trust, which will be the first national, private, nonprofit group dedicated to assisting the preservation of the country's records.

The chief goal of the Trust during the initial development period, the statement continues, is to inform as many groups and individuals as possible about the new organization and to enlist their active support. If you would like more information about how you can join in this path-breaking national endeavor, please write to: Executive Director, The Documentary Heritage Trust of the United States, 230 Regester Ave., Baltimore, ND 21212.

The advisory panel has five members: Larry Hackman (N.Y. State Archives), Charles Lee (So. Carolina Dept. of Archives & History), Page Putnam Miller (National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History), John Simon (Ulysses Grant Fdn.) and Raymond Smock (Office for the Bicentennial, U.S. House of Representatives). There is an executive director, Angeline Polites, but apparently no officers. At present they are concentrating on developing a network of interested professional groups, recruiting donors, and producing educational materials for the public and potential donors.

The National Committee to Save America's Cultural Collections [according to a blurb on the program of its June Forum in Chicago] has been created to promote the care and preservation of our nation' a artistic and historical collections. The committee is a collaborative project of the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property, Inc. [NIC] and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

A lack of visibility and adequate funding for collections care are problems shared by all cultural institutions across the country. The National Committee addresses these needs by: 1) focusing public attention on the urgent need to preserve cultural collections and significant architecture; 2) bringing greater understanding of conservation and preservation activities to cultural institutions; and 3) encouraging private sector support for these vital efforts.

The Committee has selected as its initial project a pilot regional forum for cultural decision-makers: museum and library trustees, corporate and foundation executives and key professionals from the museum, library and architectural preservation fields.... Entitled "Invest in the American Collection," the forum [addressed] four major themes related to conservation and preservation: 1) the critical needs of our cultural collections; 2) the achievements and limitations of recent efforts to save cultural objects; 3) the current status of training, treatment and research; and 4) the expansion of conservation and preservation resources.

Funds for the development of the National Committee and for the Midwest regional forum have been provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the AT&T Foundation and the Chicago Sun-Times. [Speakers at the forum included James Billington, who has since become the Librarian of Congress, and whose keynote speech has been printed for distribution by the National Committee; Lynne V. Cheney, Larry Hackman, Paul Perrot, Bill Towner, Arthur Beale, Ann Russell, Joyce Hill Stoner, George Farr and others also spoke. A transcript of the talks is being edited and will soon be available. Other such forums may be scheduled for the future.]

Members of the National Committee are: Arthur W. Schultz, Chairman; Arthur Beale; Peter Sparks; and seven others. Its office is at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Rm. 526, Washington, DC 20506 (202/682-5409). The Project Director is Jane Sennett Long.

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