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Partners in Tourism: Culture and Commerce is a coalition of cultural service organizations, the travel industry, and federal agencies that provides a forum for collaborative research, education, promotion and advocacy with the common goal of advancing the role of culture and heritage in the travel and tourism industry.
Federal Corresponding Partners
Cultural Heritage Tourism News
is published by:
Partners in Tourism: Culture and Commerce
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Each issue of Cultural Heritage Tourism News will profile one national agency or organization that is part of Partners in Tourism. This issue features:
Director of the Office of Preservation Initiatives
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP)
The mission of the ACHP is:
“to promote the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of our Nation's historic resources, and advise the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.”
Information about Preserve America can be
found at www.preserveamerica.gov, and
more details about the ACHP are available at www.achp.gov.
How did the ACHP become involved in heritage tourism?
One of the key policies contained in the National Historic Preservation Act (which established the ACHP, and recently celebrated its 40th anniversary) is to “foster conditions under which our modern society and our prehistoric and historic resources can exist in productive harmony and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.” At the same time, the Council itself is directed in the law to “encourage, in cooperation with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and appropriate private agencies, public interest and participation in historic preservation.” It became increasingly clear during the late 1990s, after the law was changed and more emphasis was being placed on better Federal stewardship, that heritage tourism was a real potential benefit of historic preservation and could help meet these needs if promoted. When John Nau became Chairman of the ACHP in 2001, his previous positive experience with the development of successful heritage tourism programs in Texas created the catalyst for ACHP action and involvement.
Preserve America has been an exciting new heritage tourism development in the past few years. How was Preserve America developed, and what are the goals of Preserve America?
Preserve America is a White House initiative that was announced by First Lady Laura Bush on March 3, 2003. It was developed by the ACHP in cooperation with the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and others to encourage and support community efforts for the preservation and enjoyment of our priceless cultural and natural heritage. Currently, it includes a Presidential Awards program, recognition and designation of Preserve America communities and neighborhoods, a grants program, related educational initiatives undertaken through The History Channel and the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, and technical and financial support using other existing Federal programs. Through the Executive Order signed by President Bush on March 3, 2003, it also directs Federal agencies to take steps to support local preservation and heritage tourism efforts with their programs and with the public lands and property they manage.
Preserve America was in part a response to the perceived need coming out of the Millennium program of 1999-2000 for a national promotional effort to reinvigorate historic preservation. It was a way to engage the Federal government at the highest levels in that enterprise, to help support both the economic and educational benefits of historic preservation, and to recognize regional, local and private achievement in historic preservation throughout the country. It also strongly promotes public-private partnerships to help meet these goals. The events of 9/11 gave added impetus and urgency to the effort to promote a broader appreciation for and understanding of our history as well as the need to preserve our heritage.
The original concept was developed in 2002, and finalized and announced in 2003. The grants program was approved in 2005 for the FY 2006 budget, and designation of neighborhoods for larger cities was also announced in 2005.
What’s the appeal of heritage tourism for you personally?
I’ve long had both a personal and professional interest in the past, and have been a devoted consumer of heritage tourism since I was a kid. When I went off to college William and Mary in Williamsburg attracted me because of the history of the Colonial Triangle area; I eventually went into archaeology and got interested in the historical “just so” stories necessitated by that field. I also spent some time in New Mexico, where prehistory, history, and landscape are all so intertwined, and of course here in Virginia the Civil War is always close to the surface. My career at the ACHP has focused on combining resource preservation with making sure there’s a public benefit from the whole exercise, and both education and heritage tourism are obvious spin-offs. Working on the American Heritage Rivers initiative advanced by the Clinton administration a few years ago opened my eyes to a lot of the ways historic preservation supports economic development. I’ve now gotten to help lead the Preserve America effort, while in my spare time dabbling in living history interpretation through our local chapter of the Victorian Society.
How can communities and organizations take advantage of
what Preserve America has to offer?
Communities large and small can apply to be designated as Preserve America Communities. Designated places receive a road sign, use of the logo, and access to other promotional material and support. Designation events are a good way to develop public interest. Designated communities can also seek grant assistance to help support heritage tourism programs. Matching grants of $20,000 – $150,000 are available to support research and documentation, interpretation and education, planning, marketing, and training projects. The National Park Service, which administers the Preserve America grants, is seeking applications through February 14, 2007, pending Congressional appropriations. State Historic Preservation Officers and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers are also eligible for these grants. Non-profit organizations, businesses, and educational institutions all have opportunities to become active partners in these efforts.
A broad range of applicants, including both public and private sector entities, is also encouraged to apply for the small number of annual Presidential awards. Four awards are given each year, two in the heritage tourism category and two for private preservation. The deadline for the upcoming awards selection is past, but a new announcement and invitation to apply will be made sometime after the May 2007 awards ceremony.
All of those involved in heritage tourism programs, projects, and sites, and those organizations, businesses, non-federal government agencies, educational institutions, and private citizens who support heritage tourism, should let their elected leaders know how important these and similar programs are.
What do you see as the future for Preserve America beyond the current administration?
We don’t yet know what grant support will be available for FY 2007, but we hope to know soon. We are also hopeful that the Preserve America initiative in some form will last beyond 2008 and well into the future, as has Save America’s Treasures. There has been a lot of interest and support among members of Congress as well as state and local officials for Preserve America, the funding issue aside, and I think there is a great deal of appeal for the message. Heritage tourism “sells,” although we also know that heritage tourism isn’t for every community, and that there can be negative consequences to tourism depending on a lot of factors.
We must be clear on the need to balance economic development, public education, quality of life, and sustainability in any of these programs. Many Federal agencies also see heritage tourism as something they can help support as part of their core mission, but they need willing and capable partners to work with them as well as clear indications from policy-makers that it is OK to pursue this. We are currently looking at ways to build and sustain public support for Preserve America and related programs in the future.
A Preserve America Summit was held in October 2006 in New Orleans. Can you tell us more about the focus of the conference and who attended? In particular, what discussions at the summit focused on heritage tourism?
The Summit, which was preceded by 11 pre-summit panels, was in part a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, and in part a way to chart a course for the future of the national historic preservation program. Through plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and social gatherings, over 400 participants discussed these issues through 2 ½ days. The panel groups came up with 60 ideas to consider; these are now out for public comment, and will be presented to the full Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for possible action when it meets in late February.
Heritage tourism was mentioned both directly and indirectly during the panel deliberations and the Summit, but in particular in the issue area reports on “Building a Preservation Ethic and Public Appreciation for History,” “Coordinating the Stewardship and Use of Our Cultural Patrimony,” “Using Historic Properties as Economic Assets,” and “Participating in the Global Preservation Community.” The economic panel in particular underscored the need for better metrics to measure the impacts of heritage tourism; the cultural panel pointed out the role that working artists and cultural institutions play in the vitality of communities.
With regard to heritage tourism, what next steps or outcomes do you anticipate from the New Orleans Summit or from the Preserve America initiative in general?
The ACHP is working with the Department of Commerce on ways to meet some of the heritage tourism support needs laid out in the Preserve America Executive Order. We hope that some of this will eventually offer “value added” for Preserve America Communities and others involved in heritage tourism. We will also continue to work with federal agencies involved in the Preserve America initiative or who manage lands and resources, and encourage them to find ways to support heritage tourism through their programs. As for the Summit, we’ll see what the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation chooses to embrace and promote at its February 2007 meeting or subsequently.
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