Historic preservation (US), heritage preservation or heritage conservation (UK), is an endeavour that seeks to preserve, conserve and protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other artifacts of historical significance. The term tends to refer specifically to the preservation of the built environment, and not to preservation of, for example, primeval forests or wilderness.
In England, antiquarian interests were a familiar gentleman's pursuit since the mid 17th century, developing in tandem with the rise in scientific curiosity. Fellows of the Royal Society were often also Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries.
Many historic sites were damaged as the railways began to spread across the UK; including Trinity Hospital and its church in Edinburgh, Furness Abbey, Berwick and Northampton Castle, and the ancient walls of York, Chester and Newcastle. In 1833 Berkhamsted Castle became the first historic site in England to be officially protected by statute under the London and Birmingham Railway Acts of 1833-37, though the new railway line in 1834 did demolish the castle's gatehouse and outer earthworks to the south.
Another early preservation event also occurred at Berkhamsted. In 1866, Lord Brownlow who lived at Ashridge, tried to enclose the adjoining Berkhamsted Common with 5-foot (2 m) steel fences in an attempt to claim it as part of his estate. In England from early Anglo-Saxon times, Common land was an area of land which the local community could use as a resource. Across England between 1660 and 1845, 7 million acres of Common land had been enclosed by private land owners by application to parliament. On the night 6 March, Augustus Smith MP led gangs of local folk and hired men from London's East End in direct action to break the enclosure fences and protect Berkhamsted Common for the people of Berkhamsted in what became known nationally as the Battle of Berkhamsted Common. In 1870, Sir Robert Hunter (later co-founder of the National Trust in 1895) and the Commons Preservation Society succeed in legal action that ensured protection of Berkhamsted Common and other open spaces threatened with enclosure. In 1926 the common was acquired by the National Trust.
By the mid 19th century, much of Britain's unprotected cultural heritage was being slowly destroyed. Even well-meaning archaeologists like William Greenwell excavated sites with virtually no attempt at their preservation, Stonehenge came under increasing threat by the 1870s. Tourists were chipping off parts of the stones or carving their initials into the rock. The private owners of the monument decided to sell the land to the London and South-Western Railway as the monument was "not the slightest use to anyone now". John Lubbock, an MP and botanist emerged as the champion of the country's national heritage. In 1872 he personally bought private land that housed ancient monuments in Avebury, Silbury Hill and elsewhere, from the owners who were threatening to have them cleared away to make room for housing. Soon, he began campaigning in Parliament for legislation to protect monuments from destruction. This finally led to the legislative milestone under the Liberal government of William Gladstone of the Ancient Monuments Protection Act 1882. The first government appointed inspector for this job was the archaeologist Augustus Pitt-Rivers. This legislation was regarded by conservative political elements as a grave assault on the individual rights of property of the owner, and consequently, the inspector only had the power to identify endangered landmarks and offer to purchase them from the owner with his consent. The Act only covered ancient monuments and explicitly did not cover historic buildings or structures. In 1877 the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings was founded by the Arts and Crafts designer William Morris to prevent the destruction of historic buildings, followed by the National Trust in 1895 that bought estates from their owners for preservation.
The Ancient Monuments Protection Act 1882 had only given legal protection to prehistoric sites, such as ancient tumuli. The Ancient Monuments Protection Act 1900 took this further by empowering the government's Commissioners of Work and local County Councils to protect a wider range of properties. Further updates were made in 1910.
Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire, a medieval manor house had been put up for sale in 1910 with its greatest treasures, the huge medieval fireplaces, still intact. However, when an American bought the house they were ripped out and packaged up for shipping. The former viceroy of India, George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, was outraged at this cultural destruction and stepped in to buy back the castle and reinstall the fireplaces. After a nationwide hunt for them they were finally found in London and returned. He restored the castle and left it to the National Trust on his death in 1925. His experience at Tattershall influenced Lord Curzon to push for tougher heritage protection laws in Britain, which saw passage as the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act 1913.
The new structure involved the creation of the Ancient Monuments Board to oversee the protection of such monuments. Powers were given for the board, with Parliamentary approval, to issue preservation orders to protect monuments, and extended the public right of access to these. The term "monument" was extended to include the lands around it, allowing the protection of the wider landscape.
The preservation for the benefit of the Nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest and, as regards lands, for the preservation of their natural aspect, features and animal and plant life. Also the preservation of furniture, pictures and chattels of any description having national and historic or artistic interest.
In the early days, the Trust was concerned primarily with protecting open spaces and a variety of threatened buildings; its first property was Alfriston Clergy House and its first nature reserve was Wicken Fen. Its first archaeological monument was White Barrow. The focus on country houses and gardens, which now comprise the majority of its most visited properties, came about in the mid 20th century, when it was realised that the private owners of many of these properties were no longer able to afford to maintain them.
The Town and Country Planning Act 1944, and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, took steps toward historic preservation on an unprecedented scale. Concern about the demolition of historic buildings arose in institutions such as the pressure group the Society for the Preservation of Historic Buildings, which appealed against demolition and neglect on a case by case basis.
English Heritage formed in 1983, is a registered charity that looks after the National Heritage Collection in England. This comprises over 400 of England's historic buildings, monuments and sites spanning more than 5,000 years of history. Within its portfolio are Stonehenge, Dover Castle, Tintagel Castle and the best preserved parts of Hadrian's Wall.
Originally English Heritage was the operating name of an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government, officially titled the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, that ran the national system of heritage protection and managed a range of historic properties. It was created to combine the roles of existing bodies that had emerged from a long period of state involvement in heritage protection. In 1999 the organisation merged with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and the National Monuments Record (England), bringing together resources for the identification and survey of England's historic environment. On 1 April 2015, English Heritage was divided into two parts: Historic England, which inherited the statutory and protection functions of the old organisation, and the new English Heritage Trust, a charity that would operate the historic properties, and which took on the English Heritage operating name and logo. The British government gave the new charity an £80 million grant to help establish it as an independent trust, although the historic properties remained in the ownership of the state.
In the United States one of the first historic preservation efforts was the Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site, in Newburgh, New York. This property has the distinction of being the first-ever property designated and operated as a historic site by a U.S. state, having been so since 1850.
Another early historic preservation undertaking was that of George Washington's Mount Vernon in 1858. Founded in 1889, the Richmond, Virginia-based Preservation Virginia (formerly known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities) was the United States' first statewide historic preservation group.
Charles E. Peterson was an influential figure in the mid-20th century establishing the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), advising on the establishment of Independence National Historical Park, helping with the first graduate degree program in historic preservation in the United States at Columbia University, and author.
The architectural firm of Simons & Lapham (Albert Simons and Samuel Lapham) was an influential supporter of the nation's first historic preservation ordinance in Charleston, South Carolina in 1930, affording that city a regulatory means by which to prevent the destruction of its historic building stock. In 1925, efforts to preserve the historic buildings of the French Quarter in New Orleans led to the creation of the Vieux Carré Commission and later, to the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance.
The US National Trust for Historic Preservation, another privately funded non-profit organization, began in 1949 with a handful of structures and has developed goals that provide "leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America's diverse historic places and revitalize our communities" according to the Trust's mission statement. In 1951 the Trust assumed responsibility for its first museum property, Woodlawn Plantation in northern Virginia. Twenty-eight sites in all have subsequently become part of the National Trust, representing the cultural diversity of American history. In New York City, the destruction of Pennsylvania Station in 1964 shocked many nationwide into supporting preservation. The 1960s proved advantageous with new laws and international agreements extending preservation "from ancient monuments to whole districts and buildings a few decades old." On an international level, the New York-based World Monuments Fund was founded in 1965 to preserve historic sites all over the world.
Under the direction of James Marston Fitch, the first advanced-degree historic preservation program began at Columbia University in 1964. It became the model on which most other graduate historic preservation programs were created. Many other programs were to follow before 1980: M.A. in Preservation Planning from Cornell (1975); M.S. in Historic Preservation from the University of Vermont (1975); M.S. in Historic Preservation Studies from Boston University (1976); M.S. in Historic Preservation from Eastern Michigan University (1979) and M.F.A. in Historic Preservation was one of the original programs at Savannah College of Art & Design. James Marston Fitch also offered guidance and support towards the founding of the Master of Preservation Studies Degree within the Tulane School of Architecture in 1996. The M.Sc. in Building Conservation degree program is offered by the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. In 2005, Clemson University and the College of Charleston created an M.S. degree program based in Charleston, SC. The first undergraduate programs (B.A.) appeared in 1977 from Goucher College and Roger Williams University (then called Roger Williams College), followed by Mary Washington College in 1979. As of 2013 there were more than fifty historic preservation programs offering certificates, associate, bachelor's and master's degrees in the United States. Such as, Southeast Missouri State University, which provides undergraduate and graduate degrees in Historic Preservation, Heritage Interpretation, and Public History.
In Canada, the phrase "heritage preservation" is sometimes seen as a specific approach to the treatment of historic places and sites, rather than a general concept of conservation. "Conservation" is taken as the more general term, referring to all actions or processes that are aimed at safeguarding the character-defining elements of a cultural resource so as to retain its heritage value and extend its physical life.
Historic objects in Canada may be granted special designation by any of the three levels of government: the central government, the provincial governments, or a municipal government. The Heritage Canada Foundation acts as Canada's lead advocacy organisation for heritage buildings and landscapes.
A historic district in the United States is a group of buildings, properties, or sites that have been designated by one of several entities on different levels as historically or architecturally significant. Buildings, structures, objects and sites within a historic district are normally divided into two categories, contributing and non-contributing. Districts greatly vary in size, some having hundreds of structures while others have just a few.
The U.S. federal government designates historic districts through the U.S. Department of Interior, under the auspices of the National Park Service. Federally designated historic districts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Historic districts allows rural areas to preserve their characters through historic preservation programs. These include "Main Street" programs that can be used to redevelop rural downtowns. Using historic preservation programs as an economic development tool for local governments in rural areas has enabled some of those areas to take advantage of their history and develop a tourism market that in turn provides funds for maintaining an economic stability that these areas would not have seen otherwise.
A similar concept exists in the United Kingdom: a Conservation area is designated in accordance with the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 in order to protect a zone in which there are buildings of architectural or cultural heritage interest.
sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.
It was, however, the United States that led the world in the creation of National Parks, areas of unspoiled natural wilderness, where the intrusion of civilization are intentionally minimal.
The department of the interior designated several areas of Morristown, New Jersey as the first historic park in the United States national park system. It became designated as the Morristown National Historical Park. The community had permanent settlements that date to 1715, is termed the military capital of the American Revolution, and contains many designations of sites and locations. The park includes three major sites in Morristown.
In the United Kingdom, James Bryce the ambassador to the US praised the system of National Parks and campaigned to have them introduced in Great Britain. Little came of it until mounting public pressure during the early 20th century from the Ramblers' Association and other groups led to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.
Landscapes and sites of outstanding universal value can be designated as World Heritage Sites. A requirement of such designation is that the designating nation has appropriate legislation in place to preserve them.
Although volunteers continue to play a large role in historic preservation activities, the field has seen an increased level of professionalization. Today, there are many career options in historic preservation in the public, non-profit and private sectors. Institutes of secondary education (universities, colleges, etc.) in the United States offer both certificate and degree (A.A.S, B.A., B.F.A., B.S., M.A., M.F.A., M.D.S, M.S. and PhD) programs in historic preservation. Some pupils--at schools with such programmes available--choose to enroll in "joint degree" programs, earning a degree in historic preservation along with one in another, related subject, often an MArch, MUP or JD degree.
Possible career fields include: