Our History: Here and Now

Today the Archive Project continues to pursue its mission of preserving, documenting, and celebrating the history of preservation implementing many of the same strategies used since its founding.

We conduct oral histories to record the memories of those who made preservation history and archive the audio recordings, transcripts, and videos. We rescue threatened archival collections that are related to historic preservation and help place them at permanent collecting institutions. If the collection remains in situ, we assist in assuring professional archival standards. Our public programming celebrates and analyzes important episodes in preservation history and is often produced in close collaboration with other not-for-profit organizations throughout New York City. Many of these programs are recorded on video and posted on our YouTube channel, effectively capturing and circulating the recollections that are shared and the issues that are explored.

The Archive Project’s website is regularly updated to provide a wide array of resources, and is an invaluable tool for anyone interested in the history of the preservation movement: the scholar, researcher, journalist, student, or activist. Our semi-annual newsletter updates our constituency on current projects and also covers stories that deepen the understanding of preservation and the importance of archives. Finally, in addition to helping preserve preservation’s history through our own efforts, the Archive Project seeks to change the culture of the preservation movement to one that recognizes the value of its own story. To this effect we provide training, assistance, and support to preservation not-for-profits to help these organizations become better curators of their own significant records and history. This initiative has been supplemented by the Archival Assistance Fund, a series of grants established to help identify and maintain archival resources and organizational documents related to the historic preservation movement. Past recipients of these grants include small not-for-profit organizations, cemeteries, and house museums to fund anything from climate monitoring devices in archival spaces to complete overhauls of significant collections.

The Archive Project is able to achieve its mission through a variety of fundraising efforts. The Stewardship Society was created in 2011 to supplement our more general appeals and cultivate and retain major donors. This group of devoted benefactors meets regularly for behind-the-scenes tours at institutional archives and private collections throughout New York City. And in 2014 the Archive Project added a new level of giving with the Columns Club, which provides young donors with their own series of special tours at historic sites. Our signature fundraising event is the annual Bard Birthday Breakfast Benefit, held each year in December to memorialize civic figure Albert S. Bard in the month of his birth. Bard (1866-1963) was dedicated to protecting the aesthetic values of special places, drafting the New York State legislation authorizing New York City’s Landmarks Law, and advocating for City Beautiful concerns ranging from billboard control to zoning. The Bard Birthday Breakfast Benefit always has a programmatic component, with luminaries from various fields speaking on issues related to how preservation and archives affect their work, which may include anything from a recent publication or a new documentary to reflections on a lifelong career in the field of historic preservation. In 2015 the New York Preservation Archive Project’s Preservation Award was created to honor outstanding contributions to the documentation, preservation, and celebration of the history of preservation in New York City. A handsome bronze medal designed by Atelier Sisk, this award recalls the long tradition of honorary laurels bestowed in New York City and furthers the celebratory nature of the Archive Project’s mission. The first recipient was Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, honored for her 50-year career furthering preservation.