Our History: The Founding

The New York Preservation Archive Project was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization on January 28, 1998.

That June, its first meeting was held with founding directors Anthony C. Wood, Eric Allison, Vicki Weiner, and Dorothy Miner. Over the next several years the Archive Project continued to respond to the loss of the recorded history of New York’s nationally-significant historic preservation movement. With the help of a fellowship sponsored by the Kress Foundation the organization documented and assisted in the preservation of important archives, and educated the public about the existence of these papers and their incomparable value. The organization identified individuals and organizations that have made vital contributions to New York preservation’s history and attempted to secure the future of their papers through education and archival assistance. The Archive Project also continued to conduct oral histories with those who were directly involved in much of the City’s groundbreaking legislation and grassroots activism. And it sponsored public programs, exhibitions, screenings, and lectures designed to broaden awareness of the history of the New York preservation movement and emphasize the use of archives in researching topics in the field. Special research projects were also undertaken. One related to architect and urban activist Robert C. Weinberg. Another research project eventually became Anthony C. Wood’s book Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Preserve a City’s Landmarks (published in 2007).

Launched in December 2003 through a grant from the New York Community Trust (NYCT), the Archive Project’s website gave the importance of the preservation movement’s history its first internet presence, and provided easy access to our many resources. Several years later the NYCT once again supported the Archive Project’s growth through the creation of the “Preservation History Database.” Hosted on the website, the encyclopedia-like catalog of topics in preservation history is used to further educate the public. With these resources, alongside our online oral history collection, which makes interview transcripts and audio available online, the Archive Project’s website became the go-to source for information on preservation history.

It was in 2003 that the Archive Project became a staffed organization, albeit part time. It was not until 2013 that the organization acquired the funding to hire its first full-time executive director. Therefore, during its first decade the Archive Project could not have done its work without volunteers, interns, and its devoted board of directors, who contributed their unique expertise and knowledge of the preservation, fundraising, archival, and programmatic fields. Many of these early directors continue their service even today; past board members include J. Winthrop Aldrich, Eric Allison, Joseph Ciccone, Margaret Ferguson, Laura Hansen, Randall Mason, Dorothy Miner, Janet Parks, Duane Watson, and Vicki Wiener.

In 2008, to celebrate the publication of Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Preserve a City’s Landmarks, a half-day symposium was hosted at the Museum of the City of New York, which was attended by over 250 people. In 2011 the Archive Project partnered with Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation and many of the City’s preservation organizations to bring you the Fitch Forum: 45 Years of Preservation Law. This symposium reflected on the law and explored the need to constantly reevaluate its effectiveness. The discussion influenced a special issue of the Widener Law Review.