Fifty years ago today, September 23, the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 was signed into law by President Johnson. The President’s Committee and its federal partners the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and National Park Service, through Save America’s Treasures (SAT), have awarded $318.6 million to almost 1,300 projects to rescue and preserve this nation’s most significant and at-risk structures, collections, documents, and artistic works.
Save America’s Treasures added a new dimension to the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by conserving the creative genius and ideas expressed in this country’s performing arts, films, paintings, prints, sculptures, books, manuscripts, archaeological artifacts, and other intellectual and cultural property while also addressing the needs of irreplaceable buildings and places.
Each of the federal partners administer different SAT projects with the National Park Service making awards to buildings, and the cultural projects awards are divided among NEA, NEH, and IMLS. Among SAT’s building projects were nine works by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
In SAT’s diverse cultural portfolio of treasures were the following.
Artifacts: Rosa Parks Bus restored with a 2002 SAT grant and the 9/11 Museum’s Last Column (SAT 2009), both administered by IMLS.
Documents: Declaration of Independence, the earliest drafts of the Constitution, original copies of the Emancipation Proclamation (SAT 2002), and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s papers and White House scrapbooks (SAT 2010), all administered by NEH.
Artistic Works: Saving the Silents: The American Silent Fiction Film Project (SAT 1999), Ansel Adams Photographs, and Merce Cunningham and Paul Dance Archives (SAT 2005), all administered by NEA.
Although funding for SAT was suspended in 2011, its function, purpose, and guidelines remain permanently authorized, so PCAH continued its role in supporting the program and enlisted the American Architectural Foundation as the program’s new private partner to carry out a number of activities to tell the story of these projects and build on the program’s success.