The National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express have a program called “Partners in Preservation,” which invites the public to vote online for which historic sites deserve funding.
In fact, we can vote repeatedly, once a day—though only for two more days. For that audience-participation feature, this funding program was dubbed “Preservation Idol” in the Boston Globe last week.
In the current competition for sites in Massachusetts, those which date back to Revolutionary times are:
- Old North Church.
- The Paul Revere House.
- Old Ship Meeting-House in Hingham (shown above).
- Orchard House in Concord, best known for its later association with Louisa May Alcott.
The site that receives the most votes will get a guaranteed $100,000. Another $900,000 will be divided among the other sites by the program’s administrators; it’s unclear how much weight they’ll put on the popular voting in making that decision.
The program is not without controversy. A Founding Director of the Historic House Trust of New York City commented at Philanthropy Today that such competition was “repulsive”:
all sites have a special niche, cultural or historic importance, relevance, and they all deserve grants. Shame on NTHP & Am Ex for turning them into competitors instead of collaborators.I suspect that the program was designed to get just this sort of publicity and draw people into thinking about historic preservation. But it does turn the enterprise into a popularity contest. Not that popularity wasn’t part of the preservation movement from the beginning; this just formalizes the process.