As May comes to a close and we conclude our activities celebrating National Preservation Month, it is fitting to move beyond the single month annually dedicated to preservation policy, programs, and projects, and mark the significance of the year 2016 to the national historic preservation movement. Through its passage of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in 1966, Congress declared that ‘the spirit and direction of the Nation are founded upon its historic heritage.’ And in so acknowledging the importance of history, it set forth a transcendent framework for the identification and protection of historic places — buildings, objects, sites, districts and collections — that define America’s legacy and together illustrate the social, economic and physical growth of a nation.
While seeking to preserve irreplaceable historic places to orient society, the framers of the NHPA were forward thinking and ‘modern’ in their inclusive vision of our collective history representing the freedoms, diversity, ingenuity and values that define us as a country and a people. Testament to the comprehensive genius of the act is its continued relevance today as much as at the time of its passage. On October 15, 2016, fifty years to the day after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the NHPA into law, the nation will commemorate the ethic that has guided local, state, tribal and federal stewardship for half a century, raising cultural awareness and spurring economic development by retaining and reinvesting in historic places that are living parts of communities critical to sustaining their identity and viability.