The Spotlight Series is an occassional series that highlights interesting people, places, programs, and partner organizations working on historic preservation issues.

PrintWhen it comes to protecting historic places and maintaining the character of our neighborhoods, villages, and landscapes, we all know that the real action is at the local level.  Cities like Charleston and New Orleans paved the way for municipal historic preservation programs in the 1920s and 30s when they adopted ordinances designating portions of those cities as historic districts and enacting design review programs for managing changes to buildings in those districts.  Since then, thousands of communities across the country, including hundreds in Pennsylvania, have adopted preservation ordinances of their own.  A major resource for these communities is the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions, the only national –level organization dedicated to serving the needs of local government preservation boards and commissions through education, advocacy, and training.

 The National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC) was founded in 1983 in response to the creation of the Certified Local Government Program.  Local preservation leaders from around the country felt the need to organize themselves to share best practices, learn from each other’s successes and challenges, and position local governments to take advantage of the newly created funding stream from the Federal Historic Preservation Fund.  What started 30 years ago as a rather informal gathering of municipal historical/preservation commissions has grown into a non-profit organization with nation-wide reach and a suite of programs to help local leaders do their work more effectively.  Today, NAPC is headquartered at the University of Georgia and employs a small staff governed by an active Board of Directors representing all aspects of local government historic preservation programs.

Forum2014-finalcolorAD-475x425One of NAPC’s signature programs is FORUM, a biannual conference that provides training and educational opportunities on a wide variety of issues relevant to local governments and their partners.  The first FORUM was held in 1998 in Denver, and the program has moved around the country every two years since then.  FORUM 2014, the 9th gathering, will be held in Philadelphia from July 16-20, 2014, so mark your calendars to be in the City of Brotherly Love next summer.  Not only will Philadelphia be the largest city to host FORUM, but it will also mark the first time the conference has made a repeat performance in the same state (FORUM 2000 was in Pittsburgh).  Another first for 2014 will be an exciting partnership with the Pennsylvania Statewide Conference on Heritage/Byways to the Past, which is sponsored annually by Preservation Pennsylvania and PennDOT.  This partnership is creating tremendous opportunities for attendees, including new content, new perspectives on perennial conference topics, exciting tour opportunities, and wonderful networking and social events.  I have the honor of serving as the local Chair of the event and invite you all to make time to be in Philadelphia in July 2014. 

[As a side note, discounted registration rates will be available for members of both NAPC and Preservation Pennsylvania.  Attendees from Pennsylvania CLGs will also be eligible to receive scholarships to cover a portion of registration and travel costs.]

photo courtesy of the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions

Photo courtesy of the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions.

In addition to FORUM, NAPC also provides customized training for local preservation boards and commissions through their Speakers Bureau and CAMP (Commission Assistance and Mentoring Program).  The Speakers Bureau recruits experts from across the country to provide customized presentations on a variety of topics relevant to local preservation issues.  Some of the more recent and most popular topics include sustainability and energy efficiency, public support for historic preservation, utilizing design guidelines, and working with realtors, among others.  CAMP is a full day (or day-and-a-half) “boot camp” style workshop that explores the fundamentals of local preservation programs, including legal issues, meeting procedures, design review, survey and designation of historic resources, and public relations.  NAPC staff works with CAMP host communities to identify pressing local issues and then designs a program and recruits speakers that travel to the host location to lead an in-depth workshop.  I participated in 3 CAMPs during my time working for the State of Maryland, and can attest to the value of these programs to participants.  CAMPs are often supported through Certified Local Government grants, such as those offered by PHMC, so if this is something of interest to your community, please contact your PHMC Community Preservation Coordinator to talk about funding options. 

Photo courtesy of the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions.

Photo courtesy of the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions.

In addition to on-site programs, NAPC members also receive a bi-monthly journal/newsletter, The Alliance Review (TAR).  Each issue of TAR is dedicated to a different topic faced by preservation boards and commissions in their daily work.  Recent issues have explored Modernism, emergency demolition procedures, historic windows, and additions to historic buildings.  NAPC also hosts NAPC-L, s members only listserve where participants can pose questions, solicit advice, and share news their colleagues from across the country.

The third and final prong of NAPC’s mission is advocacy.  NAPC board and staff members represent the interests of local government preservation programs to a wide range of national organizations, including the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (to name a few). 

Hundreds of municipalities in Pennsylvania have enacted some form of local preservation ordinance or program, and we hope individuals from across the Commonwealth will attend FORUM 2014 (of which PHMC is a presenting partner) and take advantage of this tremendous resource.

If you have questions about FORUM 2014, please contact Cory Kegerise (that’s me) at or 215-219-3824, or Jennifer Horn from Preservation Pennsylvania at or 717-234-2310 x 19.