November 7, 2007
by Canadian Architect
American Express and the World Monuments Fund recently announced a new initiative that rewards and encourages the responsible stewardship of historic sites by supporting projects that address the issue of sustainable tourism. This initiative, which is part of the American Express Partners in Preservation initiative launched in 2006, is focused on sustaining historic sites in the face of increased visitor activities and environmental impacts, and preserving them for future generations to enjoy.
As part of the initiative, $4 million will be granted over four years to support a variety of projects that integrate historic preservation, sustainable tourism management and visitor education. The initial four projects to receive grant funding are St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England; Mexico City Historic Center in Mexico; Delhi Heritage City in India; and Route 66, the historic corridor that runs between Chicago and Los Angeles in the United States.
“American Express has been committed to historic preservation for decades,” said Ed Gilligan, vice chairman, American Express. “The extension of our efforts to focus on the sustainable tourism aspect of historic locations is a logical evolution of the Partners in Preservation program. Tourism is the lifeblood of many iconic sites around the world, so enhancing the visitor experience while finding effective ways to protect and preserve these sites is critical for their survival.”
“As members of a global community, we need to understand the impact that our collective footprint has on the wear and tear of heritage sites. Preservation and public education go hand in hand,” said Bonnie Burnham, president of the World Monuments Fund. “We are delighted to be working with our longtime partner American Express, and helping, through the Partners in Preservation program, not only to preserve these sites but also to educate both tourists and the local communities about the role they can play in conserving their irreplacable heritage.”
“It is heartening to work with highly respected organizations like American Express and the World Monuments Fund,” said the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. “We appreciate the recognition they bring to our efforts to open our doors to even more visitors and look forward to sharing rarely seen parts of the Cathedral with the public.”
While the four sites selected for grants in 2007 have varied preservation needs, each will receive a significant grant towards sustainable tourism plans designed to stimulate culturally and ecologically sensitive tourism. The sites were chosen because they demonstrated their ability to integrate historic preservation, sustainable tourism management practices and visitor education into their conservation programs. The grant distribution is as follows:
St. Paul’s Cathedral $500,000 grant distributed over two years to help towards relieving crowding and lessening the impact of tourism on the church’s nave, which suffers from heavy foot traffic, abrasion and fluctuations in humidity. The funds will contribute to the long-term plan to open up an additional major area inside the Cathedral and make some hitherto rarely seen aspects of the building, such as the triforium where the collections will be displayed, and Wren’s Great Model in the Trophy Room, accessible to visitors. Also, the Cathedral, which now receives almost 2 million visitors a year, will improve visitor routes to enhance the experience of entering Sir Christopher Wren’s restored interior while, at the same time, reducing future damage. With these improvements, the Cathedral will be better positioned to present the full 300-year history of the Cathedral site in an engaging and informative way.
Mexico City Historic Center $200,000 grant to support the creation of interactive educational content for the city’s planned visitor center which will be the focal point for visitors to Mexico City’s downtown historic district. Incorporating natural light and energy-efficient technologies in its design, the visitor center will feature interactive displays, virtual tours and physical models that will inform visitors about individual historic sites, architectural history, sustainability challenges and proposed urban green spaces. Mexico City’s Historic Center was placed on World Monuments Fund’s Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in 2006.
DelhiHeritageCity $200,000 grant to support a project led by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage that will pilot a new heritage route that connects some of Delhi’s most extraordinary monuments. The heritage route will begin at the monumental Humayun’s Tomb and end at the Red Fort, a Mughal palace that was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2007. This heritage route project, which eventually will be expanded to include a number of heritage districts and sites in Delhi, will feature clean-energy shuttle buses with hop on/hop off service to ease the flow of visitors and reduce congestion, educational centres, and other visitor amenities such as sidewalk furniture and environmentally friendly lighting.
Historic Route 66, cities, towns and villages between Chicago and Los Angeles $150,000 for an in-depth economic study of this long-distance historic corridor. The study will provide information for communities that can be used to stimulate heritage tourism at local, state and national levels in the effort to preserve the corridor in its entirety and ensure its long-term sustainability. Funding will also contribute to a comprehensive survey of the many different buildings and attractions that make up this unique landscape and the impact that environmental factors and modern travel have had on them. This effort will include a conservation assessment of the historic Santo Domingo Trading Post site on Route 66 in New Mexico. Once a trading centre for Native American arts and crafts and a popular stopping point for travellers, the Trading Post was damaged by fire in the early 2000s and is now left vacant. The project will make recommendations on the building’s restoration and future use. Route 66 was placed on World Monuments Fund’s Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in 2008.
More information about the Partners in Preservation initiative and the four global sites can be found at www.americanexpress.com/corp/philanthropy.