Historic building preservation
Preservation of historical buildings is a noble endeavour. The practice of preserving, conserving, and protecting not only buildings but whole districts, or parks and monuments ensure that the future generation would have the opportunity to enjoy the great heritage of the past. If the Great Pyramids of Egypt were not preserved in a way, we would not have known of such wonder. If at some point the Cathedrals of the Medieval and Renaissance periods were not preserved and conserved, such great architectural works would have been likened to the ruins of Ancient Greece and Rome.
United Kingdom's Effort in the Preservation of Historical Buildings
There is an urgent movement to preserve and conserve historical buildings, worldwide. In the UK the preservation of historical buildings started in the 17th century. The movement was observed more of a hobby than a real cause. The "hobbyists" were called Antiquarians and these gentlemen pursued the study of antiques. In the 18th century, the Society of Antiquaries was established to promote the study of antiquities.
The turn of the 20th century ushered in the age of Modernism where anything old and decaying (structures) were condemned. The destruction of whole villages was not an unlikely sight as the constructions of new and more convenient facilities were favoured. Old and historical buildings were demolished in the name of progress. In 1913 the Ancient Monuments Act of UK was established to protect obsolete but historical buildings from being demolished. The UK National Trust (National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty), started with the preservation of historical houses and progressed from then on. The organization operates in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. The needless demolition of historical buildings and houses would have been left unchecked if not for the effort of these preservation groups. To support these organizations the UK parliament ratified the Town and Country Planning Act 1994 and 1990 historic preservation took off. The people became more aware of the importance of preserving and conserving historical buildings.
United States of America's Preservation Bid
Awareness and concern about historical building preservation and conservation was not unique in the UK. The United States of America was also serious in its bid to protect culturally and historically important structures. The National Trust for Historic Preservation a non-profit organization was established in 1949 to conserve America's historical places. In 1964, the 54 year old Pennsylvania (Penn) Station was demolished to make way for "progress". A great part of the US populace was outraged by the destruction of a national heritage. The event prodded more people to actively support the preservation of historical buildings.
The World Monument Fund
The New York based World Monument Fund was founded and established in 1965 to spearhead the preservation of historical, architectural and cultural sites worldwide. The non-profit organization trains, gives grants, advocates preservation and conservation, and educate the many "people" of the world so that its mission could be upheld.
More than 550 sites in more than 90 countries have received aid for the protection and conservation of historical buildings. Some of the more famous historical sites that have received assistance are several sites at Eastern Island, the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Ancient Mayan city in Naranjo, Guatemala, the Château de Chantilly in France and more than 25 sites in Italy.
WMF help the local communities from all over the world help preserve their heritage by giving financial aid and lending technical assistance. Where there are no tools or manpower and expertise to deal with a large-scale project, WMF takes care of putting up an international team of specialists for the job. The job usually entails the approach or plan in preserving the site or building, the development of training programs related to the preservation project and of course the blueprint for the care of the site or building.
The World Monument Fund in 1996 publishes every two years, a list of World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. The list helps in alerting the world of cultural and historical buildings or sites that are threatened by neglect, conflict, natural calamities or climate change. The sites that are listed are nominated by preservation groups and department and ministries of cultures the world over.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
The UNESCO was established in 1945 and preservation and conservation of historical buildings and cultural sites were not its primary concern. A 1954 incident brought about change or made an addition to UNESCO's thrust. In 1954 the Egyptian government was to construct a dam that would flood a valley in Egypt that has the Abu Simbel and Philae Temples. The dam was sure to flood the valley thereby "washing" out a part of Ancient Egypt's heritage. UNESCO lunched an international campaign to save the ancient temples. The temples were dismantled piece by piece and were "re"-constructed on higher grounds. The project was said to have reached a cost $80 million where 50% came from more than 50 countries.
Today, UNESCO's World Heritage Sites encompass a greater and more varied list than the World Monument Fund as it has a division for cultural, natural and mixed. To date there are more than 890 World Heritage Sites located in 148 countries. About 689 are cultural sites, 176 are natural and 25 are mixed. The World Heritage Committee has divided the world into five zones: African countries, Arab States, Asia-Pacific including Australia and Oceania, Europe and North America, and last Latin America and the Caribbean. Europe and North America has the largest number of preserved sites at 440.