Historic Preservation may not be the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of the arts or corporate philanthropy, but the preservation, restoration, and reuse of cultural assets like historic buildings, monuments, and parks can revitalize neighborhoods, stimulate tourism and local economies, and preserve our natural resources by conserving energy and reducing our carbon footprint.
American Express has a long history of partnerships in historic preservation.
We made our first historic preservation grant in 1974 to the National Park Service to assist with the planning for the renovation and restoration of the Statue of Liberty as part of the U.S. Bicentennial Celebration in 1976.
The company went on to sponsor the first national cause-related marketing campaign aimed at restoring the Statue of Liberty in 1983. (Our first corporate involvement with the Statue of Liberty actually dates back to 1885 when American Express asked company employees to contribute money toward the construction of the Statue’s pedestal–our first employee giving campaign!)
Our first international grant in historic preservation was made in 1977 to help save the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. American Express was the first private organization to donate funds to UNESCO for this restoration. We went on to work with the World Monuments Fund in the establishment of the Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in 1996, and we were the corporate sponsor of this list for the next ten years, helping to preserve 126 historic sites in 62 countries.
In the past six years, we have linked with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the creation and execution of the Partners in Preservation Program, our online voting contest for historic sites in specific U.S. communities.
This program has now taken place in San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, Seattle, and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and we’ve supported the preservation of 70 historic sites in those communities. We’ll be launching the program in another U.S. city this spring.
We have also worked with the World Monuments Fund to establish a Sustainable Tourism Program, which has assisted historic sites with the management of tourists and their impact on the environment in places like St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Historic Center in Mexico City, the Heritage Route in Delhi, the Easter Island Visitor’s Center, and Route 66 in the U.S. This year, we re-established our sponsorship of the Watch List, and we’re preparing to donate $1 million to support the restoration of sites from that list in the coming months.
Our partnerships with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the World Monuments Funds work because we jointly manage and execute these programs with our partners. Each of us has shared responsibility for certain aspects of these programs, and both of us are held accountable for the results.