State Policy Responses for State Owned Historic Sites

National Trust For Historic Preservation Midwest Regional Office

In 2010, The National Trust for Historic Preservation included state parks and their historic sites as one of the Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places, in recognition of a disturbing trend by states to close, reduce hours or find other operators or managers for state-owned historic sites.  The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency was forced to close some of its historic sites from October 15, 2008 to April 15, 2009 due to lack of funds. 

Since the publication of Donna Ann Harris’ book New Solutions for House Museums in 2007, Heritage Consulting Inc. has continued to follow the hard choices facing state park and historic preservation agencies nationwide, as they struggle with dwindling funding for these landmark resources.  We have kept up to date with these trends and notice that other states have responded to this crisis in a variety of ways. There is no typical solution being used around the country, as states are creating solutions unique to their circumstances.  Our research to date indicates that states have used the following policy responses:

Our client the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) Trustees wished to review these precedents and others that we uncovered in our research so they have adequate background and knowledge should the agency be forced to take action because of the state’s continuing financial difficulties.

This project is timely and of national importance.  The information gained from other state agencies grappling with the similar difficulties will provide the IHPA Trustees with useful and current information should they need to make decisions on the future of the historic sites that the agency operates.  A national audience will be reached as we disseminate our findings through journal articles, conference presentations.  The significance of this research is not just limited to state managed historic sites, but will also be useful for nonprofit historic site stewards nationwide.

The purpose of this demonstration project is to provide information and guidance to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) on a wide range of possible options to assure the long-term preservation of the historic sites under their care given the deteriorating financial position of the State of Illinois. 

This project had several  components: 

This project was completed on time and on budget in June 2011. Here is a presentation we made with our clients at the September 2011 American Association for State and Local History conference, which is a good overview of our work.