An Interview with Terry B. Morton
by Russell V. Keune
The first part of this interview, conducted in the electronic era of computers, the Internet, search engines, e-mail, faxes, Facebook, and twittering, looks back to a period when printed communications in the historic preservation field were produced on electric typewriters, mimeograph machines, and by commercial printers and distributed by the U.S. Post Office.
Terry Brust Morton was a staff member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (Trust) from 1956 until 1982. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a nonprofit member-supported organization founded in 1949 by a congressional charter to support the preservation of the nation’s historic districts, sites, buildings, and objects through a wide range of programs and activities.
During 25 years of her 26-year Trust career, she was the leading print communicator to the national preservation constituency. She oversaw the production of the printed communications that served as the Trust’s primary member benefits. She played a leading role in conceiving, developing, researching, writing, editing, designing, and publishing diverse material. Early examples were intended to inform, educate, and service a growing Trust individual and organizational membership. A later publication array—books, brochures, case studies, illustrated slide lecture notebooks, posters, and catalogues—reached a wide audience of citizens and public officials. At her 1982 departure, she was the vice president for the Preservation Press.
She was also a leading advocate for the enhancement of District of Columbia public and private preservation programs. She believed that she could be more effective in her Trust responsibilities if directly involved in local preservation.
Her 12-year career with the United States Committee, International Council on Monuments and Sites (1982-1994) provided much of the leadership that moved a largely unknown international preservation organization to a position of active engagement with a growing membership and a host of private and public organizations sharing an interest in international preservation challenges and opportunities. In 1980, she was elected vice chairman, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), United States Committee (US/ICOMOS). After leaving the Trust, she served full time as US/ICOMOS chairman (1982-87), and then as its president and CEO (1987-94).
This interview was conducted by Russell V. Keune, FAIA, in October 2009. He has been Terry’s friend and professional colleague since 1966. She resides at Riderwood Village in Silver Spring, Maryland. vision.
RVK: Let’s begin by telling me about your childhood.
TBM: First a review of my roots. My great-great-grandfather, Rev. Herman Bielfeld, came with his family from Bielefeld, Germany, to Frederick, Md., by way of Canada and Pennsylvania. He was minister of St. John’s German Reformed Church from 1873 until his 1895 death, when he was buried under its altar. Relatives were a carriage maker, school superintendent, printing and bookbinding company owner, horticulturist, and Frederick News and Press publisher. Two were artists and another’s name was given to the Westminster Public Library.
I was born and raised in historic Frederick. My industrious father was a master carpenter who built houses, including three in which we lived, plus our garden playhouse. My mother’s farm family was from Alsace-Lorraine; she was a one-room school teacher and a talented mother and homemaker. Both parents were dedicated to the family and active in church. I was one of four children with two sisters and my twin bother, with whom I was generally inseparable until seventh grade. I was raised during the Great Depression’s difficult economic times, and attended Frederick schools. Following high school in 1945, I left home determined to make a difference, but had no plan. I lived in Washington, DC, with my sister, enrolled in Strayer College, and completed its secretarial program.
RVK:: What led you to the National Trust for Historic Preservation?
TBM: In 1947 I obtained my first position as assistant to the editor, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Located in a historic building, 700 Jackson Place, NW, it would begin nearly 35 years working at Lafayette Square overlooking the White House. Alger Hiss, the Endowment’s congenial president, worked at the Washington office when not at its New York City headquarters.
Later I joined the Wells Organization, a New York City fundraising firm helping Washington’s First Baptist Church acquire funds to build its new modified Gothic structure, at 16th and O Streets, NW. I became secretary to Dr. Edward Hughes Pruden, the church minister. He was also President Truman’s pastor during his presidency.
By 1950 I enrolled in George Washington University, continuing full-time church work to pay expenses during six night-school years. My academic focus was on history, literature, and writing. In an art survey course, I realized I could study these subjects through art and architectural history. I also took Corcoran School of Arts1 drawing and painting courses. Through cultural events and the Institute of Contemporary Arts membership, I attended lectures, including those by Frank Lloyd Wright, Dylan Thomas, and Aldous Huxley.
Following graduation in 1956, I sought a position with the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution. Because of my lack of experience, it was difficult to secure a professional position. In a newspaper advertisement I noted a position at the National Trust. Although I had not heard of the organization, I applied, was hired and, on June 18, 1956, reported as secretary to the newly appointed first Trust president, Richard H. Howland.
Dr. Howland was a Greek classical archeology authority, Society of Architectural Historians founder, US/ICOMOS founder, and John Hopkins University Fine Arts Department head. Working with Dr. Howland and the Trust subject matter, it seemed I was in extended college studies. Dr. Howland would become a lifelong friend and colleague, and I considered him my “godfather.” Years later he offered to nominate me to be the Cosmos Club’s first woman member; for personal reasons, I declined his gracious offer.
RVK: What was it like working at this early Trust?
TBM: The Trust was seven years old and had a staff of five and two part-timers. Donated office space was in a townhouse at 712 Jackson Place, NW, owned by Paul Mellon and adjacent to his townhouse. It marked my second return to historic Jackson Place.
As the president’s secretary, I was introduced to what this new, small national organization was about. A broader view was afforded by my serving as Board of Trustees recording secretary, 1956-75. Board officers and members had played significant roles in the 1949 Trust chartering. Among these leaders were David E. Finley, National Gallery chairman, U.S. Commission of Fine Arts chairman, and Trust Board chairman; Ronald F. Lee, National Park Service chief historian; Ambassador Robert Woods Bliss, Dumbarton Oaks; Mrs. W. Randolph Burgess, former World War II Women’s Army Corp head; Ulysses S. Grant III; and Louise E. du Pont Crowninshield of Delaware. Later significant Board vice chairmen were Helen Abell (Kentucky), and Robertson E. Collins (Oregon).
Seminars, annual meetings, fundraising, increasing individual and organizational membership; responsibility for the first Trust historic properties—Woodlawn Plantation (Virginia) and Casa Amesti (California)—answering ever-increasing telephone and letter inquiries; receiving visitors; and scheduling and preparing Dr. Howland’s lectures—all required collaboration among our small staff.
Most member service responsibility went to Helen Duprey Bullock, who in 1950 had become staff historian and editor. The first member benefit publication was initiated in 1949, an eight-page, 8½" × 11" magazine, Historic Preservation: Quarterly of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
It was the only member communication when I arrived in 1956. Nine months later, I was made managing editor to enhance and expand Trust printed communications and assist Mrs. Bullock. I had no academic training in editing or publishing graphics.
Mrs. Bullock had been Colonial Williamsburg’s archivist, 1929-50, a University of Virginia Thomas Jefferson fellow, an AIA honorary member, and a recognized authority on colonial American cooking. A mesmerizing speaker, she shortly became a Trust icon. After her retirement she received the Trustees’ highest national preservation honor, the Louise E. du Pont Crowninshield Award. She was my teacher and adviser; we worked together for 18 years and were lifelong friends. When I was at US/ICOMOS, she gave me her sculptured award eagle, saying that it was the first of two that I would receive!
The Robert Lee Blaffer Trust of Houston, Texas, funded Trust communication advances. A graphic designer enhanced and unified the Trust graphic image with the use of terra-cotta color, a new logo, new stationery, and the quarterly magazine redesigned in a journal format issued from 1957 to 1971.
Under Dr. Howland’s leadership, the staff initiated and expanded programs, especially in education and properties. Endowment increased with major gifts, including those from Mellon family foundations. One project was the Historic American Buildings Inventory for the Commonwealth of Virginia, co-sponsored by NPS and the American Institute of Architects. It was a precursor of the national, state, and local surveys envisioned in the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act.
RVK: You worked for a succession of Trust presidents. Who succeeded Dr. Howland?
TBM: Dr. Howland was preceded by Frederick L. Rath Jr., executive director, who came from the NPS during the 1949 Trust founding. In the 1990s, when giving his papers to the University of Maryland’s National Trust for Historic Preservation Library Collection, Mr. Rath remarked that our careers covered 33 years of Trust history.
TBM: In 1960 Robert R. Garvey Jr., executive director of Old Salem, Inc. (Winston Salem, N.C.), succeeded Dr. Howland. As the Trust’s executive director, Mr. Garvey ushered in an era of extended Trust communications to its 2,400 members and 326 member organizations. He was a strong supporter of enhancing member communications. It was his idea that the monthly newsletter, which he had established on his arrival, be replaced by a large newsprint format with advertising, continuing the name Preservation News. With his finely tuned political instincts, the newspaper was dispatched monthly to the U.S. Congress. First printed in January 1961, the paper was placed for free distribution outside the Trust office entrance at the H Street facade of Decatur House.
RVK: What role, if any, did the Trust Board play in its publication programs?
In 1962 Gordon Gray, former secretary of the army, became Trust Board chairman. The number and role of Board committees under Mr. Gray were expanded. Made up of trustees and non-trustees, the Publications Committee brought experience and perspective. Five chairmen made significant contributions: Alice Winchester, The Magazine Antiques editor; later Wendell Garrett, Antiques editor; Dr. Leonard Carmichael, former Smithsonian secretary, and National Geographic Society Explorer vice chairman; and Philip C. Johnson, FAIA. Important members were Howard E. Paine, designer of National Geographic, and Robert E. Stipe, lawyer and professor, North Carolina State University.
RVK: How did you gather information to develop newspaper and journal articles?
TBM: We were never lost for subjects for either publication. In the early years, in addition to suggestions from members throughout the country, our clipping service provided initial leads. Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, federal urban renewal, dam construction, and interstate highways were increasing dramatically. Entire historic neighborhoods, significant city halls, county courthouses, and federal buildings were being demolished in record numbers by government agencies. There were abundant issues and conflicts. Local, county, state, and national preservationists were operating before the protections provided under the 1966 Act.
In addition to reporting threats and losses, we also reported success stories: buildings saved, newly created historic districts, noteworthy surveys, preservation awards, and new educational offerings. Our print media provided a vital link among individuals and organizations facing similar challenges.
I am proud of planning, writing and editing editorials, articles, and features for Historic Preservation and Preservation News. Over those 26 years there were 98 journals and magazines and 252 newsletters and newspapers. Having national exposure to the preservation movement at all levels, it was rewarding to highlight subjects that I viewed as meriting attention.
I commissioned preservation crossword puzzles for the newspaper written by prisoners recommended by the New York Times. Since there was no feedback, the crossword puzzles were discontinued. We also commissioned cartoons, some used in the 1976 cartoon book, I Feel I Should Warn You: They Have Taken Down Boston and Put Up Something Else. I had collected preservation cartoons over 25 years and received approval to use no more than 25 percent from the New Yorker in the book.
Our enhanced print communications attracted renowned architecture critics, including Ada Louise Huxtable of the New York Times and Wolf von Eckardt of the Washington Post. Their writings on an array of preservation issues spread the message to a wide and diverse audience beyond the Trust membership.
RVK: The Trust undertook major new initiatives during the 1960s. What were the highlights?
TBM: Under Mr. Garvey’s leadership, the Trust assumed a coordinating role in efforts leading to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The conceptualization, planning, funding, writing, and publishing of the book With Heritage So Rich involved Trust Board members and staff. Carl Feiss, an urban planner and Board member, played a pivotal role. Mrs. Bullock was temporarily relieved of normal duties to produce this key book. A monumental effort, it was to be available for congressional committees working on this legislation. The appendix recommended legislative elements. Preservation losses and accomplishments, featured in a photographic essay, documented what was happening to America’s historic, architectural, urban, and archeological heritage.
In 1969, when the reconstruction of Jackson Place began, Trust offices moved to a nearby building. The Trust then moved back to Decatur House and two former townhouses, now reconstructed, on Jackson Place. I proposed that the Trust establish a preservation bookstore to adjoin the visitor reception area. It would sell Trust publications with those of member organizations and related commercial items. The bookstore opened December 1971.
RVK: The Trust established the Preservation Press in the 1970s. What led to this development?
TBM: In 1968 James Biddle became the second Trust president. Mr. Garvey became executive director of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, established under the 1966 Act. Mr. Biddle came from New York City, where he had been curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s American Wing.
Established in 1975, the Preservation Press was a concept that I initiated when Mr. Biddle asked for new directions. We had continued to publish the monthly newspaper and quarterly journal, which had been redesigned in 1972 in a four-color, square magazine format. It was redesigned again in 1979 as the bimonthly magazine in an enlarged format with advertising. Both publications won awards for content and design.
The new entity published an expanded array of Trust books with other preservation organizations and commercial publishers. A grant-in-aid program provided matching support for member organization publications. Special seminars on publishing were incorporated into Trust annual meetings.
Major Press books included Old and New Architecture: Design Relationship; Space Adrift: Landmark Preservation and the Marketplace; the two-volume Preservation Comes of Age: From Williamsburg to the National Trust, 1926-1949; two Trust histories 1949-63 and 1963-76; and America’s Forgotten Architecture, published by Pantheon Books.
I assembled a talented staff of experienced writers and editors. Key people were Marguerite Gleysteen, Lee Ann Kinzer, Carleton Knight III, Diane Maddex, Sharon W. Timmons, and Gail Wentzell. Diane and I worked together for 14 years and we remain close friends. She was my chief assistant, my book editor, and became an AIA honorary member. Having her own business, she has written, or edited, and published 30 Frank Lloyd Wright books and related items. Eventually the Press was supported by a staff of 17.
Preservation Press reviewed, approved, and published all Trust printed materials, except direct-mail member solicitations requiring specialized consultants (although I expressed our belief that direct-mail membership promotional mailing(s) were often inaccurate and inconsistent with the Trust’s image).
With Board members coming in the late 1970s from corporate backgrounds, the decision was made to include newspaper and magazine paid advertising. A person knowledgeable in marketing commercial advertising was added to Press staff. While advertising income contributed to production costs, it never became a sole sustaining source.
With Trust membership reaching 160,000, its magazine audience attracted the interest of an Arkansas private publisher. He had launched a privately published preservation magazine and sought a Trust contract to publish its bimonthly magazine. The Board did not accept his proposal.
In 1979 the Trust moved to new quarters in the former McCormick apartments at 1785 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, just off Dupont Circle. The Preservation Press enjoyed first-floor offices in this historic building purchased from the Brookings Institute. The Trust and I had come full circle in association with Mellon family quarters from the son’s townhouses on Jackson Place to his father’s apartments in this grand building. It was here that major National Gallery paintings had been selected by Andrew W. Mellon.
My 25th anniversary as a Trust employee was celebrated in 1981. That same year my professional accomplishments were recognized when I was elected an AIA honorary member and named a “preservation pioneer” by the Smithsonian. I received honor awards from the Trust, twice from the [Washington] D.C. Area Women in Preservation and the Bryn Mawr College/Pennsylvania Historical Society’s Ann Pamela Cunningham Honor Award. Later I was named a US/ICOMOS fellow.
RVK: The Trust went through strategic planning exercises during your tenure. What impact was there on your responsibilities?
TBM: The 1963 conference Historic Preservation Tomorrow convened at Colonial Williamsburg. Its final report recognized membership and public communications as an essential Trust mission and called for their expansion. The 1973 “Goals and Programs” study took place when the Trust was receiving federal funds from the 1966 Act. It reaffirmed Trust publications as a primary membership benefit. Though broader than Trust concerns, the third was the 1978-79 “Preservation: Toward an Ethic in the Eighties.” It had little Trust impact since in 1980 there was a complete change in Board and staff leadership.
RVK: You have pride in your personal role as a preservation activist. What are some of the highlights of that commitment?
TBM: My activist activities started in 1964 when the Trust sponsored the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Year, which we did in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State. My first personal and public preservation advocacy occurred with the proposed sale and demolition of the National Presbyterian Church on Connecticut Avenue, NW, just south of Dupont Circle. It was one of the finest Romanesque Revival city churches and had one of the two downtown towers on the Washington skyline.
Learning of a congregational evening meeting to vote on the developer’s proposal to buy and demolish the church for an office building, I organized a sidewalk protest march with Mr. Garvey’s approval. Needless to say the minister, developer, and many attendees were not pleased to find sign-carrying marchers. The police informed us that a public sidewalk demonstration permit was needed and dispersed us. The church was later demolished; recently the replacement building’s façade was stripped and replaced by a more modern version.
By 1964, the right-of-way planning for Interstate Highway 66 in Falls Church, Virginia, included one of three area houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. One of his Usonian designs, it was later named the Pope-Leighey House for its original and current owners. Marjorie F. Leighey did not want to see her house destroyed and had not opened Virginia Department of Highways documents. The situation was discovered when my husband, M. Hamilton Morton Jr., AIA, led a Wright house tour for the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association. The next day I reported the widow’s plight to Mr. Garvey; publicity and outrage ensued, and Mr. Garvey, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the highways department negotiated to save the house.
During this time, Hamilton and I helped Mrs. Leighey prepare the house interior for a visit by public and private preservation leaders to examine rescue possibilities. Leading the delegation was Stewart L. Udall, secretary of the interior. The house was saved, accepted as the first modern Trust historic house museum, and moved to the Woodlawn Plantation site. In 1969, to publish the house’s history in Historic Preservation, I organized an oral history reunion of those responsible for the Pope-Leighey House’s original construction, relocation, and reconstruction.
In 1967, being members of the Society of Architectural Historians, James C. Massey, later director of the Trust Properties Department, and I proposed to Dr. Howland the creation of a local SAH chapter. At the organizational meeting in the Trust’s Decatur House (1819), the new chapter was named for its architect and America’s first professional architect, Benjamin Henry Latrobe. The chapter has grown in membership and regularly presents lectures and tours on significant Washington area architecture.
In 1971 a preservation controversy focused on the Old Post Office at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. The redevelopment plan for Pennsylvania Avenue prepared by the architect Nathaniel Owings, of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, for the Pennsylvania Avenue Redevelopment Corporation called for this 19th-century Romanesque public building’s demolition. It was to be replaced by a new complex to complete the 1930s classical Federal Triangle. Alison Owings (not related to the architect), a WRC-TV writer much concerned about local heritage, and I led Trust staff and members in a lunch-time march to the Old Post Office. The march spurred the creation of a new private citywide preservation organization, Don’t Tear It Down, eventually renamed the DC Preservation League.
Intensive media and lobbying efforts ensued; the national landmark was saved, with its tower, and restored with a new adaptive use in 1983. It became home to the Advisory Council and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities (NEA and NEH). It was one of the first federal buildings to house multiple uses under new federal regulations.
The first U.S. conference on national historic districts was convened in 1969 by the Trust in Boston. Lawyers active in preservation law relating to districts attended and spoke. Leaders realized there was much innovative activity within preservation law. I suggested to Mr. Biddle that the Trust establish a national preservation law committee. Hesitant that the Trust might be taking on too many new initiatives, he ultimately agreed. Among prominent lawyers to serve were Robert E. Stipe; Frank B. Gilbert, New York City; and Albert B. Wolfe, Jr., Boston.
The Trust committee then convened a national conference to review the developing law field. It was held in Washington, DC, on May Day 1971, with proceedings to be published by the Duke University Law Journal. Released in 1972, it was the first comprehensive U.S. preservation law publication.
In 1973 the Preservation Law Committee urged the Trust to hire its first staff attorney to provide preservation law advisory services. You, Russell, as Trust director of field services, and I were sent to Harvard University to interview graduating law students. The attorney we recommended was hired.
May 1970 marked the first Trust Earth Day engagement, promoted and planned by the Preservation Press. Its success led to my suggestion that the Trust launch its own National Historic Preservation Week. Started in 1971, it is still a national event. The Trust Earth Day celebration also directly resulted in the Council on Environmental Quality, our neighbor on Jackson Place, to include historic preservation in its environmental tax relief legislation proposed to Congress.
I also proposed that the Trust and the SAH Latrobe Chapter organize the first historic preservation conference in the nation’s capital. Held in April 1972 and attended by 350 people, it endorsed DC citywide preservation legislation. The second DC preservation conference was held in 1982, sponsored by the DC AIA Chapter and SAH Latrobe Chapter. During the intervening 10 years, with DC Preservation League leadership, the District of Columbia had enacted and put into effect one of the most progressive preservation ordinances in the country.
RVK: How did you become interested in the international aspects of historic preservation?
TBM: There were international preservation news stories in the Trust’s newspaper and magazine, as well as headquarters meetings with international visitors. In 1965 several Trust leaders and members, including Charles E. Peterson of the Park Service and Mr. Garvey, were U.S. delegation members to meetings in Warsaw, Poland, that formed the International Council on Monuments and Sites. Our national US/ICOMOS committee, which I joined, was formed shortly. Eventually, I was elected to its Board of Trustees, became its vice chairman and chairman; and, after the 1987 general assembly, its secretariat president and CEO.
I served on delegations to ICOMOS general assemblies and international symposia in Moscow, USSR (1978), Rome and Florence, Italy (1981), Rostock and Dresden, German Democratic Republic (1984), Lausanne, Switzerland (1990), and Colombo, Sri Lanka (1993).
Dr. Ernest A. Connally was the first head of the Park Service’s Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation; in 1975 he became the first American elected ICOMOS secretary general. His three-year tenure brought a high level of engagement between the U.S. committee and the Paris parent organization, a non-governmental organization related to UNESCO.
As a membership benefit, ICOMOS published the quarterly journal Monumentum for its 65 national committees. US/ICOMOS sponsored and published a 1976 edition dedicated to the U.S. preservation movement to celebrate our Bicentennial. This was another Press project for which I was editor.
RVK: In 1983 you became the first permanent US/ICOMOS staff member. What were your first goals in assuming this position?
TBM: From 1965 to 1983, Mr. Garvey volunteered his services and those of his Trust and Advisory Council staffs as US/ICOMOS secretariats. It was essentially a volunteer organization, with fewer than 100 members. Although the Trust gave me a small grant and two Decatur House offices, I had to raise all additional income. Eventually there was a staff of four with two others hired for the 1987 general assembly, and with additional support from three regular volunteers.
I published a monthly newsletter, printed on thin air mail-style paper to convey a sense of being international. Monthly lectures were presented by members and visiting foreign preservationists. We sought members and then encouraged them to join ICOMOS specialized committees, reaching those interested in international preservation beyond Washington. When I left, the membership had grown to nearly 700 individual and organizational members.
RVK: The World Heritage Convention became a major US/ICOMOS focus. How and why did that come about?
TBM: The United States played a leading role in developing UNESCO’s convention, dealing with cultural and natural property. In 1972 we were the first country to ratify this convention. ICOMOS is the official international organization supporting UNESCO in the convention’s cultural property aspects. The State Department, having the federal U.S.-WHC responsibility, designated the NPS International Office to be the operating entity.
US/ICOMOS offered support to NPS to make WHC programs better understood in America. We collaborated in a number of initiatives, one being member programs on WHC properties. We sponsored with the DC AIA Chapter a presentation on the Statue of Liberty, a World Heritage site, by its restoration architects. It was held at the Federal Reserve Auditorium with a standing-room audience. We assisted the National Geographic in publishing the first U.S. book devoted to the World Heritage Convention. It was illustrated with cultural and natural sites from the Society’s photographic archives.
Each quarter, US/ICOMOS newsletters were devoted to world heritage news. US/ICOMOS and NPS reviewed U.S. sites considered for convention nomination and were invited to UNESCO meetings where WHC sites were designated. 1987 general assembly funds were used for a WHC exhibit sponsored with NPS.
A new US/ICOMOS initiative led to the creation of model elementary school curricula focused on world heritage. Arlington County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland, education boards tested and refined programs. We were fortunate to have NPS support and that of a private foundation’s dedicated volunteer, Barbara Timken.
RVK: US/ICOMOS also reached out to students interested in international preservation. How did this come about?
TBM: French ICOMOS had a Youth and Heritage summer intern program and invited US/ICOMOS to include American high school students. We responded affirmatively, beginning our international intern program. Then Robert Kapsch, chief of the NPS Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), suggested that foreign college students join U.S. students on HABS summer intern teams. Foreign students came recommended by their ICOMOS national committees.
The intern programs were directed by Ellen Delage, a former American staffer at the ICOMOS secretariat in Paris and our talented French-speaking program officer. Subsequently foreign students were added to Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) teams. Foreign and American interns, mostly students of architecture and landscape architecture, were usually assigned to local, state, and national private nonprofit sponsoring organizations. Participating ICOMOS committees then hosted American summer interns in their countries.
The first Americans in Moscow worked for state preservation agencies. In Alaska, USSR interns used their Russian and English language skills on Russian colonial period documents. In 1989 in Moscow, HABS landscape architect Paul Dolinsky and I met with the minister of culture to sign the USSR/USA-NPS-US/ICOMOS intern exchange protocol.
Member donations supported intern programs through annual Valentine appeals. The program, in the years from 1984 to 2009, trained more than 600 students from 70 countries. Intern orientation was given by DC members and public and private organization representatives. Intern debriefings on their DC return were given to this group, discussing their professional work and sharing their observations of places and people.
RVK: US/ICOMOS came to engage in foreign preservation projects. What were they?
TBM: Foreign projects discovered US/ICOMOS, because its nonprofit tax status enabled us to receive tax-deductible donations for transfer abroad.
The first initiative was to support preservation of the 16th-century Citadelle Laferrière in Haiti, a World Heritage site. It is the largest masonry fortification in the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. committee to raise restoration funds was led by Ronald Brown, later the secretary of commerce. US/ICOMOS transferred funds to the overseeing Haitian entity.
A project in the then Yugoslavia was for the 16th-century Arneri Palace on Korčula Island in the Adriatic Sea. Located on the old town square and facing the cathedral, most of its interior and roof had been destroyed by fire, leaving an empty shell for decades. A prominent American preservationist on a Smithsonian tour made a sizable grant for restoration and reconstruction. The local effort was facilitated by Sir Fitzroy and Lady Veronica MacLean. A Foreign Service Officer, he had been Churchill’s representative to Marshal Tito to support Yugoslavia’s war with the Nazis. Many of the James Bond stories were inspired by Sir Fitzroy’s adventures.
US/ICOMOS served as fund recipient and formed a board committee to oversee grant administration and preservation work. Since the historic Korčula town center was a designated national monument, all work was under government monument service approval. As the project progressed, Croatia declared its independence and the Serbian-Croatian war temporarily halted work. Exterior restoration was completed in 1992; the Croatian Ministry of Culture continues interior restoration and furnishing of the museum and cultural center.
We also obtained U.S. tax-exempt status and raised funds in a joint effort with the French Association CSS Alabama to help rescue and protect the ship’s relics. A Confederate raider, it was sunk in 1864 during the Civil War off the Cherbourg coast.
For a multi-year program focused on two castles and a fort on Ghana’s Atlantic coastline, US/ICOMOS joined a consortium with the Smithsonian, Conservation International, and the University of Minnesota. The goal was to enhance economic development of the Cape Coast region with a new national nature park, as well as preservation and interpretation of Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle, and Fort St. Jago—all World Heritage sites.
Under this project supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), we worked with Ghana’s Museums and Monuments Board. Foreign professionals were brought to the U.S. for Smithsonian technical design and construction training and for introductions to NPS preservation and interpretation. It was rewarding to see President Obama visiting the Cape Coast Castle during his 2009 state visit to Ghana.
The U.S. Information Agency (USIA) supported projects were under its International Visitors program. Historic agency administrators came for two-week periods to meet with public and private preservation agencies. Another brought architects and urban planners from the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America to visit established historic districts. Preservation officials also came from developing countries to the 1987 ICOMOS general assembly, participants being selected by U.S. embassies in their countries.
The USIA television project WORLDNET brought U.S. and foreign counterparts to interactive live broadcasts at U.S. embassies. Our members focused on topics such as archeology and historic districts.
Our largest USIA undertaking involved two regional, weeklong conferences with government leaders invited to share experiences. The first studied Asia at the East-West Center in Honolulu, with proceedings published by the Getty Conservation Institute. The second was in Cairo, Egypt, for Middle East and North Africa delegates.
RVK: US/ICOMOS carried out American Express Company projects. What did they involve?
TBM: The first was to plan, organize, promote, and conduct special competitive preservation awards for Caribbean countries’1992 Christopher Columbus Quincentenary. Winners received cash awards to support ongoing efforts; the program was extended for 1993.
Another was writing and publishing an illustrated book on national preservation programs of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), prepared in conjunction with a regular ASEAN meeting. We collaborated with the World Monuments Fund of New York City, and on another book, The Razing of Romania’s Past.
RVK: The most far-reaching and largest undertaking during your US/ICOMOS service was the 1987 General Assembly and International Symposium. How did this come about and what did it involve?
TBM: ICOMOS national members meet every three years for the general assembly, all previous meetings since its 1965 founding having taken place in Europe. US/ICOMOS had always been represented; our delegates were impressed by the 1978 Soviet Union sessions. Since much had been accomplished under our 1966 Act, I recommended to the Board that we host the 1987 gathering—I knew what was required, but not how we might do it!
I extended the US/ICOMOS invitation in 1981 at the Rome 6th general assembly; it was welcomed and accepted. Although these conferences were previously held in May, ICOMOS acceptance required an October meeting. ICOMOS attendees and 1987 Trust Washington annual meeting participants could thus attend some sessions at either meeting. It proved to be a significant and challenging event for our small organization—but we did it; we succeeded!
With the theme Old Cultures in New Worlds, planning began six years in advance. European governments financially support committee hosts for these events. Our appointed committees determined that it was necessary for us to raise nearly $1 million to host our event. As the US/ICOMOS general assembly chairman, I requested $100,000 from NPS congressional appropriations subcommittees, although Trust staff advised me it would be easier to obtain $1 million. Starting in 1983, we received $100,000 annually, which continued until 1994, with reduced amounts in future years.
Another financial success occurred when Dr. Howland and I, on a hot August afternoon, visited a foundation sponsor. We asked $40,000 for foreign delegates, and within days a $40,000 check arrived. Significant support came from individuals, other foundations, and public and private entities: Advisory Council, National Building Museum, NEA, NPS, Smithsonian, Trust, and USIA. A major expense was to provide simultaneous English, French, Spanish, and Russian translation service.
In 1986 I hired you, Russell, as US/ICOMOS program vice president, to mastermind the planning and execution of the big event. You were a NPS employee for seven years and Trust staff officer, 1969-1983. With your related preservation responsibilities, including international experience and planning numerous Trust national conferences and annual meetings, there were no other candidates—no one was better qualified!
Regional, state, and local public and private organizations contributed staff and facilities for sessions and tours that included historic sites, towns, and cities in DC, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware. Hundreds of volunteers contributed to the weeklong event.
Publications without charge were available at participant arrival, including 142 papers in four symposium sub-themes published in English and French editions. Another was a survey book, The American Mosaic: Preserving a Nation’s Heritage, covering 21 years of U.S. preservation.
The US/ICOMOS Specialized Committee on Historic Towns led an effort to produce the first ICOMOS Charter on Historic Towns that was adopted by the General Assembly.
The DC Board of Elections lent voting booths, prepared ballots used for ICOMOS officers, and supplied automated equipment to count and verify cast ballots. Election Board staff operated the system, previously a time-consuming, hand process with paper ballots. It was transformed into a record-time election.
My late husband, Hamilton, and I shared many preservation goals, and I was fortunate to have his support and counsel. In 1985 he was the DC AIA chapter president; he had many preservation contracts and numerous preservation volunteer projects. My efforts were immensely enhanced by his varied interests and relevant contacts.
I am grateful for the years I pursued preservation opportunities and carried out others that I created. I miss the challenges, action, family, staff, U.S. and foreign preservation friends, colleagues, and mentors, sadly many no longer with us. We dedicated “preservation people” strengthened the work of our predecessors. We did change the world and set the stage for preservation of heritage in the 21st century.
1. Now the Corcoran College of Art and Design