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The Many Faces of Preservation Funding: An Examination of Private American Organizations Supporting Preservation Abroad

Barnhart, Drew

Every year, American institutions, both private and public, contribute tens of millions of dollars to the preservation of foreign heritage. This sum is only a small portion of total U.S. foreign assistance: in 2018 the U.S. government administered $32.77 billion in foreign aid, while private charitable organizations with international missions collected an additional $22.88 billion in donations. Yet, the money sent abroad for preservation can have a tremendous impact on foreign heritage and the communities that care for them. Heritage sites are important platforms for the construction and mediation of current social values and identities and can be leveraged to both reinforce and challenge hegemonic norms. Through its engagement with the heritage, historic preservation engages with these tensions and is therefore inherently political. For this reason, U.S. financial contributions to the preservation of foreign heritage deserve to be probed as a distinct kind of American influence abroad.

Previous critiques of this dynamic have focused primarily on how government agencies use heritage funding to further foreign policy objectives, usually as means of diplomacy. However, private nonprofits are also key entities in this arena, as evidenced by the prominence of organizations like the World Monuments Fund and the Getty Conservation Institute. Yet, little has been written about the private American institutions that engage with preservation internationally, and there is a gap in our knowledge about the trends they exhibit, the factors that shape their agendas, and the magnitude of their impact.

This thesis begins to fill that gap specifically by examining the organizations that facilitate the funding of preservation overseas, channeling financial support from U.S.-based donors, foundations, and government agencies to the organizations and communities that care for heritage abroad. In many ways, these agents act as the representatives of preservation in the philanthropic sector. However, they also fill a diverse set of functions and operate in a complex ecosystem informed by the dynamics of philanthropy, international affairs, and domestic politics. Consequently, the interests that shape their agendas extend well beyond the field of preservation. In order to better understand these organizations and their cumulative effects on preservation internationally, this thesis probes the following questions:

• What types of organizations are facilitating U.S.-led funding of preservation abroad? • What trends exist among these various categories of organizations? • What is the magnitude of their financial impact on preservation abroad? • What factors and interests shape their priorities?

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Raynolds, William
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 7, 2020