By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) was signed nearly 50 years ago. To recognize this event, as part of the national Preservation50 celebration, the Oklahoma History Center will host the opening of its newest photographic exhibit.
The “Oklahoma Celebrates the National Historic Preservation Act,” exhibition features 29 images honoring the NHPA and its positive impact on historic preservation. It will take place in the Great Hall of the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, in Oklahoma City.
The exhibit opens August 15 and runs Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the end of the year.
“The NHPA has fostered the identification and treatment of Oklahoma’s significant buildings, structures, sites, districts, and objects over the last fifty years,” said Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Melvena Heisch. “The continued use of its programs and the standards developed for them will protect our sense of place for future generations.”
In 1965, as part of his Great Society program, President Lyndon B. Johnson convened a special committee on historic preservation. The committee delivered a report to Congress called With Heritage So Rich, which became an incentive for the preservation movement. On October 15, 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act was signed into law.
“Until passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966, the only way to protect endangered historic properties was through their acquisition,” said Heisch. “The Act and its amendments established the structure and mechanisms for treatment of the nation’s archeological and historic properties, including creation of the National Register of Historic Places, authorization of the Historic Preservation Fund, and provision for State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO).
“The Oklahoma Historical Society, through its SHPO, partner agencies and organizations, is participating in Preservation50 this year,” Heisch added.
Oklahoma’s 28th Annual Statewide Preservation conference, themed “Preservation is Golden,” was held earlier this summer as part of the celebration. It focused on the many accomplishments in the preservation of the nation’s, and particularly Oklahoma’s, heritage that are direct results of the NHPA and it assessed the challenges and opportunities for historic preservation in the future.
Last month, Oklahoma’s statewide preservation program was showcased in the National Park Service’s (NPS) Preservation50 social media campaign called “50for50.”
“The campaign highlights the great preservation work that has taken place in all 50 states for the last 50 years,” said Heisch. “With its state, tribal, local government, and private partners, NPS Cultural Resources is sharing preservation success stories from across the nation.”
Under the NHPA, the SHPO administers the federal historic preservation program in Oklahoma. The program’s mission is to encourage preservation of the state’s archaeological and historic resources for everyone’s benefit.
According to Heisch, approximately 3,000 federal preservation efforts are reviewed by the Oklahoma SHPO each year.
“The photo exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center illustrates the state’s diverse heritage, the variety of properties that represent that heritage, and the ways the NHPA programs help protect it,” said Heisch.
“Photographs in the exhibit provide just a few examples of the many important places that have benefited from the Act, including those put back in productive use for the community through the federal rehabilitation tax credits program,’ she said.
“Working with its partner, Preservation Oklahoma, Inc., the exhibit will travel around the state through early Fall 2017.”
The Oklahoma Historical Society’s mission is to collect, preserve, and share the state’s history, and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) contributes to the accomplishment of the mission through the NHPA’s programs.
“Many partners work with the SHPO to meet the goals and objectives of Tomorrow’s Legacy: Oklahoma’s Statewide Preservation Plan, and one of its objectives calls on the statewide preservation community to join the Preservation50 celebration,” said Heisch.
On Friday, September 16, the Oklahoma Historical Society’s State Historic Preservation Office will hold a meeting to enlist the public’s input regarding Oklahoma’s preservation goals for the 2017 program. The public is encouraged to attend this free event starting at 10:30 a.m. in the Oklahoma History Center Classroom.
For those planning a Preservation50 activity, contact Melvena Heisch at 405-522-4484 or [email protected] to be featured in the Preservation Oklahoma News.