Preservation Month: Celebrating the People Saving Places in Arizona

May 1, 2024

Celebrate Preservation Month by putting a spotlight on the people in our community who are doing the important work saving our places and building our communities through preservation!

Historic place-savers pour their time, energy, resources (and sometimes a great deal of sweat and tears) into protecting places they care about. This May, the Preservation Month theme is “People Saving Places” to shine the spotlight on everyone doing the work — in big ways and small.

Historic preservation is the practice of identifying, managing, and safeguarding tangible elements from the past for the benefit of future generations. It involves preserving our visible and experiential history and serves as a connection to our past.

Historic and archaeological resources worth protecting may be from significant past events, themes, and people, or they may represent different architectural styles and periods, have high artistic value, or provide valuable information about the past. By teaching us about our origins, historic preservation helps us understand our identity.

Furthermore, historic preservation is a means of promoting economic development. Through it, we not only better understand our past, we help ensure a prosperous future.

Who are the people saving places in Arizona?

Preservation is most successful when stakeholders throughout the community are invested in the value of place, and there are many organizations, agencies, and dedicated preservationists in Arizona doing this work. 

Within Arizona State Parks and Trails, there is a team dedicated to preserving historic and archaeological properties. The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) identifies, evaluates, and protects historic structures and archaeological sites. SHPO reviews the work of federal and state agencies to ensure their plans account for the presence of historic properties such as buildings, archeological sites, and landscape features. The SHPO also helps determine eligibility and reviews nominations for the National Register of Historic Places. These are properties that contribute to an understanding of the historical and cultural foundations of the nation. 

Of course, you cannot celebrate People Saving Places without recognizing the work of incredible volunteers! SHPO also oversees Arizona’s Site Stewards program. This group of over 600 volunteers monitors and reports the destruction or vandalism of prehistoric and historic archaeological and paleontological sites in Arizona to land managers.

Can YOU play a part in preservation? 

If you're someone who values a sense of place, then you're already a preservationist! In a recent conversation with Kathryn Leonard, Arizona's State Historic Preservation Officer, we explore the different aspects of historic preservation. Click below to listen as we delve into the ideological perspective of preserving our past to help future generations understand it better, as well as the practical side that includes laws, tax breaks, economic benefits, and more. Kathryn also shares some simple ways that anyone can participate in preservation, such as visiting museums and state historic parks, buying gifts from shops at historic sites, or attending Arizona's historic preservation conference June 25-27, 2024, which is open to everyone. You can also visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation for resources to help you celebrate May as Preservation Month! 

If you're looking to get more involved in preservation, joining a local preservation group is an excellent way to start. Groups such as the Arizona Preservation Foundation, Vail Preservation Society, Tucson Preservation Foundation, Preserve Phoenix, and Modern Phoenix can help you better understand Arizona's past and how they're working to preserve it. They also provide opportunities for advocacy, grant writing, volunteerism, and more.