It was thanks to a chance meeting that the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s #ThisPlaceMatters campaign gained a partner this year in real estate and architecture site Curbed.
The path to that partnership started, as National Trust director of community outreach Jason Clement put it, “in typical DC fashion—at a happy hour. But in New York City, actually.” And that happy hour was at an event centered on a historic (and National Trust-owned) architectural icon, a mutual concern of both organizations, topically speaking.
“National Trust is an organization whom we’ve always looked to for news and advocacy surrounding preservation in the United States,” Curbed editor in chief Kelsey Keith tells FishbowlDC. So when Clement started describing to Keith the Trust’s work over the years on the #ThisPlaceMatters campaign, “I immediately thought Curbed could help spread the message, given that our readers are very invested in places.”
The campaign invites people across the country to photograph and share on social media the places that are important to them, tagging pics with #ThisPlaceMatters and including the campaign logo in the photo. The mandate is broad, with participants asked to photograph anything from, as Curbed’s Patrick Sisson puts it in a post, an “iconic theater downtown,” to “a quirky storefront, or an intriguing sign or special landscape in another city.” Curbed and the National Trust will also showcase some of their favorites on their Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest accounts.
Take a look through the photos posted so far and you get a sense of connected history and a view of architectural gems that upend your notions of the towns, cities and states that are not your own. There is also, of course, a lot of zeitgeist-y imagery. “One thing we’ve learned is that preservationists are really good at selfies,” Clement tells FishbowlDC. “Photos have cropped up at places across the country ranging from the top of the Grand Canyon, to the floor of the Houston Astrodome, to the front steps of a lot of people’s childhood homes.”
The “biggest surprise” for Clement, however, was a #ThisPlaceMatters photo from former first lady Laura Bush, taken from National Trust historic site Chesterwood, in Stockbridge, Mass.
In addition to highlighting the importance of place in people’s lives, another goal of the campaign is to demystify the idea of historic preservation. “We want people to realize that preservation is an everyday issue, not only a hobby for arts patrons or the wealthy,” Keith tells FBDC. “Paying homage to places we love, on both a local and national level, is something anyone can tap into, whether it’s the old theater you drive past on your way to work, the historic house where you got married, the synagogue you go to on the weekends, your favorite pedestrian bridge, or a street with local businesses in your newly revitalized downtown.”
And Clement’s opinion on this, syncing neatly with Keith’s sentiments, shows why the two orgs make good partners on this campaign: “Preservation is not just about landmarks. The historic places where our everyday lives happen—and our stories about them—are just as important and worthy of being saved for future generations.”
While the campaign is nationwide, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has planned events throughout October that are particular to Washington, including a D.C. area photo contest, in which the photographers of the top three #ThisPlaceMatters tagged photos from around Washington will be chosen for behind-the-scenes tours of Union Station and Mount Vernon and a climb up the tower of Washington National Cathedral. Clement promises all three site have “nooks and crannies that few people have ever seen.”
The campaign and events all lead up to the National Trust’s annual conference Nov. 3-6, where Keith will be a speaker.