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Displaying items by tag: Save America's Treasures

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. has announced that its Renwick Gallery, which houses the museum’s American craft and decorative arts collection from the 19th to 21st centuries, will undergo a major renovation. The Renwick Gallery, which opened to the public in 1972, will close to accommodate the project in early 2014 and is expected to reopen in 2016.

Project details are still being worked out and an exact cost for the renovations is yet to be determined. The Smithsonian is planning to use public funds to pay for half of the project and the rest will be paid through private partnerships. The project has already received a $335,000 grant from the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures initiative, as the Renwick Gallery is located in a National Historic Landmark building. The building’s construction began in 1859 and went on to house the city’s first art museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, upon its completion.

Museum officials plan to convert all of the Renwick Gallery’s lighting to energy efficient LED lights and wireless Internet access will be provided throughout the entire gallery. Heating, plumbing, electrical, air conditioning, and fire safety systems will all be gutted and replaced. This will be the Renwick Gallery’s first renovation in 40 years.

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Federal budget cuts forced the closure of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Save America’s Treasures (SAT) office in July. SAT had provided more than $315m in funding for historic preservation since 1999. US Congress does not plan to renew funding.

“Save America’s Treasures was a model public-private partnership that invested record amounts to preserve the icons of our democracy,” said Bobbie Greene McCarthy, the former SAT director at the national trust. “Its demise is a terrible loss to our country. We were only asking for $5m to keep things going,” she added.

This recent budget cut does not save dollars in terms of tax revenue. “The SAT appropriation comes out of the Historic Preservation Fund, which is funded by outer continental oil lease revenues, not taxes,” said Hampton Tucker, the chief of the Historic Preservation Grants Division, National Park Service.

While the SAT closure is seen by some as a blemish on the Obama administration’s interest in historic preservation, on 11 August, the US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $100m toward the Floridian Everglades restoration under the Wetlands Reserve Program. That funding will go to ranchers to relinquish development rights to as much as 24,000 acres northwest of Lake Okeechobee and preserve them under permanent conservation easements. The same day, Vilsack announced $21.8m in additional funding to help eligible farmers and ranchers in Wyoming conserve the Greater Sage-grouse habitat. Then on 16 August, Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, announced his department will pump more than $43.1m into conservation and recreation improvement projects in Nevada.

SAT has a long history of providing grants for historic preservation. In 2010, a total of 113 grants were awarded. “SAT grants were matched dollar for dollar and were a spark for community development,” said Greene McCarthy.

The National Park Service continues to administer the SAT grant programme with over 500 grants awarded between 2006-10 that are still active. With no funding, there are no new applications.

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