History of History- NM Historic Preservation Division celebrates more than five decades of preservation in May

April 03, 2024

Stephen Hamway

Santa Fe, NM – Each May, the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division (NMHPD) and historians across the nation celebrate National Preservation Month, which recognizes the work and benefits of preserving historic places for future generations. As another Preservation Month draws closer, NMHPD delved into the history of the month-long celebration of preservation. 

“Historic preservation is a year-round effort in New Mexico and across the country, but National Preservation Month reminds us each year that preserving historic properties means preserving the lifeblood of communities across the state for generations to come,” said State Historic Preservation Officer Jeff Pappas. 

Preservation Month first began as a single week in mid-May during the 1970s. The first National Preservation Week spanned May 6-12, 1973. The designation was proposed by Donald T. Sheehan, a member of the Trustees Advisory Committee on Membership & Public Relations, who introduced the idea as a “means of relating local and state preservation progress to the national effort for the mutual benefits of both,” according to the National Trust of Historic Preservation. President Richard Nixon signed the resolution into law on May 5, 1973. 

First Lady Patricia Nixon presented the National Trust awards during the third annual Awards Luncheon in the Decatur House Garden on May 8 and read the Presidential proclamation: “As the pace of change accelerates in the world around us, Americans more than ever need a lively awareness of our roots and origins in the past on which to base our sense of identity in the present and our directions for the future.” 

In New Mexico, the Cultural Properties Review Committee co-sponsors events throughout New Mexico for Heritage Preservation Month throughout May, in collaboration with local preservation groups, state historical societies, parks, business and civic organizations. One such event is NMHPD’s annual Heritage Preservation Awards ceremony, which honors projects and organizations that have made a meaningful and lasting contribution to historic preservation in New Mexico. 

The 52nd Annual Heritage Preservation Awards will be held on Friday, May 17 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the historic Meem Auditorium at the New Mexico Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. A reception will be held after the event at the Museum of International Folk Art. For additional details about the awards ceremony, visit nmhistoricpreservation.org

About the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division: NMHPD manages, oversees, and coordinates historic preservation activities across the state. The division educates the public about historic preservation and protects thousands of historic and archaeological sites in New Mexico. If you have ever visited an archaeological site, stopped on the side of the road to read a historic marker, or appreciated a well-maintained historic building in your community, you have likely engaged with the work of the NMHPD. 

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