Save America's Treasures: Impact and Lessons

All Publications

As part of the National Historic Preservation Fund, Save America’s Treasures awarded nearly 500 grants between 1999 and 2010 through the National Park Service, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to preserve collections that embody the American story. The collections contain major parts of the nation’s artistic, social, and intellectual history.  The impact of these grants has not been assessed in any comprehensive way, and one of the reasons the Administration gave for suspending funding after 2010 was that the program lacked “rigorous performance metrics and evaluation efforts.”

The American Architectural Foundation (AAF) became the national nonprofit partner for the Save America’s Treasure (SAT) grant program in 2014, and through its leadership continued to keep the legacy of SAT alive. As part of that effort, it proposed to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that this assessment be undertaken. With support from Mellon, AAF invited Ithaka S+R join in its plan to conduct research and provide documentation for the collections-related SAT projects, of which there were estimated to be 479.

The work began in January 2017 and concludes with this report, which was completed at the end of August 2017. Although rigorous quantitative assessment was not possible, as described in the following narrative, we believe that the case studies tell a compelling story about how the SAT grants helped transform cultural institutions from collecting organizations that serve researchers into educational institutions serving a much broader audience.

We include the following 21 case studies in the full report:

  • Conservation of Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Collections
  • Cornell University, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections: Anti-Slavery Pamphlet Collection
  • Crow Canyon Archaeological Center: Artifact Collections from Yellow Jacket and Shields Pueblo
  • Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Inc.: Historic Photographs and Slides in the Jabob's Pillow Archive
  • Library of Virginia Foundation: Restoration of the Executive Papers of Governor Thomas Jefferson, 1779-1781
  • Linda Hall Library: A.B. Nichols Panama Canal Collection
  • Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation: Gordon Parks Collection
  • Michigan State University Libraries: Preservation of the Early American Schoolbook Collection
  • Museum of Innovation and Science: Preservation and Audio Recovery of Edison Tinfoil Recording
  • National Film Preservation Foundation: Saving the Silents
  • Pennsylvania State Archives: Preservation of Pennsylvania Civil War Muster Rolls, 1861-1865
  • Smithsonian Institution: Historic Sound Recordings
  • Louis Mercantile Library: Audubon's Birds of America
  • Tufts University: "This I Believe" recordings from the Edward R. Murrow Collection
  • University of Chicago: Poetry Magazine Archives
  • University of Houston: Hispanic Literary Heritage
  • University of Illinois at Chicago: Stabilization of the Chicago Urban League Records
  • University of Minnesota: Immigrant Images Collection
  • University of Oklahoma: Conservation of Native American Ledger Art
  • University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives: Louis I. Kahn Collection
  • Virginia Historical Society: Preservation of the George Washington and Robert Dinwiddie Papers