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Architectural History & Historic Preservation

AHHP was organized in 1986 to act as curator of the Smithsonian's diverse campus of buildings. In this role, AHHP strives to foster a superior understanding of the heritage of the Smithsonian buildings through preservation, research, and education. The many activities of this division can be separated into three primary areas of responsibility:

Architectural History--maintaining a collection of archival records related to the Institution's architectural history.

Historic Preservation--using the architectural history as a base, the division is responsible for preservation of the Smithsonian's historic structures, many of which are local and national landmarks.

Collections Management--supervising the maintenance of the Castle Collection of antique furnishings and art objects in use throughout many of the public spaces of the Smithsonian Institution Building, The Castle.

View Strategic Plan

Preserve and enrich the Smithsonian’s historic resources through interdisciplinary stewardship, collaborative interpretation, and the use of both traditional and innovative techniques.

The mission of AHHP supports the Smithsonian’s Strategic Goal Number 6, to “Preserve natural and cultural heritage while optimizing our assets” as well as Smithsonian Office of Planning, Design, and Construction's Goal Number 2, “Care for Distinctive Buildings and Grounds”. The emphasis of this Strategic Plan is stewardship of the Institution’s built heritage as these resources represent the largest collection, or building assets, of the Smithsonian. AHHP is responsible for the important Castle Collection of furniture and decorative arts which is an in-use “working” collection that furnishes and enhances our landmark headquarters. This collection is also an educational resource for students and scholars. Our stewardship and resource management impact not only significant listed historic buildings and sites, but also modern buildings that will be landmarks of the future. The efforts made today to maintain these resources support past and future capital investments while ensuring that facilities remain in good condition to house the collections, offices, museum, and research functions of the future.

Respecting the past, present, and future integrity of our buildings and grounds as exceptional vessels that shape and inspire the Smithsonian experience.

The vision of AHHP is to expand the collaboration among stakeholders to ensure that the Smithsonian’s physical resources remain in use for the future with appropriate modifications as necessary. By understanding the value of retaining historic resources, reducing our carbon footprint, and integrating sustainable best practices, this generation of architects, engineers, museum directors, and administrators makes certain that the stability of the Institution is evident in the care given to protecting and preserving its facilities for the long term. The stewardship of these resources is a compelling and visible way to build confidence in the future of an institution that values its past heritage.

Ensure authenticity, adaptability, compatibility and sustainability in all our decisions.

The value of restoring buildings and protecting collections is derived not just from preservation for its own sake, but also from the return of the investment in the physical resource through protection of original building materials. The ability to be adaptable to new needs and to maintain the authenticity of the resources with compatible modifications is the core of stewardship. With today’s emphasis on “green” practices, the preservation of the built heritage is a sustainability goal consistent with preservation objectives and values. When decisions need to be made to balance the future needs of aging facilities, it is often necessary to set priorities to protect the most iconic of our heritage collection. The most sustainable path to longevity of our resources is to implement preservation maintenance to apply the best practices of materials care for our public face as well as entire building infrastructure upkeep. Too often, maintenance is lagging to the detriment of our heritage assets. An initiative for the next five years is to work closer with the maintenance units and provide more specific training on how to carefully clean and identify materials in need of attention before extensive deterioration sets in.

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