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Historic Preservation

Architectural History and Historic Preservation (AHHP), through Smithsonian Facilities’ Office of Planning, Design, and Construction, guides the historic preservation of both the landmark and new Smithsonian buildings. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 outlines actions required by federal agencies to protect cultural resources listed on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution delegates authority to the Associate Director, AHHP, as the Historic Preservation Officer for the Institution. AHHP is authorized to review every restoration, renovation, design, and construction project initiated by any Smithsonian museum, research center, or office to determine its effects and conformance with Smithsonian Directive 418.

AHHP guides the stewardship of the Smithsonian’s built heritage, the historic resources that represent the largest collection of the Institution. Smithsonian’s sites include historic buildings, designed landscapes, and modern buildings that will become landmarks in the future. AHHP takes a balanced approach to historic preservation that sets priorities for retention of historic fabric and character defining features, with modernization and rehabilitation. AHHP collaborates with Smithsonian staff pan-institutionally guiding historic preservation or conservation projects and collaborating on preservation components or larger projects from planning through design and construction. Providing guidance on the highest level of care using best historic preservation practices and conservation treatments that affect the Smithsonian’s built heritage are among AHHP’s highest priorities.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) establishes a requirement for review of undertakings to determine their effect on historic resources and to minimize or mitigate any adverse effects. Although the Smithsonian is not a federal agency as defined in NHPA it is the policy of the Institution to be guided by the principles of NHPA in managing its historic properties. For Smithsonian design and construction projects in the District of Columbia, the Institution is deemed to be a federal agency for the purposes of compliance with Section of the NHPA (Smithsonian Facilities Authorization Act, Public Law 108-72, 117 Stat. 888).

Current projects undergoing Section 106 consultation are featured below. Click on an individual project for information on upcoming public consultation meetings, background information, and project details.

Smithsonian Directive 418 Historic Preservation Policy sets the Institution’s policy of building principles of historic preservation informed by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties, encourage necessary interventions to keep buildings in appropriate uses, but also discourage radical changes which seriously alter the character defining features of a building, site or landscape. SD 418 establishes policy for carrying out the Institution’s commitment to protect and preserve Smithsonian buildings, structures, and sites in its care that contribute to national cultural heritage.

Smithsonian’s responsibility for its museum buildings and other facilities require a continuing program of maintenance, repair, renovation, and restoration. Maintenance and preservation of these buildings and facilities is one of the Institution’s highest priorities. This priority reflects the Smithsonian’s recognition of its unique role as a trustee for present and future generations and ensures that the Institution will meet its obligation in providing outstanding stewardship of its buildings and sites.

Completed projects are showcased below highlighting successful restoration and revitalization projects of Smithsonian Facilities and Architectural History and Historic Preservation. These projects demonstrate that a vision for the future and respect for the past can be balanced successfully. Click on an individual project name for more information.

At the conclusion of some Section 106 consultations, an agreement document is developed that sets out how a federal agency will address adverse effects to historic properties caused by the project. These documents are called Programmatic Agreements or Memoranda of Agreements, with detailed stipulations for each avoidance, minimization, or mitigation measure the agency agrees to ensure are implemented. The following documents ensure that the Smithsonian meets obligations agreed to and mandated by individual agreements for projects from Section 106 consultation.

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