The second Keeping History Above Water conference, held October 29 through November 1 in Annapolis, Maryland, brought 275 attendees from around the world to discuss the impact of sea level rise on historic coastal communities, according to a press release issued today from the Newport Restoration Foundation.
The first conference, organized by the Newport Restoration Foundation in 2016, sought to raise awareness of the different ways in which sea level rise impacts historic buildings, landscapes, and neighborhoods, and highlighted what might be done to protect those resources. The conference in Annapolis continued that conversation, with a series of lectures, workshops, roundtables and tours.
Keeping History Above Water: Annapolis, Alternatives for Coastal Communities, held at the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel, brought together the climate heritage community, as well as scientists, architects, planners and policy leaders to discuss important themes in the field which included planning for rising tides, protection and adaptation, and the need for urgent action. The City of Annapolis’ Cultural Resource Hazard Mitigation Plan was highlighted, using guidelines from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to identify cultural resources within the 100-year floodplain and assess them in terms of their historic significance, and also what FEMA calls “community value.” Sessions went deeper into the planning process, and the importance of public outreach in determining what to prioritize when preparing for climate change. Speakers described ways in which historic buildings can “live with water,” through elevation and other methods such as using furniture and historic materials proven to be resistant to water damage over time. The urgency to act was noted throughout all the sessions, with speakers emphasizing the need for planners and politicians not to underestimate the scope of climate change or invest in short-term solutions.
The Newport Restoration Foundation selected the City of Annapolis as the second conference host because the city includes a large National Historic Landmark District and many historic and cultural assets and strong city leadership in the multi-year initiative, Weather It Together: Protecting Our Historic Seaport Community. This initiative generated the city’s Cultural Resource Hazard Mitigation Plan, along with implementation strategies to reduce the risk of damage or loss to private and public properties most vulnerable to the effects of rising tides. In 2016, Annapolis was named one of ten cities selected to be part of the National League of Cities Leadership in Community Resilience Program.
After two successful conferences on this subject, the Newport Restoration Foundation will build upon this momentum by applying insights and strategies to the organization’s work in Newport, Rhode Island, and will continue bringing heritage practitioners, policymakers, climate scientists, and the public together for events in the year ahead.
Newport Restoration Foundation also plans to bring more awareness about heritage resilience and climate change issues to the Newport community through local programming and educational events. On December 12 at 3:00 pm, Roger Williams University graduate students will present examples of how to resiliently rehabilitate historic buildings. The event, held at NRF’s 29 Touro Street building, is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Visit newportrestoration.org/
“This is a critical issue for historic coastal communities”, said Wendy Nicholas, NRF’s Interim Executive Director in the news release. “Our Board of Trustees is committed to helping Newport and other communities address the threats of sea level rise. As an owner of a large portfolio of Colonial era houses which stand in the floodplain, NRF is in a unique position to test adaptations that can help protect vulnerable buildings. We will do that work and share the results with other property owners.”
Those interested in learning more about Keeping History Above Water: Annapolis will find the list of the 2017 conference speakers as well as day-by-day recaps of the proceedings at HistoryAboveWater.org. For further inquiries about conferences and programming opportunities, please email at historyabovewater@