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Trust for Historic Preservation Receives NEH Grant for Presidio Visitor Center

$40,000 in funding will go toward the project at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation is pleased to announce a grant award from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The SBTHP received a $40,000 planning grant from the NEH through its America’s Historic Places program. The grant, announced March 21, is part of $17 million in awards for 208 humanities projects nationwide. The NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other humanities disciplines by funding peer-reviewed proposals from around the country. The prestigious NEH grant will significantly advance SBTHP’s goal of developing a new Visitor Center at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park.

“We are very proud to receive this recognition from NEH,” said Anne Petersen, associate director for historical resources who will serve as project manager for the grant. “The new Visitor Center at El Presidio SHP will incorporate the diverse histories of those who resided on the site of the Presidio over time, and will be an exceptional cultural resource for our community.”

The new Visitor Center at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park is designed to be the starting point for all visitors and will introduce the interpretive themes visitors will explore in more detail throughout the park. The project will incorporate several interpretive elements, including a historical exhibit, an orientation video, new printed and web-based supporting material, an exposed archaeological excavation, and an outdoor, hands-on display about goods delivered by an 18th century supply ship.

The NEH planning grant will help SBTHP undertake the concept and preliminary design phases of the project. SBTHP will work with a team of historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and community members who have signed on to the project as advisers. Think Jacobson & Roth, a Los Angeles-based museum planning and exhibit design firm, has been contracted to design the Visitor Center based on consultation with SBTHP and its advisory team.

The concepts and themes proposed for the Presidio Visitor Center have been developed through a decade of planning and consultation with a variety of stakeholders. In 2004, SBTHP received an NEH consultation grant that supported a workshop, with a panel of scholars, professionals and key community members, who helped to refine interpretive themes proposed for the new Visitor Center.  In 2010 SBTHP completed a Visitor Experience Plan for all of its historic properties in downtown Santa Barbara with the London-based museum planning firm, Metaphor.

The interpretive concepts identified the VEP were further developed in a recently completed Interpretation Master Plan for El Presidio SHP, created in conjunction with California State Parks. Each phase of the planning process for the park has involved scholarly and community input. The new Visitor Center will be the first project implemented from this multi-year interpretive planning process.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

— Christa Clark Jones represents the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

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