Monumentum, Autumn 2014

Charities rarely stay the same, for they must respond to their own past, to present need and future opportunity. Staying vital has forever been this way: Mary Beard talks of human ritual as being “always a mixture of scrupulous attention to precedent, convenient amnesia, and the ‘invention of tradition.’ A glance ahead to WMF’s 50th anniversary year reminds us that there is much work to address. We witness conflict tearing down cultural monuments with a new ferocity, particularly in Africa, and the Middle East where the cultural heritage of Syria was included on the 2014 Watch. The climate is changing, as extreme weather hurls new meteorological records at our fragile historic environments. Meanwhile, much regular funding has been withdrawn from the support of historic assets.

The criteria for success from major funders are also tougher. Today, we expect business-ready solutions with guaranteed audiences. It’s not enough simply to repair a damaged roof so that untold people can share the pleasure of living within a pattern of crafted historic buildings. For buildings to stand, they have to be useful. To properly care for these ancestral gifts we ourselves need to evolve and recast our own tradition to face new opportunities. To help us, we are delighted to welcome Andrew Rye from the Royal Shakespeare Company as our new Development Manager. Now the 6- year project for Stowe House and its public access is approaching completion we will be undertaking original research on the state of the cultural environment for a broad public audience, and in the coming months a refreshed website will present a new portfolio of projects with opportunities to profoundly engage communities and supporters. In this anniversary year, we hope you might join us in whatever way you can to help us evolve, so that we can support our historic buildings toward a better future.

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