News

Sites Worth Saving

The World Monuments Fund announces its 2012 list of endangered historic sites

October 17, 2011
THEODORE H.M. PRUDON—WORLD MONUMENTS FUND

Built in 1954, the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company bank in New York City was nicknamed the “glass house.”

Have you ever wondered how historic places survive over time? One of the ways is through the World Monuments Fund (WMF). The WMF is a group of experts who work to save the most treasured places on Earth. Every two years, the WMF announces a list of special places that need restoring, or improvement. The 2012 list, released this month, names 67 important sites around the world.

A merchant house in Kesunnuma, Japan, after the 2011 earthquake. It will be restored.
MITSUO INAGAKI—WORLD MONUMENTS FUND
A merchant house in Kesunnuma, Japan, after the 2011 earthquake. It will be restored.

WMF president Bonnie Burnham told TFK that the goal of her group is to save world monuments built by our ancestors through hands-on work today. “The sites on our list are very near and dear to people in their local communities,” said Burnham. “We try to help by keeping sites in good condition so people can enjoy them in the future.”

Understanding the List

This year’s sites spread across 41 countries and six continents. Like endangered species, some places are considered endangered because, without help, they might not survive on their own. The 2012 list includes different types of places, such as houses, churches, palaces, bridges, cemeteries, villages, islands, and even a bus station.

Sites are placed on the list for many different reasons. Some sites are added because they have been ignored over the years and fallen into disrepair. Others are added because natural disasters have harmed the site.

This year, three Japanese sites made the list after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in March of 2011. The disaster hurt many of the country’s historical landmarks.

Sites to See

Decorative patterns are painted on clay walls, in Burkina Faso, in West Africa. This site was named as one of the World Monument Fund’s 2012 Places to Watch.
BARTHELEMY KABORE—WORLD MONUMENTS FUND
Decorative patterns are painted on clay walls, in Burkina Faso, in West Africa. This site was named as one of the World Monument Fund’s 2012 Places to Watch.

Six sites in the United States are on the list this year. One of the spots is a historical district in Charleston, South Carolina, that is popular with people on vacation. Although visitors can be good for a town, they can sometimes cause harm to historical landmarks.

Another U.S. site is located on Fifth Avenue in New York City. It is a four-story bank built in 1954. Because the building is made of glass, you can see the giant vault right inside the bank. Many artists and architects think the building is a special part of New York City’s history.

Improving sites can be very expensive. This year, American Express donated $5 million to help the project over the next five years.

Burnham said it’s important to save as much history as possible in a world that’s changing so rapidly.

“We’re shaping the world of tomorrow,” she said. “But we’re doing it in the present.”


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