Preserving National Treasures

Silent films, labs used in the top-secret World War II Manhattan Project in New Mexico, and remnants of the Apollo space program are among the national treasures that will be preserved with $30 million in federal grants announced Wednesday.

Hillary Rodham Clinton warned of risks to the nation's collective memory if historic and culturally significant sites and artifacts continue to deteriorate. Those treasures, she said, represent "the creativity and ingenuity that have always fueled progress in America."

The 62 sites and artifacts receiving grants are in 24 states, the District of Columbia and Midway Islands. The selections were based on recommendations by a panel of five preservation experts. "They sketch a breathtaking portrait of America's diverse culture and rich history," Mrs. Clinton said at a briefing in the White House East Room. "A country that loses its history loses its collective memory. We cannot allow that to happen."

The National Film Preservation Foundation in San Francisco will get $1 million to save silent films, which Mrs. Clinton referred to as the "precursors to the latest Star Wars prequel."

Other "Save America's Treasures" grants include:

  • $700,000 to restore buildings related to the Manhattan Project, the research that unleashed the atomic bomb more than 50 years ago. The complex at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico will be open to the public for the first time.
  • $1.4 million to conserve more than 2,500 Apollo-era artifacts collected by the National Air and Space Museum.
  • $1.1 million to complete restoration of the Washington Monument, which needs more work than initially believed.
  • $3 million to restore the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner."
  • $620,000 to restore Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.
  • $1.5 million to conserve 13th century cliff dwellings at what is now the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

Grants range in amount from $50,000 to $3 million and will also be used to preserve art collections, Indian heritage, historic documents and exemplary architecture.

Mrs. Clinton is to visit the Southwest late this week, including Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico on Friday, as part of a four-day tour of national treasures in the Southwest. The grant announcement kicked off the tour.

The federal grants will require a match from state, local or private sources. Mrs. Clinton said private leaders already have raised more than $30 million.

President Clinton has requested $30 million in fiscal 2000 for additional grants. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., whose district will receive $900,000 to preserve Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater retreat, promised to use his seat on the House Appropriations Committee to get more money.