Buildings and Grounds Maintenance

In this section you will find resources for daily building housekeeping, historic building preservation, historic grounds care, plus some information on historic listings and tax incentives.

Cleaning Guest Service and Staff Common Areas

Nearly every person will see your bathroom.  Keep it clean.

When setting up a new exhibition think about whether the space is conducive to cleaning.  Are there areas out of reach that will be impossible to clean?

Don’t forget to keep staff break rooms neat and tidy too!  Food waste can invite insects, rodents, and other pests into your building.

General Building Housekeeping

The National Park Service Museum Handbook (1998) has a valuable chapter on Museum Housekeeping that provides information about why housekeeping is important, what the responsibilities of housekeeping are, and how to create a housekeeping plan—among other helpful hints.

The Minnesota Historical Society published this Historic Housekeeping Manual in 2000.  It has recommendations for a regular schedule of housekeeping and instructions for simple, common-sense procedures to keep historic properties clean.

Another guide is Melissa Heaver’s “Housekeeping for Historic Homes and House Museums,” which goes into the specifics of cleaning different areas of, and materials in, historic homes and house museums—from floors and bookcases to ceramics, glass, and textiles.

If you want video instruction relating to historic housekeeping and maintenance, check out these videos on housekeeping for historic sites put together by the Northeast Museum Services Center.

Historic Building Preservation

The maintenance of your historic building begins with the preservation of the structure in situ. The National Park Service (NPS) has created guidelines, Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, to consider when maintaining, repairing, replacing or adding additions to historic properties. These guidelines are advisory, not regulatory. However, they are often used in the decision-making process associated with historic listings and tax credit opportunities for historic properties at the local and federal level.

The Delaware County Planning Department (of Media, PA) released this guide, “Maintaining Your Historic Home:  A Practical Guide for Homeowners,” in 2018.  It provides valuable instruction as to how to prepare for, fix, and prevent any issues arising in a historic home.  Also, it helpfully lists “recommended” and “not recommended” practices for completing repairs.

Historic Rehabilitation, Preservation, Restoration, & Reconstruction

For more information on properly preserving architectural features on your building including roofs, windows, doors, gutters, and stairs visit the NPS’s Technical Preservation Services. The Preservation Briefs and Preservation Tech Notes are excellent resources to review best practices for architectural building elements.

Another site for the preservation and repair of windows is the Save America’s Windows blog by John Leeke, which provides a video series on minor to major window repair work.  This video on Sash Spot Painting is helpful for minor repairs.  There is also a forum to address organizing a window project, surveying and documenting windows, and window assessment.

Historic interiors have special needs, too.  The NPS has a 1988 Preservation Brief 18 that is informative. The Preservation Alliance of Philadelphia also has a great resource, Historic Interiors, for the preservation of historic interiors including the opportunity to have them listed on the local register in Philadelphia. When in doubt contact your local State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO, pronounced shi-poh, see below for more information) with any questions you may have concerning the preservation of your building.

Grounds

Wondering what to do with those beautiful but needy historic trees on your property? Check out this video from students in the University of Delaware’s Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture that will give you a few tips on how to care for your historic trees.  For more information and for links in this video, download More Information on Historic Trees (pdf).

The Garden Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing America’s outstanding gardens. They offer programming on preservation services, garden-study tours, educational programs, and an Open Days Program.

This paper, “The Conservation of Historical Gardens in Multidisciplinary Context,” offers a case study on the restoration of a historic garden in Brazil.  It discusses how conservation of the Burle Marx garden was done across numerous disciplines while involving and educating residents and tourists.

In addition to preserving the building from future haphazard construction, you may also preserve the landscape with a conservation easement. Visit the Nature Conservancy and the National Conservation Easement Database to learn about the applicability of conservation easements and if it is the right form of preservation for your property.

Historic Listing

If your building is over fifty years old and significant to an event, person or development in history, but it is not yet on the local or national register of historic places, please visit your State Historic Preservation Office’s website to learn how you can nominate your building.  The links below take you to the lists of sites for the mid-Atlantic region:

Delaware

Maryland

New Jersey

Pennsylvania

If your state is not listed above, check out this link to the National Register for Historic Places’s full listing of SHPOs.

If you organization is located in a religiously significant building, visit Partners for Sacred Places for more information on preserving the building and funding opportunities.

Once the building has been preserved and you want to be sure it is not harmed by haphazard construction work in the future a preservation building easement program could be the answer.  Check out the National Park Services’ Easement to Protect Historic Properties for more information.

Historic Tax Incentives

For more information on the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit options, visit the National Park Service’s Tax Incentives website and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Tax Credits website.

Update: The House of Representatives’ tax reform bill which passed on November 16, 2017 eliminates the historic tax credit. The Senate bill which was passed on December 2, 2017 repeals a portion of the program and cuts the remainder in half! For more information visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation‘s advocacy page and the National Housing and Rehabilitation Association website.