For those who have a passion for the past, volunteering in historical preservation is a fantastic opportunity to help save some of humanity’s greatest architectural and sculptural feats. All over the world there are aging buildings and monuments, which tell the story of nations, people, and historical events, that are in great need of continuous upkeep and preservation, so these landmarks can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.
Why Volunteer in Historic Preservation
Human civilization is at an apex of innovation, technological innovation, and infrastructural development. Our modern global society is near unrecognizable from those of the ancient and medieval worlds. Yet, in order to understand the present and what the future may hold, we must always look to the past for guidance. Beyond the aesthetic beauty and wonder which timeworn structures continue to instill in us, preserving our history is of great importance to upholding the wisdom and perspective of humankind overtime. By volunteering in historic preservation you can help protect our past, and learn a lot doing it.
History is everywhere, so naturally, there are volunteer opportunities in historical preservation all over the world. Placements range from the upkeep of well known historical monuments to the preservation of centuries-old villages, it all depends on where you choose to volunteer abroad.
A good way to assess the amount of volunteer opportunities available in different countries is by checking out the UNESCO World Heritage List, which shows how many protected sites a country or region has within its borders. This is generally a good indicator of the magnitude of a country’s institutional commitment to upholding its cultural and architectural heritage through historical preservation.
The UNESCO region of Europe and North America have, by far, the largest amount of World Heritage Sites, followed by Asia and the Pacific. Europe’s leading countries, when it comes to volunteering in historical preservation, are Italy, Germany, France, and Spain. However, the United Kingdom, Russia, Greece, and Portugal also have quite a few UNESCO sites.
Of course, there are plenty of other historical preservation projects and areas well worth protecting, located all across the globe. Some of the most noteworthy destinations may have one specific type of project due to a specific event in the nation’s history, such as Poland or Israel. Be sure to check out a variety of volunteer opportunities in historic preservation and research carefully which one seems like the most interesting and worthwhile project for you.
Historic Preservation Volunteer Work
Volunteering in historic preservation will often mean combining physical volunteer work with educational opportunities surrounding the history, culture, and architecture of the area. For example, you might spend mornings in the classroom learning about the history of your host nation and the afternoons mastering preservation techniques, such as woodworking and plastering. Frequent outings to museums and other cultural heritage sites are common during any historic preservation volunteer program too.
Some volunteer organizations based in urban areas around the world are specifically centered on historical preservation, but with more of an emphasis on urban planning and sustainable development. Students who studied either of the latter fields, or are pursuing degrees in architecture or history, can gain valuable experience volunteering with international nonprofits or NGOs strictly focused on historic preservation. In these placements, volunteers will gain hands-on experience in the field, and learn how to protect and incorporate the old when planning for the new.
There are many volunteer opportunities in historical preservation that allow volunteers to combine volunteerism with academic or internship credit, so if you are still enrolled in school then keep an eye out for these great opportunities!
Volunteer work in historic preservation is usually fairly open-ended and flexible according to individual preferences, meaning you can often decide on the length and timing of your own volunteer program. Additionally, volunteers are usually not expected to have any previous experience in the field; all you need is an interest in historic preservation!
Do Your Part. Most UNESCO World Heritage Sites and countless other historical preservation projects around the world rely on philanthropic and voluntary support to sustain their needs. By providing on the ground support, you will be playing a vital role in the continued conservation of our past.
See Relics in a Different Way. Even if you are not planning on pursuing a career in a field related to historical preservation, the knowledge and experience you will gain from working on historical sites will stay with you forever. It will also give you a whole new appreciation for the hard work required to run museums and maintain historical monuments around the world!
Protect the Past. As our world continues to rapidly industrialize, and globalization infiltrates more and more countries and cities, many historical structures are under constant threat of destruction. Along with environmental preservation, it is important to equally contribute to projects that work to preserve the root of mankind as well.