|WMF has affiliates in Cambodia, Peru, France, Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom|
World Monuments Fund (WMF) is a private, international, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic architecture and cultural heritage sites around the world through fieldwork, advocacy, grantmaking, education, and training.
Founded in 1965, WMF is headquartered in New York, and has offices and affiliates around the world, including Cambodia, France, Peru, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. In addition to hands-on management, the affiliates identify, develop, and manage projects, negotiate local partnerships, and attract local support to complement funds provided by donors.
WMF describes its mission as "to preserve important historic architectural sites and works of art without regard to national boundaries".
The International Fund for Monuments (IFM) was an organization created by Colonel James A. Gray (1909-1994) after his retirement from the U.S. Army in 1960. Gray had conceived of a visionary project to arrest the settlement of the Leaning Tower of Pisa by freezing the soil underneath, and formed the organization in 1965 as a vehicle for the implementation of this idea. Even though this project did not materialize, an opportunity arose for the young organization to participate in the conservation of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia. In 1966 Gray secured the support of philanthropist Lila Acheson Wallace (1889-1984), who offered $150,000 to the International Fund for Monuments and UNESCO for this project. The project continued until the Communist overthrow of Haile Selassie I and the subsequent expulsion of foreigners from Ethiopia. After Ethopia, Gray's interests shifted to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in Chile. Gray formed the Easter Island Committee, with Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl (1914–2002) as its honorary chairman. Gray arranged to have one of the monolithic human figures known as moai exhibited in the United States. With the help of anthropologist William Mulloy (1917-1978), Gray selected an , five-ton head, which was exhibited in front of the Seagram Building in New York and in the Pan American Union building in Washington, D.C.
An important chapter for the organization started with its involvement in the broad international effort led by UNESCO for the protection of the city of Venice, Italy from catastrophic flooding. After the extremely high tide of November 4, 1966, the city, including the historic Piazza San Marco, was inundated for more than twenty-four hours. The International Fund for Monuments set up a Venice Committee, with Professor John McAndrew (1904-1978) of Wellesley College as Chairman and Gray as Executive Secretary. On the part of the Committee, appeals were made to the American public, and local chapters set up in American cities. (This early initiative led to the formation of the independent organization Save Venice in 1971). These efforts helped establish a reputation for IFM. In Spain, the organization formed a Committee for Spain under the leadership of American diplomat and U.S. Ambassador to Spain in 1965-67 Angier Biddle Duke (1915-1995).
At the invitation of UNESCO in the 1970s IFM became involved in architectural conservation in Nepal, where the organization adopted the Mahadev temple complex in Gokarna, in Nepal's Kathmandu Valley. The 14th century temple building was surveyed, rotten timbers were replaced, and the foundations were strengthened. Sculpted wooden architectural elements were painstakingly cleaned of layers of a motor oil coating that had been applied annually for protection.
Also at the request of UNESCO, IFM launched a project for the preservation of the Citadelle Laferrière, a large mountaintop fortress near Milot, Haiti. The site was the keystone of a defensive system constructed in the early period of Haitian independence to protect the young state from French attempts to reclaim it as a colony. Local artisans reconstructed wooden and tile roofs over the grand gallery and batteries using traditional carpentry methods, and consolidated the stone galleries of the fortress. IFM also sponsored a traveling exhibition and a film about the history of the Citadelle, which was used for educational purposes in the United States.
Through donations and matching funds, WMF has worked with local community and government partners worldwide to safeguard and conserve places of historic value for future generations. To date, WMF has worked at more than 500 sites in 91 countries, including many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. WMF has worked at internationally famous tourist attractions as well as lesser-known sites. Highly prominent projects are many temples at Angkor, Cambodia, starting in 1990, including Preah Khan and Phnom Bakheng; the Château de Chantilly in Chantilly, France; many structures in Rome, including the Temple of Hercules, Santa Maria Antiqua, and the House of Augustus; several sites on Easter Island; various sites at ancient Luxor in Egypt; Lalibela in Ethiopia; San Ignacio Miní in Argentina; the ancient Maya city of Naranjo, Guatemala; the Segovia Aqueduct in Segovia, Spain; as well as 25 projects in Venice, Italy, over 20 years. WMF has also participated in projects in the United States, including Ellis Island, Mesa Verde National Park, the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society, and many sites in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
Every two years WMF publishes the World Monuments Watch (formerly the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites). Since the first list was compiled in 1996, this program has drawn international attention to cultural heritage sites around the world threatened by neglect, vandalism, armed conflict, commercial development, natural disasters, and climate change. Through the World Monuments Watch, WMF fosters community support for the protection of endangered sites, and attracts technical and financial support for the sites.
The sites are nominated by international and local preservation groups and professionals, including local authorities. Sites of all types, including secular and religious architecture, archaeological sites, landscapes and townscapes, and dating from all time periods, from ancient to contemporary, are eligible. An independent panel of international experts reviews and selects the sites that make up the list. In 2010 the panelists were Christina Cameron, Alfredo Conti, Pierre-André Lablaude, Jeanne Marie Teutonico, and Christopher Young.
WMF also operates a number of special initiatives that transcend individual projects at specific sites and address broader themes in heritage preservation.
Following the Iraq War WMF created the Iraq Cultural Heritage Conservation Initiative to address the many threats to Iraq’s cultural heritage resulting from the occupation and from a long period of political isolation and conflict. At the ancient city of Babylon WMF has launched a program with the support of the United States Department of State to develop a comprehensive site management plan, help local officials prepare a nomination for World Heritage listing, and establish site boundaries for the long-term protection of the ancient city.
In 2006, with the support of Knoll, WMF launched Modernism at Risk, an advocacy and conservation program for Modern buildings. Through this initiative, the biennial World Monuments Fund / Knoll Modernism Prize was established in 2008. The inaugural prize was awarded to Brenne Gesellschaft von Architekten mbH for the restoration of the former ADGB Trade Union School, an important Bauhaus structure in Bernau bei Berlin, Germany. The 2010 prize was awarded to Bierman Henket Architecten and Wessel de Jonge Architecten for the restoration of the Zonnestraal Sanatorium, an aftercare colony for tubercular patients near Hilversum, in the Netherlands, built in 1931.
Every year, WMF presents the Hadrian Award to international leaders who have advanced the preservation of world art and architecture at its annual benefit dinner.
Some of WMF's long-term partners have included American Express, Knoll, the Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Conserve Our Heritage, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and Tiffany & Co. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation's relationship with the organization dates almost to the inception of the International Fund for Monuments.
WMF has partnered with The Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, the only high school in the United States with a four-year comprehensive historic preservation curriculum.