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The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) announced it has completed a massive, $26.6 million “Bringing our Stories to Life” fundraising campaign, thanks to the generosity and support of nearly 300 donors who gave gifts ranging from $25 to over $5.5 million.  The campaign, which was completed one year early over three years, was designed to restore and reinvest in some of the organization’s most important cultural sites, including Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, The Old Manse in Concord, and Naumkeag House and Gardens in Stockbridge, all National Historic Landmarks visited by thousands annually.  The campaign also helped fund the acquisition and restoration of culturally significant sites in need of protection and preservation including the Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens in New Bedford and the Governor Ames Estate in Easton.

“The support and enthusiasm we have received for this campaign from our hundreds of donors, members, volunteers and community partners has been overwhelming and humbling and we are immensely grateful,” says Barbara Erickson, President and CEO. “Our historic sites represent a 300-year, preserved timeline of architectural beauty, history, and the stories of Massachusetts. We have a responsibility to care for them with passion and share their splendor and wonder with everyone, forever.”

The Trustees have completed several significant milestones as part of the campaign, including investing in multi-million dollar garden and landscape restorations at some of its most iconic properties, introducing new public education and interactive programming initiatives, expanding visitor services and amenities, hiring technical staff specialists and consultants, restoring historic house interiors and collections, and securing important public funding grants.  With over 125 years of history, the stories of Trustees properties have also been brought to life by Trustees archivists and curators who have processed, cataloged, and preserved  the organization’s extensive collections of objects, photos and documents. The Trustees’ Archives & Research Center will launch a comprehensive online collections catalog for public access on October 27, 2016.

New initiatives have included The Trustees doubling annual program offerings and launching its first-ever Art and The Landscape program, bringing distinctive and interactive art exhibits to two of its most historic and scenic properties, The Old Manse in Concord and World’s End in Hingham with another installation planned for 2017. Working with a renowned guest curator Pedro Alonzo and artists Sam Durant and Jeppe Hein, who have skillfully developed novel and unconventional works of contemporary art specifically for these sites, The Trustees aims to attract the attention of a wide range of visitors, from art-lovers to newcomers and more, and enable them to find thought-provoking new experiences on Trustees properties. Cultural sites where The Trustees has increased its focus as part of the campaign have experienced a nearly 50% increase in visitation, with fall of 2016 looking to be another record-breaking visitation season. In addition, sites have seen a significant increase in program participation and membership support statewide.  

“From restoration of some of our most iconic, designed landscapes and gardens, to cataloging thousands of important items in our collections, to caring for our historic homesteads and curating their contents, this campaign has enabled us to reclaim our unique identity as both a conservation and preservation organization and to enliven so many of our cultural sites,” adds Barbara Erickson. “The impact will be felt for decades to come as we work to further our mission by saving and sharing scenic, natural, and historic places with even more people, for future generations to enjoy.”

The “Bringing our Stories to Life” accomplishments have been possible thanks to the innovative and steadfast leadership of President and CEO Barbara Erickson and the amazing support of our donors and members,” adds David Croll, chairman of The Trustees’ Board of Directors.  “While the impact of the campaign is significant and already noticeable at many Trustees properties around the state, our work is not done. Fortunately, however, the campaign has set the stage for future stewardship and engagement work designed to share these special places on an even grander scale.”

Thanks to the campaign, plans are also under way for a new Welcome Center at the Old Manse intended to accommodate school and tour groups with interactive educational exhibits and programs, as well as additional visitor amenities. The Trustees are also planning continued restorations at several other public garden sites, many of which are a living documentary of Massachusetts horticulture and design traditions and, unlike traditional gardens, represent an opportunity for creative programs and innovative site experiences that bring these places to life for everyone.  With the support of campaign dollars, The Trustees has made significant strides in restoring and establishing more horticultural best practices, taking the first steps in cataloging and assessing its living collections, and identifying a vision for a broader public garden restoration and engagement initiative to share the gardens with more visitors.

This milestone comes at an important moment in The Trustees’ history as the organization has been celebrating its 125th anniversary as the world’s first land preservation nonprofit founded by pioneering conservationist Charles Eliot.  With special events, exhibitions, and outreach statewide, The Trustees has been sharing the legacy and accomplishments of its past while also creating innovative programs and initiatives designed to increase mission impact and attract the next generation of conservationists in the present and future.  Trustees’ cultural properties and initiatives benefitting from the final stages of the campaign have welcomed record numbers of visitors since the organization began celebrating this milestone anniversary in May.