Historic sites require a specialized system of care that draws on shared resources and individual strengths. The complexities of such create issues in building and site maintenance, as partners find it difficult to translate roles and responsibilities from the agreement into the realities of day-to-day operations.
Maintenance priorities are a point of contention among owners and operators, as owners take an asset management approach that contrasts with the preservation focused lens of many operators.
Publicly owned sites are often a low priority on the list of overextended departments, which lack heritage appropriate maintenance skills. Non-profit operators are faced with unrealistic maintenance and capital responsibilities that they do not have the resources to support, putting funds into assets that do not belong to them.
Funding for capital upgrades is a major source of conflict at shared stewardship sites. Despite the best intentions, owners, operators and third parties find themselves without the financial resources to care for depreciating heritage buildings with costly needs. When the demand for funds is straining your partnership, it may be worth exploring alternative funding strategies. For example, establish a capital fund that each party contributes to annually, or apply together on infrastructure grant opportunities available to governments. A coordinated effort can reap rewards.
Weak partnerships affect the ways that stories are told at historic sites, limiting the development of sound interpretive strategies that effectively engage citizens and visitors. Interpretation is most often addressed almost entirely by operators with the support of third parties and high level oversight of site owners.
Consistent and appropriate staffing makes all the difference. High staff turnover among owners, operators, and third parties is one of the most cited issues at shared stewardship sites, creating ruptures in the relationship.