How do historic coastal communities prepare for the impacts of climate change? What can be done to protect historic buildings, landscapes, and neighborhoods from the increasing threat of sea level rise? How can preservationists, engineers, city planners, legislators, insurers, historic home owners, and other decision makers work together to preserve our built environment and cultural heritage?

These questions will be examined at Keeping History Above Water (April 10-13), a groundbreaking international conference on sea level rise and its impact on historic preservation organized by the Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF).

Keeping History Above Water will be one of the first national conversations to focus on the increasing and varied risks posed by sea level rise to historic coastal communities and their built environments. This is not a conference about climate change per se, but about what can be done to protect historic buildings, landscapes, and neighborhoods from the increasing threat of inundation.

Experts and industry leaders from around the world will converge on historic coastal Newport to share experiences, examine risks, and debate solutions with an emphasis on case studies and practical applications. Speakers will come from countries and communities that are quite literally at the edge of these environmental changes, including Scotland, the Netherlands, Venice, Iran, New York, Annapolis, Florida, New Orleans, and Galveston.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has been making weekly speeches about climate change on the Senate floor since April 2012, will welcome attendees on Monday; keynote speakers include Adam Markham (Union of Concerned Scientists), Mary Rowe (Civic & Social Organization Leader), and Tom Dawson (SCAPE: Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion).

“We created this conference because the environmental threats to coastal heritage sites will not hold off while we debate climate change or its causes. We’re accepting the reality of sea level rise and seeking answers for how to mitigate its impact,” said NRF Executive Director Pieter N. Roos.

“In Rhode Island alone, close to 2,000 National Register-listed or -eligible properties are located in coastal and estuarine flood zones,” Roos said, “As owner of several of these properties and one of the country’s leading preservation organizations, we feel an obligation to help drive this conversation, locally and nationally.”

Keeping History Above Water takes place Sunday, April 10 through Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Marriott in Newport, Rhode Island. The complete program is now available online. Continuing education credits will apply for AIA (up to 15 HSW credits) and AICP members. Deadline to register is March 20. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit


Sunday, 1-5 pm: House and walking tours, including the Christopher Townsend house, as part of the 74 Bridge Street Project; Rough Point, Whitehorne House,  and the Point neighborhood
Monday, 8:45 am: Welcoming remarks from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Postcards from the Edgebegins with “US Case Studies” at 10:30 am, featuring Galveston, TX; Annapolis, VA; and Fernandina Beach, FL. In the afternoon, “Global and Historical Precedents” features speakers from Rotterdam, Venice and Cornwall on engineering-first efforts, local adaptations and living with water initiatives.
Monday, 1:30 pm: Mini-keynote from Tom Dawson (Manager, Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion) on how citizen scientists are helping to document and preserve Scotland’s threatened archaeological sites in the face of increasing erosion
Tuesday, 9 am: Keynote from Mary Rowe (Executive Vice President, Municipal Art Society of New York) on community resilience and preserving the built environment
Tuesday, 12:15pm: Queen Quet (Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation of St. Helena Island, NC) on lessons of community engagement from the Sea Islands’ indigenous peoples
Wednesday, 12 pm: Workshops and seminars featuring experts from the National Park Service, National Trust For Historic Preservation, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Marin County Development Agency, the Environment Finance Center at the University of Maryland, and more.