As we think about all the traveling and the exploring that didn’t take place this summer, we are also confronted with the reality of tourism’s impact on places and people. This year, around the world, major tourist destinations that normally welcome millions of summer visitors, were virtually empty.


Dear Friend,

I hope this finds you safe and well, and ready for the fall! I imagine your summer plans were not quite what they would have been under normal circumstances.

As we think about all the traveling and the exploring that didn’t take place this summer, we are also confronted with the reality of tourism’s impact on places and people. This year, around the world, major tourist destinations that normally welcome millions of summer visitors, were virtually empty. In Venice, the impact has been striking. Canals are cleaner and clearer, while many locals cope with unemployment and the city faces a potential $1 billion loss in annual income.

This unexpected pause in tourism has revealed an urgent dilemma: How can tourism-driven economies continue to welcome visitors while reducing the steep toll on local inhabitants and the environment? We must take advantage of this moment to develop new approaches to this question.

In this spirit, I’m happy to announce that American Express has awarded $1 million to a selection of seven 2020 World Monuments Watch sites, funding a variety of projects that place sustainable tourism at the heart of their efforts. At these sites, WMF will experiment with different strategies balancing environmental resources and the creation of long-term economic opportunities, all while ensuring the respect of the host communities, and increasing the pool of local and international locations for all to enjoy.

In this process, WMF will work closely with local and regional authorities, resident communities, and site managers. For example, at Bennerley Viaduct in the UK and at the Canal Nacional in Mexico, two of the locations selected to receive financial support from American Express this year, we are working with local community-based organizations to enhance recreation and tourism opportunities and highlight their continued cultural importance.

And in the meantime, another way to travel sustainably is to do it virtually. On December 2, at WMF’s 55th Anniversary Virtual Gala, we invite you to join us on an incredible journey across the globe visiting WMF sites and learning about heritage preservation with our team of specialists. If you would like to receive more information, please contact

This fall, despite the pandemic and the many other obstacles we face, let’s work together to ensure that the places that enrich the lives of people near and far are given the resources to withstand the test of time.


 Benedicte full signature

Bénédicte de Montlaur
President and CEO, World Monuments Fund



Nina Simone’s Childhood Home Now Permanently Protected

WMF, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Preservation North Carolina announced on September 8 the protection of Nina Simone’s childhood home thanks to a preservation easement held by Preservation North Carolina. The easement, now in place, will ensure the house’s historic character is protected indefinitely.

The wooden house in Tryon, North Carolina, is where Nina Simone, legendary American singer, was born. It is also where, at age three, she first learned to play the piano. Through her music, Nina Simone became a powerful figure in the United States Civil Rights movement. Previously threatened by demolition, the house will now endure as a homage to Simone’s legacy.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Pierce


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WMF’s Increased Presence in Lebanon

In the weeks following the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port, WMF has been in daily frequent communications with our partners on the ground in Lebabnon, working to identify the best ways we can contribute to the recovery and support the rehabilitation of the city’s historic neighborhoods.

In the meantime, WMF has just launched the third edition of its stonemasonry training program near Tripoli, Lebanon, where a group of Syrian refugees and local Lebanese will learn the delicate trade of stonemasonry and how it fits into the broader context of heritage preservation.

Previously set in Mafraq, Jordan, and bringing together both Syrian refugees and Jordanian locals, the Tripoli stonemasonry program aims to provide Lebanon and the wider region with much-needed capacity for conservation. The current training  is particularly relevant as Beirut continues to address the massive damage this summer’s explosion wrought on its built heritage.

Photo courtesy of Ahmad Zaatiti


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Heritage from Home: Angkor Archaeological Park

Travel the world from home and visit WMF’s iconic heritage sites through our Heritage from Home series featuring our slideshow walking tours. This week, explore Cambodia’s famous Angkor Archaeological Park, where WMF is celebrating three decades of preservation work.

Discover the four sites within Angkor’s vast complex that WMF has been helping restore: the Preah Khan, Ta Som, and Phnom Bakheng temples, as well as Angkor Wat's Churning of the Ocean of Milk Gallery.


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Online Event Featuring the Historic Water Systems of the Deccan Plateau 

On September 25 at 9 AM EST // 6:30 PM India Standard Time, join us for a talk around the historic city of Bijapur, India, and the unique water systems which allowed its millions of inhabitants to thrive in the searing heat of the Deccan Plateau.

The Traditional Water Systems of the Deccan Plateau were included on the 2020 World Monuments Watch to illustrate the potential for historic water systems to help address the water crisis for contemporary communities. As the global water crisis looms, the reactivation of historic water systems and the updating of traditional practices can make a helpful contribution to the challenge.

The event will feature a discussion between Amita Baig, regional representative of World Monuments Fund India, and Rana Safvi, prolific author and translator specializing in the culture, history, and monuments of India. It will also include a Q&A section for viewers to participate in.


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