Keeping History Above Water began as a simple idea for a conference to be hosted by the Newport Restoration Foundation in Newport, Rhode Island in the spring of 2016. Now, over a year later, Keeping History Above Water has expanded to include a variety of activities related to climate and cultural heritage across Rhode Island and around the world. Annual conferences, hosted in vulnerable regions across the country, are a centerpiece of Keeping History Above Water.


Keeping History Above Water: Newport was 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. Importantly, it was not a conference about climate change, but about what preservationists, engineers, city planners, legislators, insurers, historic home owners and other decision makers need to know about climate change, sea level rise in particular, and what can be done to protect historic buildings, landscapes and neighborhoods from the increasing threat of inundation.

Over four days, specialists from across the United States and abroad shared experiences, examined risks, and debated solutions with an emphasis on case studies and real world applications. The inaugural Keeping History Above Water: Newport approached sea level rise from a multi-disciplinary perspective in order to develop practical approaches to mitigation, protective adaptation, and general resilience.


The conversation continued October 29-November 1, 2017 in Annapolis, Maryland, where the City of Annapolis took the lead in hosting the second edition of Keeping History Above Water. Given the city’s leadership on sea level rise planning with its Weather It Together initiative, the Newport Restoration Foundation selected the City of Annapolis to be the next host city, continuing the documentation and distribution of best practices, promoting dialogue, and engaging new audiences. From Narragansett Bay, to the Chesapeake and beyond, we continue to look for leadership in resiliency and adaptation in the face of rising tides.


Founded as a not-for-profit institution in 1968 by Doris Duke, the Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) promotes and invests in the architectural heritage of the Newport community, the traditional building trades, and the fine and decorative arts collections of Doris Duke. Since its founding, NRF has restored and preserved more than 80 eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century buildings, 74 of which are currently rented as private residences to tenant stewards and maintained by a full-time crew of carpenters and painters. This is one of the largest collections of period architecture owned by a single organization anywhere in the United States. More importantly, the majority of these structures are being lived in and used as they have for more than three centuries, making them an enduring and defining feature of the historic architectural fabric of Newport and a source of great pride for the community.

As a leader in the preservation of early American architecture, the NRF is well positioned to provide a forum for the exchange of information across disciplinary boundaries for collaborative problem solving in the areas of most critical concern to the field of historic preservation today.