Today, as flames engulfed the priceless and storied towers of the Cathedral at Notre Dame in Paris, France, the world looked on in horror. Social media exploded with gripping images of the conflagration and millions of voices across the globe lamented the loss.

Inevitably, moments like this grab the headlines; shocking losses that come without notice are hard to accept. The reality of this outpouring of emotion is also obvious: historic places that have stood for centuries are more valuable than the stones and beams which comprise them. These places are the mile-markers of society. Historic buildings, places and objects often represent our highest achievements, greatest dreams and the painful obstacles overcome in pursuit of something greater than ourselves.

While flames may grab the headlines, history all across our world slowly fades into oblivion each day.

The challenge for the preservationist, historian, archivist and others is to convert the passion and energy of days like this into the collective and sustaining action necessary to save the places not engulfed by flames but engulfed by equally damaging forces. Whether through economic disinvestment, climate change or simply forgetting — the keepers of history are in a race against time. 

Today, the world’s attention turns to Paris, as it should. Tomorrow, the world, with flames still fresh in their memory, should look to their own communities and find their own local keeper of history to help engage in a conversation about how to protect the Notre Dame’s of their community.

Though they may lack the storied towers and perhaps the centuries of fame, there are Notre Dame’s across the world in need of your help.

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