In my travels to state conferences this spring, I’ve been describing the many exciting things that are underway and being planned for work funded by this administration’s President General’s Project. Without your support we wouldn’t be able to make these much needed enhancements for our Society. To help you get a better understanding of this work, I wanted to share with you this excerpt of a piece that will be featured in the upcoming May/June issue of the Daughters newsletter giving an overview of the President General’s Project.
Using a multifaceted approach, the President General’s Project of the Young Administration aims to: restore and improve the DAR Headquarters complex of historic buildings; advance the organization’s technological capabilities in order to promote membership and also enhance awareness of the DAR’s vast genealogical and historical collections; and fund community grants that further the organization’s mission to promote historic preservation, education and patriotism.
Headquarters Restoration and Improvements
Of all the important building-related initiatives up for consideration to receive President General’s Project funding, one stood out as an obvious priority by virtue of the long-term benefits it will provide to both the financial well-being of NSDAR and the surrounding community.
For the past three years the National Society has been exploring the feasibility of undertaking a solar energy project at National Headquarters. In 2012 alone NSDAR’s energy costs jumped 18 percent, and another increase almost certainly awaits at the end of April, upon the expiration of the National Society’s energy contract. Installing a solar energy array on the roof of Constitution Hall provides an opportunity to reduce the National Society’s electric energy costs by $1 million over the next 25 to 30 years, while benefiting the environment at the same time. Furthermore, the solar array is not visible from the street level, so Constitution Hall’s historic character remains intact.
Last summer it was confirmed such a project was feasible, and project design work commenced last fall. The original design of the solar array had to be modified after a structural engineering study raised questions about the ability of the Constitution Hall roof to support its weight. In March the Commission of Fine Arts granted final approval to proceed with the installation. The total cost of the project is estimated at approximately $350,000.
Another Headquarters project involves the replacement of Constitution Hall’s antiquated cooling systems, including the cooling towers and the chiller pumping and distribution system, which were long overdue for an upgrade. A comprehensive Building Assessment Study conducted in 2005 noted the deteriorating condition of these aging systems, but other priorities took precedence. Replacement could no longer be delayed, however. During the hot summer months these cooling towers air condition the entire DAR Headquarters complex, but at more than 25 years old they were operating beyond their expected life span. Demand strained the worn-out system to such a degree that extensive repairs were required in each of the past three cooling seasons.
The design phase of this project began last August. In February, workers disassembled the old cooling towers located on the roof of the Administration Building, which are not in use during the winter. Most of this large debris had to be removed by crane. On March 1, 2014, a huge crane parked on C Street—which was closed to make way for the equipment—lifted out the pieces of the old cooling towers and put the new towers in their place.
Concurrently, work to replace the chiller pumping and distribution system spread across various areas of Constitution Hall also moved forward.
The much-needed upgrade, which cost approximately $800,000, will not only increase the comfort of members, guests and staff, but also contribute to the preservation of our facilities and the valuable artifacts they contain.
Enhanced Technological Capability
As NSDAR looks forward to celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2015, the Project will honor the National Society’s rich heritage by providing unprecedented access to its historic collections for the benefit of members, prospective members, researchers and staff. Additionally, it will fund the redesign of the DAR Public and Members’ Websites and the expansion of the training opportunities provided via webinars.
To attain the capability to post more online content related to Library, Museum, Archives and Americana Collection holdings and programs, the National Society expanded its Internet bandwidth through the installation of fiber optic cable. Engineers worked closely with the Information Systems Department and the Buildings and Facilities director to map the route the cable would follow into and throughout the building. In December, a crew dug a trench across C Street and along the façade of Memorial Continental Hall to the prescribed path. The fiber optic cable project was completed in February, when the Headquarters data and phone lines were integrated into the new system.
The bandwidth expansion will create numerous benefits, including better online access to our Genealogical Research System records by staff and the many volunteers who assist prospective members with application papers. The more readily available these resources become, the more easily people will be able to prove their lineage and become DAR members. Moreover, the upgrade is timed at an opportune moment. DAR membership, which currently stands at more than 177,000, has been growing continuously since 2007. The past three years have turned in three of the top five highest totals in terms of the number of new members admitted.
Plans to digitize the Americana Collection and NSDAR Archives and post much of their valuable materials online will afford members, the public and the research community access to historical artifacts that previously could be viewed only at Headquarters. A contract signed in late March authorized the expenditure of more than $40,000 in Project funds to digitize the Americana Collection’s audio-visual materials. The ability to post educational DAR Museum programs online will enable schoolchildren around the world to experience the collections remotely.
To feature these expanded online collections, fuel membership promotion and increase the organization’s visibility, the DAR websites will be revitalized. The current design of the Public Website has been in place for more than 10 years. In September, the Information Systems and Public Relations departments began working with a web design firm to completely redesign of the Public Website. The new site is being built in a content management system called Drupal, which allows a high degree of flexibility that will enable the National Society to update the site quickly and easily as needed. Additionally, the redesigned website will employ a responsive design, meaning that the content will shrink to fit the type of device with which the user is accessing the site. This feature will improve the ease of navigation for those visiting the site on a mobile device, as more than 30 percent of users do.
The revamped Public Website is set to launch by Continental Congress, to be followed closely by a redesign of the Members’ Website, which will provide enhanced tools to help members stay involved and connected. In total, the web redesign work will cost approximately $200,000.
The far-reaching scope of the President General’s Project will Honor Our Heritage by preserving and sharing the organization’s historical and genealogical collections, Focus on the Future by installing energy efficient systems at National Headquarters and promoting membership to ensure that DAR remains a vibrant, thriving organization, and Celebrate America by funding grants that enrich communities by promoting historic preservation, education and patriotism.