Founded as a confederation of educational institutions offering historic preservation curricula and programs in 1980, the National Council for Preservation Education (NCPE) was formally commissioned as a non-profit educational corporation, chartered in the District of Columbia, on May 17, 1985. NCPE relies on a system of rotating volunteers for administrative, conference facilitation, advocacy/outreach, and webmaster duties. These volunteers are commonly instructors from member institutions. There are no corporate offices; however, administrative volunteers communicate and collaborate regularly through meetings, email and phone conversation. After its foundation the organization quickly identified the following goals for advocating and facilitating historic preservation efforts:
1. Encourage and assist in the development and improvement of historic preservation education programs and endeavors in the United States and elsewhere.
2. Coordinate efforts related to preservation education with public and private organizations and interested individuals.
3. Facilitate the collection, exchange and dissemination of information and ideas concerning preservation education; public awareness of endeavors in preservation education.
Academic historic preservation program certification is a primary function of NCPE and member programs undergo a rigorous annual recertification process. As a part of membership, academic programs are listed on the NCPE database (formally, The Great Chart) that provides prospective historic preservation students with information related to program locations, degree offerings and contact information for program advisors. During the early years NCPE published NCPE News which was a newsletter that contained articles related to important historic preservation topics and activities in the United States of America. NCPE continues to publish a peer reviewed journal, Preservation Education & Research (PER), which is used to exchange and disseminate information concerning preservation education and research. Since developing the PreserveNet website this information is now centrally located and easily accessed electronically, and also includes employment, news, and event resources
NCPE has become a leader in historic preservation advocacy and outreach through holding annual conferences and collaborative efforts with organizations such as the National Park Service, National Trust, Historic Site Council and the American Institute of Architects. Every year since 2000, NCPE has recognized outstanding individual contributions to the historic preservation field with an award named after influential preservationist and NCPE member, James Marston Fitch. As of 2011, NCPE has over fifty member institutions located across the United States of America. These academic programs in historic preservation and allied fields have educated thousands of students, many of whom have developed professional careers as professional historic preservation leaders working for local, state, federal government agencies, non-governmental organizations and in the private sector both nationally and globally.