Here in Vermont we love barns. Barns are symbols of the Vermont lifestyle that people live or at least envision. As my professor pointed out, barns are on the official highway road map. People picture big red barns amongst the rolling green hills. However, agriculture is changing fast everywhere and that does not exclude Vermont. Ways of life are never immune to jumps and slips in technology and economy. Long winters wreak havoc on the historic structures and every year more are lost to the climate, to development, to lack of necessity, etc. How does one state go about documenting all of these barns and farm structures?
Meet the Vermont Barn Census, established by Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program, Historic Windsor’s Preservation Education Institute, Save Vermont Barns, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and Preservation Trust of Vermont with funding from Preserve America. The short version is this: volunteers across the state can visit the website, learn everything they need to start the survey, and then submit the information through the website. It’s an incredibly innovative way to involve the public’s help. Individuals, communities, historical societies, students, teachers, anyone is invited to assist on the census in hopes of, in the end, gathering a complete survey of Vermont barns in order to establish how many are standing, how many have fallen, and how the landscape has changed.
Insert the UVM’s Historic Preservation 206 class of Researching Historic Sites and Structures. As part of our class project, we are working on the census (and adding our own in class twist to research for other purposes). We’ll be out there photographing, recording, and later researching the barns and communities. Who doesn’t love a good barn? I’m psyched.
Across the country, my cousin Evan Robb, Project Manager of the Washington Rural Heritage project, informed me that Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation also has a Heritage Barns Project. I imagine many states have the same. Perhaps some could take a lesson from Vermont and enlist volunteers, if they do not already.
Do you live in Vermont? You can help! Join in the fun. The Vermont Barn Census “week” will be October 2 – October 12, which is supposed to be the peak of leaf season. (A good atmosphere always makes for good, fun work, but you can work on this project all year round.)