As I mentioned, for one my graduate school classes, I (along with my 12 fellow classmates) am participating in the Vermont Barn Census. For our purposes it involves windshield surveys, which are just what the term sounds like. With maps, architectural guide books, notebooks, pencils, and cameras in hand, we plot out a route in our specified area (a Vermont town in our case) and drive the roads. When we see a barn we stop, snap a photograph, record the address and some other notes if necessary, occasionally talk to the property owner who is giving us an odd look, and moving on until we see another barn, or agriculture related buildings (i.e. equipment shed, ice house, milk house, sugar house, corn crib, etc.) Often we shout “that’s a barn!” when we see one in the distance, or we turn around to photograph the one we just caught out of the corner of our eyes.
Conducting a survey is an actual tool used by historic preservationists and architectural historians. It reminds me of the New Deal days when HABS started and crews spread across the country to document America’s built environment and shared heritage. Windshield surveying has its advantages and disadvantages, all of which would make for a good discussion. However, the justification for a windshield survey is to gather preliminary information on as much land as possible in order to evaluate which areas require in depth survey and further research.
Today is survey day #2 for Emily and me. We’ll leave early with coffee in hand and explore more of Vermont, hoping to find many barns. Last week we experienced just how many dirt roads are in Vermont, how beautiful of a state it is, how maps aren’t always accurate, and of course the many, many barns in Grafton, VT.
Expect more Barn Census posts this semester. In the meantime: check out the Vermont Barn Census.