Thank You to Our Veterans

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To those who served the United States of America and our citizens, thank you from the bottom of my heart. We in America live the good lives we do because of your sacrifice and your patriotism.

If you see a Veteran today, thank him or her.

PresConf Recap: Education Sessions

Gather thousands of preservationists together and there is a lot to talk about, which is more than buildings. Sessions discussed historic sites, publicity, economic revitalization, energy efficiency, social media, the 50 year “rule”, diversity, new ideas for building uses, community advocacy, bridge rehabilitation, federal laws (NEPA & NHPA), and much more. While it’s great to have so many choices for which sessions to attend, my complaint is that there are too many options. Having to choose from one of five or more at one time makes me feel like I’m missing out on important education opportunities. Of course that tends to sound like a “first world problem” but I’m letting you know how busy a National Trust conference can be.

Each session is worthy of discussion, but for this overview I’ll note some of my biggest takeaways (ideas and/or food for thought) and go into greater detail in subsequent posts. You can also find recaps from the Preservation Leadership Forum blog for the whole conference and daily recaps.

Held in the Madame Walker Theater.

Held in the Madame Walker Theater.

Conversation Starter: Diversity in Preservation: Rethinking Standards and Practices

A conversation starter worked like this: a panel provided the background information and set the stage for discussion on the topic. Audience members wrote questions on index cards and the moderator selected questions for the panel to answer. This panel discussed how preservation is building focused; preservationists speak the language of buildings. Yet, how does that impact important places that do not have significant buildings anymore (perhaps they are lost or have lost historic integrity)? Is there a way to make ordinary buildings significant? It’s the discussion of authenticity v. integrity. How much of a role does association play? Is the National Register effective in preserving our significant places? Where are we moving in the future? Are we changing standards or practices, both or none?

As you can surmise, this was a great panel for getting your preservation theory & practices brain working overtime. Rather than being told what to think, the audience participated in the conversation, making the session feel like a good class in school when we’d all sit around and talk theory.

New Media, New Audiences: Case Studies in Social Media

The much anticipated social media panel (one of the panels) with Kayla, Dana, Michelle, and Meagan. Each of us discussed how we use social for preservation work, individually and for our organizations and advocacy. Following the brief presentations, the audience divided into groups of five. We answered questions about social media, helped people work through their challenges and consider what might work for their needs. Each group was different, and all sounded like they went over well. At the end of the group breakout session, everyone wrote their lessons learned on 8×11 analog Twitter cards to tape on the wall sharing what they learned or another thought from the session.

Why is social media at a preservation conference? Simply stated, social media is not only for our personal lives. It can help our organizations be included in conversations throughout communities and across the country. It builds relationships and increases networks in a more genuine way than some might expect from social media. (After all, we preservationists love authenticity, so we’re going to be ourselves, right?) Our goal was to show that social media (whether blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) can help to share powerful messages and create support for preservation causes. And it’s not just for the younger generations, nor do you have to use all of the social media avenues. It’s also fun. In other words, go ahead, jump on the preservation + social media bandwagon. You’ll be glad you did.

Our analog Twitter wall!

Our analog Twitter wall!

Seaside as A Historic District: Evaluating the Significance of New Urbanism Developments

Another one of my favorite sessions, hearkening to the day of Mary Washington where we were fascinated by New Urbanism developments (because some, quite frankly, were creepy, whereas others seemed like good places to live. Though we were unable to decide if preservationists could live in new developments, however well designed, because of all of the historic homes and communities out there). This session presented examples of planned communities throughout American history (think Radburn, NJ, all the Levittowns, the Greenbelt communities) and then discussed new communities (new urbanism) such as Seaside, FL and Reston, VA. What is the correlation between new urbanism and historic preservation? Are these new communities too Disney-like or gentrified? And the discussion led back to our favorite terms of significance and authenticity. The best thought to share: New urbanism is learning to build new cities in the fashion of successful old cities (i.e. old urbanism?), which have survived because of historic preservation. Perhaps the two fields: historic preservation and urban planning have more in common than previously thought.

Spans to Somewhere: Creative Outcomes for Large Transportation Projects in Historic Settings

A big transportation project is near and dear to my heart due to my days with the Lake Champlain Bridge. Unfortunately many of our larger historic bridges are at risk for demolition because they no longer meet the service levels or have suffered deterioration. This session discussed the Milton-Madison Bridge as well as the Louisville, KY bridge projects and how the communities worked to mitigate the loss of their bridge. While the regulatory world (Section 106 & Section 4(f)) isn’t often discussed in National Trust sessions, it is important to remember that the laws do play a role in everyone’s lives. And community input is an important part of these regulations. Citizens (stakeholders) can help to direct the outcome of a project, when working with the decision makers. The outcome can include rehabilitation, or it can include mitigation (a unique bridge design, historic research or documentation, interpretive panels, preservation planning, etc.)

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Those are just a few of the sessions and a few thoughts – hopefully some to get your preservation brain intrigued. If you attended the conference, what were some of your favorite sessions?

Preservation Photos #206

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A quiet corner in the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis where the Rebooting Historic Preservation cast theme party was held during the Preservation Conference. A great party! 

Now I want a rooster lamp.

PresConf Recap: Welcome to the Big Show, Preservationists! (Or, the Opening Plenary)

As mentioned, the preservation conference can feel like a whirlwind, in a good way. There are many field sessions and events to choose from, in addition to the education sessions. Even if you’re indecisive, you’ll likely to end up in a good place. Some events, however, are not to be missed.

The Opening Plenary is the official opening for conference attendees (though meetings and field sessions do occur prior), wherein the President of the NTHP, conference chairs, et. al, and the guest speaker welcomes everyone and gives opening remarks. This year’s opening plenary was held in the Hilbert Circle Theater in Columbus Circle in Indianapolis on Wednesday October 30.

Hilbert Circle Theater

Hilbert Circle Theater

Time for Three (self proclaimed world’s first classically trained garage band) began the plenary with a captivating performance. The group is in residence with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and has won and Indiana Innovation Award. With two violins and a double bass, this was one of my favorite live performances.

Stephanie Meeks, NTHP President, spoke about historic house museums and how our go-to system just isn’t working. Saving buildings by converting them into house museum is seldom the best use, unless you are Mount Vernon or Monticello. That model, which was once our way we knew how to save a building (think Ann Pamela Cunningham and the Mount Vernon Ladies Association) needs to be reprogrammed. Meeks based her talk on discussion from the book New Solutions for House Museums by Donna Ann Harris. (Read her entire speech here.) Meeks suggests that it’s time to reconsider how our buildings operate; in other words, bring noncommercial (i.e. museum or nonprofit) and retail side by side. Give the building life all of the time. Recharge it! We’re rethinking historic sites. The National Trust is leading by example – moving out of its current home (Dupont City HQ) to the historic Watergate building. While a difficult decision, it was the right move for the building and for the NTHP, and the building is sold with preservation easements. Agreements like this can help interested buyers and sellers to protect historic buildings while giving them the proper use.

Another view in the theatre.

Another view in the theatre.

Another highlight of the plenary was the guest speaker Henry Glassie, Professor Emeritus of Folklore at Indiana University. If you are a Mary Washington Historic Preservation graduate like me, it was a flashback to Professor Gary Stanton’s lectures about vernacular architecture. Glassie gave a lighthearted, but well informed overview of Indiana architectural history; he is a wonderful speaker. Did you know that the I-house was named so because architectural historian Fred Niffen found this style in Indiana and Illinois? All these years, I had no idea. Glassie also offered that the mobile home and the log cabin have similarities including geographic distribution in that they are both shelter of the working poor. A thoroughly enjoyable evening!

Following the opening plenary, everyone headed to the opening reception at the Athenaeum Building in Indy, built in 1890 for the culture of the community. The reception spanned multiple floors including The Rathskeller (the city’s oldest restaurant, estab. 1894) which is in the basement. Attendees mingled, talked preservation, made introductions, and enjoyed some food and drink. The event was also a host for the #BuiltHeritage Tweet-up. Finally, an opportunity to meet my preservation social media friends (wherein I hugged everyone)!

Windows above our tweetup.

Windows above our tweetup.

By the end of the night, I had scribbled notes in my #presconf notebook already filled with quotes from Meeks and Glassie; I met (sort of new) friends; experienced just a few of Indy’s beautiful historic sites, and felt that sense of preservation happiness being among “my people.” Overall, what a great evening and a fantastic way to kick off the conference.

PresConf Recap: People of Preservation

Sessions, site seeing, photographing buildings, fun events, educational and inspiring speakers – the NTHP and Indianapolis put together a fabulous experience for the 2000+ preservationists and friends

October 30 – November 2, 2013. There’s much to say and much to share, and PiP will cover the conference in segments: people, sessions, events, buildings, and travel. First up: PEOPLE.

Historic preservation is place. It is buildings. But most of all, it is people. Preservation wouldn’t be anywhere without its people. Attending the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in Indianapolis, IN this past week provided the strongest examples of just how important people are to preservation. It is inspiring to meet preservationists who have such diverse jobs and niches, yet who are all working to further the preservation cause.

New Media, New Audiences panel:

New Media, New Audiences panel: Dana Saylor, Julia Rocchi, Kaitlin O’Shea, Kayla Jonas Galvin, Michelle Kimball, Meagan Baco. More about this social media session to come, but these inspiring women standing with me are just some of the people to which I’m referring.

I’m grateful to live in and participate in the social media sector of preservation. After years of knowing fellow preservationists through blogs, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, finally I had the chance to meet so many passionate people. If you’re one of the social media crew: I probably hugged you – that’s how happy I was to meet you. How interesting it is to have this network across the country (and the world, in some cases), to build these relationships and to know what each other is working on in the field (and some outside of work) even before we meet. We are non-profit employees, government employees, self-employed individuals, writers, artists, photographers, and advocates with projects ranging from one building to an entire city to the entire field of preservation. What an honor to meet everyone. Some of the social media crew includes:

Beyond the social media crowd and network, it’s wonderful to know accomplished preservationists, students, and locals. The Preservation Conference is the place where you can talk to any preservationist; you already have the common ground of preservation, so just strike up a conversation. I was lucky to speak with Stephanie Meeks, President of the NTHP; Vince Michael of the NTHP and the blog Time Tells. I met a 16 year student who has already written a National Register nomination for a Rosenwald School (and it’s been accepted). And this is just the beginning. Everyone is sincerely excited for the field, for each other, and it’s a motivating, inspiring experience. Mix everyone together and you’ll be on a preservation high! The annual preservation conference is one of the best ways to be reinvigorated and inspired. I look forward to future conversations and conferences.

Indy Love

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What a wonderful whirlwind of preservation events, travels, and friends this past week. Now that it’s back to the normal preservation life, there is time to process and share the adventures and lessons. Indianapolis was a wonderful hostess! Stay tuned throughout this week; I have a lot to write, say, and share.