#PastForward Recap: Emerging Professionals

Days of good sessions and good conversations at the National Preservation Conference left me with too many thoughts and take-aways for one post. And, I’d like to continue conversations that we started at the conference. Rather than overwhelm all of us, I’ll take it one post and one conversation at a time. Interested? Read on, and join in for the comments, whether you attended the conference or not.

Leading the Emerging Professionals session. Photo from the NTHP.

Leading the Emerging Professionals session. Photo from the NTHP.

From the conference program.

On Wednesday November 4, I had the privilege of leading the Emerging Professionals session at the National Preservation Conference (known as #PastForward). The session was divided into three parts or three topics, in this format: short talk about the topic, room discussion of topics/questions, smaller group discussions, back together for larger points and then move on to the next topic. A packed room (standing room only!), everyone in attendance was engaged and chatty. We had a great time.

The three topics were: Engaging Millennials; Technology & Historic Preservation; & finding a career in Historic Preservation.

To sum up the main points of the discussions:

  • Emerging does not mean young; it means new in the field.
  • The discussion of a need (or not) for division of age in the field remains current.
  • Embrace social media – not necessarily all of it, but some platform because that’s where everyone is.
  • To find your career: volunteer, intern, expand your skillset beyond preservation, talk to others about how they got to where they are.

For further discussion: The topic that I would like to continue is along the lines of age division in historic preservation. As I’ve discussed on PiP previously (here and here), the term “young preservationist” seems unnecessary and like it’s creating more of a divide than should exist for the good of preservation.

Yet, that is my experience living and working in Vermont. People in other locales feel that the only way for the younger generation of preservationists to be heard is by creating a separate group of preservationists who want to tackle different issues than the older generation of preservationists.

That makes sense. A large population can sustain separate groups working towards the same overall goal (read: historic preservation) with various methods. However, what I cannot understand is the prevalent use of “young” in the names of groups. And the age requirements. Emerging professionals is more dynamic and flexible. Open for interpretation, it can be anyone new to the field. As we know, some people start historic preservation careers at any age.

So, I ask: if you are in favor of the use of “young preservationists” or “young professionals” with an age requirement (under 40, under 35 – whatever it might be), what happens you cross over the that age limit? Will you be kicked out on your 40th birthday? So much for happy birthday!

Or, will we all just naturally age out of the young preservationist group?

I’m curious, truly, since the use of “young” seems new in our field. And it seems to me, that “young” is creating more of a divide in a field that needs all of the love and unity that it can get! When is “young” appropriate? Should we rename our groups? Is it effective to use “young” in the title of a group? Or does it create more of a divide?

Tell me what you think! Are you part of a “young preservationist” group? Would you keep the name? Change the name?