Five Questions With Clint Tankersley of Presonomics & HiFi History

For years now, I’ve had preservation friends from social media; but, it was only about two years ago that I started to meet my “social media” friends in “real life”. I love making the world smaller and meeting friends who are doing inspiring work. Enter a new series to Preservation in Pink: Five Questions With. In this series, I’m talking with colleagues, social media friends, and others I admire to learn some tricks of the trade, hear their stories, and introduce you to more preservationists.

Next up (#5) in the series is Clint Tankersley.

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A scene from his lobbying experience with Preservation Action: Clint Tankersley (left, 2014 Advocacy Scholar), Dave Cross (Georgia Deputy SHPO), Congressman John Lewis, and Michael Phillips (National Trust Community Investment Corporation). Photo courtesy of Clint Tankersley.

Those deep in the preservation world will already know Clint from Presonomics, the non-profit organization that promotes the economic benefits of restoring historic buildings. Or, if you’re a podcast junkie, you might know Clint from his podcast HiFi History.

At the PastForward conference in November, Clint participated in the Instawalk and he answered many of my questions about Presonomics. Preservation & Economics can seem like a daunting task, but Clint and his team jumped in headfirst (all volunteers!) to make it easier for all of us. Clint’s hard work and motivation to help spread the good news of preservation as well as the tougher topics is inspiring and admirable. I thought you might like to meet Clint and learn about these endeavors. Read on!

 

  1. You are a preservationist and a lawyer. How did you decide to do both, and which came first?

I’ve loved history all my life. I know that’s a cliche thing to say in the preservation field, but for me love of history and historic places was almost inborn. My parents, who grew up poor without many opportunities to travel, were always taking my siblings and me to visit awesome historic places. After I took Mr. Cory Callahan’s riveting and unconventional 10th grade World History class, I even thought I might want to be a history teacher one day. But in college I moved into what I saw as a more useful, more lucrative field—business management. Taking business law courses from a brilliant, smart-mouthed, no-nonsense lawyer moved me towards a legal career.

So, law school came first. I never ever thought of marrying my interest in history with a career in the law. Frankly, I didn’t really understand the field of historic preservation—you can major in that? But when I got a job as a research assistant for my Environmental Law professor, Ryan Rowberry, the scales began to fall from my eyes. Professor Rowberry was a historian in medieval British history long before he became a lawyer and he had successfully combined both interests into an academic career, so I guess I had a good model. Long story short, I soon realized that I needed to focus in on preservation law. Ryan encouraged me to pursue a Master’s in Historic Preservation and I eventually relented.

 

  1. Can you explain the importance of preservationists understanding laws and the legal system?

As preservationists, we use many tools. Digital cameras, mapping software, design guidelines, electronic communication, and public outreach, to name a few. The legal system is another one of those tools. Perhaps, in some ways, it can be understood as the tool belt—it holds up and binds together all of our other tools. The law underlies everything that we do as preservationists.

But recognizing the law for what it is—a tool—means that we shouldn’t fear it. Rather, we need to wield it deftly and artfully to our own benefit. And, as a tool (or tool belt), don’t forget that it can be modified or even replaced if we don’t like it. Current laws are not the “end all be all” in the preservation paradigm. Too often, I think we let timidity or fear of failure hold us back from trying to improve our current preservation laws.

 

  1. What work has Presonomics done in 2015/16 – with whom do you work?

We’ve done a lot! But I’ll just touch on 2 projects. Most recently, we launched a new podcast (more on that later). The other project (it’s a mega-project really) is the Presonomics Open Access Repository. POAR (pronounced like “pour some knowledge into this developer’s brain”), as we affectionately call it, is a free online repository that will contain all extant publications related to preservation economics. The concept behind POAR is to make it easier for preservation activists to access economic data that can be used as powerful tools in their efforts to win over government officials, developers and property owners. This project requires extensive research and we currently have a team of research interns conducting thorough investigations one state at a time. So far, our phenomenal team has collectively logged over 700 hours of research and has documented over 1,000 publications related to preservation economics!

And lest your readers think that this will just be a huge boring list of study names with hyperlinks, let me explain further. We want to make the information from these studies as accessible as possible for the broadest possible swathe of mankind. To that end, we have read every one of these publications so you don’t have to (but they’ll be there if you want to dig in). We then pulled out all of the topics that each publication discusses and even provided a nice, one-sentence summary of each study. We believe that this pre-packaged approach will greatly simplify and empower the preservation advocacy process. Plus, we may even uncover new, previously unknown benefits of preservation by data mining all of this information.

We are deep into the research phase of POAR and we are now planning for funding opportunities to finance the digital construction of the repository itself. We will be applying for grants during 2016 and we hope to have funding secured by the beginning of 2017. Best case scenario, POAR will be fully operational about 2 years from now. That may seem like a super long time but it is quite remarkable when you consider that this is an all-volunteer endeavor.

 

  1. How would you like to see it grow?

The vision of Presonomics is to make the preservation of historic places the rule, not the exception, in the development of living communities throughout the world. To achieve this goal, we have to educate, educate, educate. At all levels (womb to tomb) and across all sectors.

We need more partners from different fields. Environmental, health care, law enforcement, poverty reduction initiatives. Those all need to have a seat at the table and I’d like Presonomics to be a facilitator of these conversations. We aim to be the go-to source for all things preservation economics.

 

  1. You also have HiFi History – how did you decide to start this podcast series? What has the response been so far?

I love podcasts (if you’re wondering, some of my favorites are Hello Internet, Freakonomics, Hardcore History, and Reply All). Listening to podcasts makes my short commute to work much more enjoyable and they really do a fabulous job of stimulating my brain. But I hungered for more preservation-related audio entertainment. So, ever the go-getter, I took it upon myself to create a new podcast, which is technically under the auspice of Presonomics.

I figured that I would give it a go and see if there is enough interest out there to support it. The show’s future is uncertain, but so far the response that I have been hearing is overwhelmingly positive. We just need many more listeners to make it viable. I believe that they will come over time. If you’re reading this right now and haven’t listened to it yet, then give it a try! I think that podcasting is a huge untapped market for the preservation movement to get its message across. History-themed podcasts are among the most popular genres out there and I am trying to figure out how to connect with that community. Things take time! But exposure to popular blogs like the cult classic Preservation in Pink may be just the boost we’ve been looking for.

 

Thank you, Clint! Economics is much easier to understand when you explain it. And thank you for the preservation podcast. We have been needing one! I also like that Preservation in Pink is now a “cult classic”!!  😉 Keep up the good work and send our appreciation to your team.

Connect with Presonomics on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and find HiFi History on Twitter.

Five Questions With Katie Miller on the National Park Service and a Preservation Career

Five Questions With returns! In this series, I’m talking with colleagues, social media friends, and others I admire to learn some tricks of the trade, hear their stories, and introduce you to more preservationists. While the first three interviews have been with preservation friends I’ve made through social media, #4 is a graduate classmate of mine. I love making the world smaller and meeting friends who are doing inspiring work.

Introducing interview #4: Katie Miller!

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BUNDLE UP and get outside and you can see rainbows and beautiful landscape in Anchorage, AK as demonstrated by Katie. Photo courtesy of Katie Miller. 

Katie Miller is one of the hardest working people I know, and one who is extremely dedicated to and excels at historic preservation. I thought you all might like to meet Katie and learn about her career with the National Park Service. It’s taken her to Massachusetts, New Mexico, Wyoming, and now Alaska. She has a B.A. in Cultural & Historic Preservation from Salve Regina University and M.S. in Historic Preservation from the University of Vermont. Read on for Katie’s interview and to see some beautiful photographs.

1. Katie, let’s start with the basics. What triggered your desire to work for the National Park Service? 

I grew up on Cape Cod, where I managed to find an internship working with the museum at the national seashore. Instantly, I was attracted to the agency’s mission to protect not only its historic resources, but the collective natural and historic environment for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of the public. I also loved working with a group of invested, good-hearted, passionate, hard-working people.

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O’Malley Peak, Anchorage, AK. Photo courtesy of Katie Miller. 

2. You’ve had multiple positions with the NPS? Would you tell me about them? 

After my internship at the Cape Cod National Seashore, I then drove to the opposite coast to work in the archives at Yosemite National Park in California.

In graduate school, I worked with the Cultural Landscapes Inventory Program at a NPS regional office in Santa Fe, New Mexico. After completing my coursework, the region stationed me at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

After the funding ran out for my position, I stayed with Grand Teton for as long as I could as a volunteer working on several projects, including historic furnishings reports, compliance reports, and an iPhone app. for self-guided history tours.

For two years, I worked as an architectural historian with a cultural resource management firm that received contracts from the NPS. There, I worked on National Register documentation for a few personally exciting historic sites, including Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, the Appalachian Trail (which extends from Georgia to Maine), Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, and Marsh-Billings National Historical Site in Vermont.

Now, I work directly for the NPS in the Alaska Regional Office as a historian.

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3. Tell me about your job duties with the Alaska Regional Office. 

It’s located in Anchorage, the state’s largest city, population-wise. As a historian, I write national register nominations, historic structures reports, and coordinate future cultural resource projects for national parks throughout the state. Alaska is a considerably sized area. If it were transposed over the contiguous United States (they call it the “lower 48” here), Alaska’s body would encompass most of the Mid-West and its tails would extend from Sacramento, California, to Savannah, Georgia.

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The Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark near McCarthy, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Katie Miller. 

4. What was it like to pick up and move to Alaska (from Rhode Island) and how do you describe living in Alaska? 

I love working for the NPS. With full support from my family, the move was very easy. My father drove with me, all 5,000+ miles between Massachusetts and Alaska.

The state has mountains that meet the ocean; long stretches of darkness and lightness; the world’s most adorable animals — otters and puffins; inspiring Native Alaskan culture; and colorful auroras. I also get to work with some of the most wonderful people in the universe.

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On that 5,000 mile drive: Three Sisters near Canmore, Alberta. Photo courtesy of Katie Miller. 

5. What advice would you offer to new/aspiring preservationists? 

Don’t underestimate the power of an internship – it’s the perfect opportunity to identify your interests. If you’d like to work with the NPS, I encourage you to look into the Student Conservation Association and the National Council for Preservation Education Internships. Also — if you’re passionate about something, take the risk. It will be worth it.

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Flying from Juneau to Skagway in a six seater plane. Photo courtesy of Katie Miller.

Thank you, Katie. Your photographs and your travels are beautiful. We’re proud to have preservationists like you who are dedicated to the National Park Service. Enjoy Alaska!

Five Questions With Deb Cohen of The Front Door Project

For years now, I’ve had preservation friends from social media; but, it was only about two years ago that I started to meet my “social media” friends in “real life”. I love making the world smaller and meeting friends who are doing inspiring work. Enter a new series to Preservation in Pink: Five Questions With. In this series, I’ll be talking with colleagues, social media friends, and others I admire to learn some tricks of the trade, hear their stories, and introduce you to more preservationists.

Introducing the second interview: Deb Cohen! 

Deb Cohen of The Front Door Project.

Deb Cohen of The Front Door Project.

Deb is a rising star in the Instagram/historic preservation crowd. She is creator of The Front Door Project Instagram account and blog of the same name. As with most social media finds, I cannot remember how I first came across Deb’s gorgeous architectural gallery, but I’m so glad I did. Wanting to know Deb’s story and how she emerged on the preservation scene, I am thrilled that Deb agreed to answer five questions for Preservation in Pink readers. And as a coffee lover, Deb fits right in with this crowd. Read the interview below.

  1. Deb, you are new (to me) on the historic preservation scene. Are you actually new to it? If so, where have you been hiding?

I am a lifelong lover of historic architecture, and grew up in an older Victorian home, but I am new to the historic preservation scene. My background is actually in finance, and I have worked for various insurance companies for over twenty years since receiving my accounting degree from the College of William & Mary. I have always appreciated historic architecture and as I look back on my life I realize many of my choices have been influenced by the look and feel of my environment.

My parents taught me the importance of maintaining original woodwork and about the value of antiques. I was drawn to William & Mary largely due to the old feel of the campus which is even more enhanced by its location next to Colonial Williamsburg, and one of the reasons my husband and I chose West Hartford as our home was because of its older architecture. I insisted that we live in an older home because newer homes just “don’t have the same charm”.

Until the last couple of years, my life was so busy with family and career that I lost sight of what I was really interested in. Through the photography I started in the spring of 2014 I have developed a passion for historic architecture and preservation. I became a member of the Historic Commission in town last year, and have become a voice in town advocating for the preservation of our incredible architectural history. I only wish I could turn back time and choose Historic Preservation as my major in college!

2. For people who don’t know about The Front Door Project, would you tell them about how its origins. 

I started taking photos of doors in the spring of 2014 as a way to occupy my time as I walked the neighborhoods of my hometown. My teenage daughter had an Instagram account focusing on preppy fashion and she had so much fun sharing ideas with other people that I decided to open one of my own to share my door photos.

Much to my surprise, people started to follow along which encouraged me to walk in new areas to find new material. I called it a “project” because it was really a project in terms of my self-improvement! To get more exercise, get outside more often and develop a new interest. I’m happy to say I have been able to do all of those things and more and am flattered and thrilled that so many people enjoy following along.

3. After studying doors for a while, what can you say about them and replacement doors v. original doors? 

[A bad replacement door] hurts my heart a little bit! More than any other part of the home, the entry says so much about the home’s character and history and even a little something about the owners, I think. When an original door is replaced with something that doesn’t suit the home it dramatically alters its appearance and makes things look off-kilter.

And, ever since I started this project many people have “come out of the closet” as door lovers as well, and quite a number of people have told me that they have started noticing interesting doors and homes too!

I think people notice if others have paid some time and attention to their door to highlight it as a welcoming point of entry into their home. It could be a unique color, a beautiful pots of flowers, a wreath or any combination of details that make an entry noticeable.

4. What advice can you give to people who are nervous about taking pictures of people’s houses? Have you had any bad encounters? 

Unless you are on private property, legally there is nothing to stop someone from photographing your home. I take my photos from the street or sidewalk for the most part, unless I have permission from the owner.

Having said that, with the exception of one individual, no one has ever asked me not to take a photo of his/her home. People are always flattered once I explain that I admire their home and use the photographs to provide inspiration to others!

On the one occasion that I was asked not to take a photograph, I didn’t. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable and certainly respect their wishes in that regard, even though I’m legally within my rights.

5. The best part of The Front Door Project is: 

That’s a tough question! There is so much I love about it. But I think the best part would have to be the community, whether it be fellow old house lovers, people passionate about home decor or those of us that just love to see pretty things and interact with one another.

I also love how it has opened other people’s eyes to historic preservation and an appreciation of our older architecture. In fact, I had one follower tag me in a photo of her new house recently, an older home. She said that I inspired her and her husband to purchase an older home for their first house. That’s pretty cool!

Thank you, Deb. You are inspiring! (And choosing just a few photos for this post was not an easy decision!) Keep up the beautiful work and welcome to the historic preservation world. Now, let’s go for a cup of coffee.

Five Questions with Raina Regan on Instagram + Preservation

For years now, I’ve had preservation friends from social media; but, it was only about two years ago that I started to meet my “social media” friends in “real life”. I love making the world smaller and meeting friends who are doing inspiring work. Enter a new series to Preservation in Pink: Five Questions With. In this series, I’ll be talking with colleagues, social media friends, and others I admire to learn some tricks of the trade, hear their stories, and introduce you to more preservationists.

First up, Raina Regan!

Raina is one of my dear preservation pals and we finally met at the Society for Industrial Archeology Conference in Minneapolis/St. Paul in June 2013 after talking for years through our blogs and twitter. We both love our cats, Taylor Swift, photography, preservation, and conferences!

You might know Raina Regan from her work with Indiana LandmarksSteller storiesTwitter, or more likely, her incredible Instagram account. Beautifully composed photographs filled with architectural layers and a mission to show viewers the world through her preservationist eyes,

Raina’s Instagram feed is always one of my favorites. Thinking we could all learn a few tips from Raina, I asked if she’d answer a few questions for Preservation in Pink readers. Read the interview below!

1. How long have you been on Instagram? Why did you start, and what do you love about it? 

I joined instagram in January 2012. I joined Instagram almost immediately after purchasing my first iPhone. I had seen a few friends on the app and really loved the way it was being used to call attention to historic homes, details, and little known places.

Interesting story, my first Instagram photo is a Modern home which is now on our Indiana Landmarks 10 Most Endangered list. I feel like that speaks to what my account has been and continues to be about: historic places (with some other fun stuff sprinkled in).

There are so many things I love about Instagram today, from the friendships I’ve made both in Indianapolis and around the globe. Instagram has opened my eyes and made me more observant of my surroundings.

2. You’re quite well known on Instagram (especially for a preservationist)! Taylor Swift has you beat at 50 million, but you have 23K. That is impressive! And, I’m so proud of you. How did you rise to instagram fame? 

At the end of March, I was surprised by a message from instagram informing me I had been selected as a suggested user.  Every two weeks, Instagram selects a handful (around 200) of users around the globe to highlight. How they select these users is relatively unknown. I like to think it is because I am actively involved with in my local Instagram community (@igersindy) and I provide a unique point of view that highlights architecture. Being selected a suggested user, instagram encourages you to be a “model instagrammer.” I try to stay active by posting daily, commenting and liking photos, attending instameets, participating in the weekend hashtag project, and trying new things with my photography.

3. Your photos are beautiful. Can you share your top tips for insta-worthy photos? 

The grid is your friend! I always have the grid on my camera app turned on and I use it as a guide when taking my shots. There’s a photography trick called the “rule of thirds” (google it for tutorials) which I try to follow when composing my photos and is particularly helpful for instagram. Both of these tips have really helped me increase the quality of my photos.

I primarily use the native iPhone camera for the majority of my Instagram photos. But, I do edit them in a few iPhone apps. My favorites are Snapseed for original editing (such as brightness), VSCO to add a touch of filter, and SKRWT to straighten or fix any skew. I also really enjoy GeotagMyPic which allows you to add the geotag information back into a photo.

4. How do you see instagram playing a role in historic preservation? 

Imagery and storytelling is such an important part of saving historic places. Connecting people to places, increasing awareness, or even reawakening someone’s memories of a place all can be done through instagram. I love getting comments from someone with a favorite memory of a historic place I’ve posted, or comments such as “I hope they preserve that place.” I find that most people I interact with on Instagram are preservationists at heart — even if they aren’t one professionally. We need to do a better job mobilizing these people to get them engaged in the preservation movement more directly.

5. What is your favorite instagram photo?

That’s a hard one, but I would say this photo of the Indiana War Memorial (see below). The War Memorial is one of my favorite historic places in Indianapolis and I love the composition of this photo and the play of textures.

Thank you, Raina! Keep up the great work!

p.s. Raina and I are collaborating for a fun (soon-to-be-announced) event during this year’s #pastforward conference. Stay tuned! 

p.p.s. You can follow Raina’s cat Quincy on Instagram, too. You know you want to.