#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?

#PastForward: Emerging Professionals

pastforward

Who will be at the Past Forward (National Trust) conference this week? Some people are already on their way. I’m looking forward to the many intriguing sessions (urban-centric, federal policies, etc.), meeting new preservation friends and catching up with old friends.

I’m very excited to be speaking at the conference this year! Join me on Wednesday November 4, for the session, “Emerging Professionals in Historic Preservation.” The session runs from 1-4pm, and it’s divided into three mini sessions, so you can stop in for one talk, two, or all three. I’ll be speaking on “Engaging Millennials,” “Technology +Historic Preservation,” and “(A)Typical Careers in Preservation.” After each talk, the floor opens for a roundtable discussion.

Come to listen, come with questions! The Emerging Professionals group has some fun planned, too, so it’s more than just listening and talking.We’re looking for those emerging professionals, but also seasoned professionals who have advice to share or want to meet some new people.

Hope to see you there!

Capture2

NTHP Savannah 2014: A Location Review

A street near Forsyth Park: porches, brick sidewalk, mature trees.

A street near Forsyth Park: porches, brick sidewalk, mature trees.

Savannah, Georgia: a perfect setting for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference (or “PastForward” as we call it these days). Historic homes and live oaks draped with spanish moss line the gridded streets and monumental squares of Savannah, planned in the manner of the Ogelthorpe Plan. Everywhere you look, the architecture is beautiful and photo-worthy. It’s a photogenic city in every sense of the word (and we preservationists love our photographic documentation). The Savannah Historic District is a National Historic Landmark District designated in 1966. The Historic Savannah Foundation is active in restoration, stewardship, and community involvement to achieve its mission of preserving and protecting Savannah’s heritage. Students of the Savannah College of Art & Design benefit from having Savannah as a living, learning lab. Historic preservation and heritage are common conversations in Savannah (not to imply that it is always easy). You can understand why preservationists were excited for a conference in Savannah. After attending the conference, I can say that my excitement for Savannah was well worth it. The National Trust has always put together great conferences, too.

However, I am interested in discussing the location in more detail. Anyone up for it? Let me explain. Many of the conference sessions were held at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center located on Hutchinson Island, which is across the river from the city of Savannah. It’s a short drive over the bridge or a free ferry ride across the river, which wasn’t really a big deal. The issue that I found (and discussed and overheard many times) related to the fact that the convention center felt so far removed from downtown Savannah.

Looking at Hutchinson Island, waiting for the ferry from the Savannah side.

Looking at Hutchinson Island, waiting for the ferry from the Savannah side.

Why did it feel so far removed? The only places on the island were the convention center and a Westin hotel. This meant that there were no local businesses to support on the island. Your break between sessions, if any break, could not be spent wandering the street to another session and passing by the local stores or cafes. Speaking of cafes, there was no place to buy a cup of coffee or a snack or lunch on the island, unless you wanted to spend an arm and a leg at the corporate hotel next door. If you took time to catch the ferry and head back to the city side, you would miss sessions, probably those lunch time sessions! That was not convenient.

In such a large convention center, there was definitely space to contract with a few local cafes or caterers to sell coffee, lunch, or snacks. If contracts limited that option, perhaps that was not the best location. On Thursday and Friday there were “nosh and network” breaks in the preservation studio, but it didn’t quite fit the bill. Most people eat and drink coffee on different schedules. This seemed like a major oversight.

In a city so large with so many hotels located in the downtown historic district, it would seem that session locations could be spread out and attendees could walk from one to another or easily slip outside for a coffee before catching the next session. Spending most of the day in a convention center, only staring at the historic district across the river, felt odd to a preservationist, particularly to one attending a historic preservation conference.

Perhaps there were perfectly good reasons to site the conference across the river. It should be noted that field sessions, TrustLive and other events were located on the city side of the river, but many sessions were held at the convention center. I’d be interested to know why. And I’d recommend to the National Trust that the next conference be sited more in line with preservation practices.

In summary: great conference content, great overall location, poor conference HQ choice.

What do you think?

Spotlight on the Historic Bridge Foundation, Part One

While driving around Georgia, I’ve noticed one bridge railing in particular: a two bar concrete railing with rectangular concrete posts. It’s a rather simple design and it’s used all over Georgia’s highways (those that I’ve seen in south Georgia), from long spans to short spans, interstates and state highways. Something about this railing says engineering and economic efficiency, yet there is an aesthetic quality to it. And those that are replaced with concrete Jersey barriers are just not the same.

Georgia railing as seen from the passenger seat.

Georgia railing as seen from the passenger seat.

Bridges take us from one side to another, physically and/or metaphorically (whichever you prefer). Historic bridges stand as records of engineering heritage. Each genre of bridge speaks to its designers, materials available at the time, the technology available, the width of vehicles they transported, and methods of construction. And, quite often, those historic bridges that survive today are beautiful, photogenic and interesting to see. Covered bridges, metal truss bridges, arch bridges, small ornamental concrete railings – they’re all a part of the larger picture of bridges and transportation.

Unfortunately, because our transportation needs are constantly changing due to larger, heavier vehicles, more traffic, and safety standards, many of our historic bridges must be repaired, altered, or replaced. Deferred maintenance and deteriorating materials place many of our historic bridges at risk for demolition. Even with federal regulations to aid in preservation, the decision to rehabilitate a historic bridge is sometimes a difficult path.

Every resource needs an advocate or many, and advocates need a guiding force. What do historic bridges have? Enter the Historic Bridge Foundation based in Austin, TX. Before diving into the nuts and bolts of HBF, read the story on the main page, which is written by Executive Director, Kitty Henderson. She writes about the Vida Shaw Swing Bridge and how it really inspired the work of the HBF.

After you read Kitty’s story, take a moment in the comments to share your favorite bridge or a bridge story. Why do you love bridges? What got you hooked on bridges? What do you think of bridges? Tomorrow I’ll share more about the HBF and its mission, work, accomplishments, and challenges. 

A few bridges posts from over the years (I love bridges; I write about them often):

I’m looking forward to our bridge conversations. And if you’re here for #pastforward, be sure to visit the Historic Bridge Foundation in the Preservation Studio (exhibitor’s hall).

In Savannah at the National Historic Preservation Conference

This week is the annual National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in Savannah, GA. If you’re in with the social media crowd (anyone can be, jump on!) you’ll see the hashtag #presconf and #pastforward. If you see that this week, you’ll know that person is hanging out with a couple of thousand preservationists in Savannah. It’s warm and sunny and beautiful, and I’m looking forward an intense few days of preservation overload, in the best possible way. Already, I’ve been touring Georgia with some of my Vermont preservation colleagues and we’ve had a blast and some true southern experiences. I hope you don’t mind picture overload! Get ready for more this week.

If you’re not able to be here in Savannah, the NTHP has made it easier to join from afar. Check out these live streaming events. Register (free) so you can get your virtual attendance packets. Hope you enjoy. Let me know how it goes! 

One part of the conference includes the exhibitor’s hall, at which preservation minded businesses, organizations, and schools set up camp to chat with conference goers and let everyone know what they have to offer. This week it is my pleasure to share with you the Historic Bridge Foundation. Read on in the next post. 

It’s that Time Again!

Who is going to the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference next week in Savannah, GA? More information on it’s way. Hope to see you there!

pastforward

The 11 Most Endangered Places

Fighting battles (often uphill battles) is something we preservationists agree to, knowingly or not, when we jump into the historic preservation field. Not everything is a battle, but some definitely are. There is no way around the battle, you just have to go through it. And some of these projects need a boost. Each year the National Trust for Historic Places accepts nominations for its “11 Most Endangered Places” list. Placement in this list is not a guarantee of success, but it has yielded wonderful success stories over the years.

Do you have a historic site that needs publicity, funding, solutions and help? Odds are, you do. You can nominate a  historic site. Read on for the press release from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Deadline is March 3rd to Submit a Nomination to National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2014 List of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

The deadline is fast approaching to submit a nomination for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2014 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places®. For over a quarter century, this list has highlighted important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk for destruction or irreparable damage. Nominations are due on Monday, March 3, 2014.

“Historic places are a tangible reminder of who we are as a nation,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “For over 25 years, the National Trust’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places has helped shine a spotlight on threatened historic places throughout the nation, helping not only to preserve these places, but also galvanizing local support for the preservation of other unique, irreplaceable treasures that make our nation and local communities special.”

More than 250 threatened one-of-a-kind historic treasures have been identified on the list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places since 1988. Whether these sites are urban districts or rural landscapes, Native American landmarks or 20th-century sports arenas, entire communities or single buildings, the list spotlights historic places across America that are facing a range of threats including insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy. The designation has been a powerful tool for raising awareness and rallying resources to save endangered sites from every region of the country.

The places on the list need not be famous, but they must be significant within their own cultural context, illustrate important issues in preservation and have a need for immediate action to stop or reverse serious threats. All nominations are subject to an extensive, rigorous vetting process.

Follow the National Trust @PresNation and 11 Most list #11Most

For additional information, e-mail 11Most@savingplaces.org or call 202.588.6141. To learn more about the program and to submit a nomination, visit:  www.preservationnation.org/11most

Remember, due this Monday March 3. Consider it weekend homework for a great cause. Find the nomination for here.

——————————

The Historic Rural Schoolhouses of Montana were collectively listed in the 2013 11 Most Endangered Places. Their threat was lack of funding. Photo by Carroll Van West, via the National Trust. Click for source.

The Historic Rural Schoolhouses of Montana were collectively listed in the 2013 11 Most Endangered Places. Their threat was lack of funding. Photo by Carroll Van West, via the National Trust. Click for source.

Side note: “The Most Endangered Places” always sounds like “The Most Dangerous Game.” Is anyone else still stuck in English class? 

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.)

****

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?

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.