#PastForward Recap: Leave Your Inner Snob at Home

Mary Rowe at the preservationURBAN Trust Live session, with a classic Jane Jacobs quote.

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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.

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One of the most talked about quotes from the conference was said by Mary Rowe of MASNYC, at the Trust Live: preservationURBAN session. To a room packed with preservationists she said, “Leave your inner snob at home.” Most everyone in the audience, numbering in the hundreds, applauded.

I didn’t. I needed some time to think about that statement.

Preservationists have long-been accused of being elitist, blue-haired ladies in tennis shoes who preserve only the best architecture and nothing for the common folk. And it was true for some time. Historic Preservation has its roots with the Mount Vernon Ladies Association who formed to save George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. (Let’s hear it for the women!) Despite the initial shortcomings of the movement, we wouldn’t be anywhere in preservation without those women.

Over the past 250 years historic preservation has evolved, gaining the most traction with the passage of the National Historic Preservation of 1966, the creation of preservation as a profession through graduate and undergraduate programs and shifts in the philosophy and practice of preservation. The most basic example is the inclusion of vernacular architecture (rather than solely high style architecture) as historically significant and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic preservation is a vast field, seeking to remember, document, preserve, re-use, and incorporate our past into the present and the future. From state capitals to roadside diners, Civil War battlefields to farmsteads, preservation relies on the built environment to tell our collective heritage.

Haven’t we made incredible progress in preservation?

Really, do we still have to tell people that we are not snobs? Do we still have to remind people that preservation is more than paint colors and high style architecture? And do we have to remind people that preservation works for quality of life in communities and places that matter to everyone?

Maybe we do. Collectively, we preservationists continue to great work by highlighting projects in social media to show that preservation is accessible to all, and is growing in all forms of diversity.

Snobs? Let’s think about this.

No matter what field you’re in (especially in a field that works to save resources), those who disagree will always think you’re a snob. But, among our people – we preservationists gathered together – are there really snobs among us? I can’t recall the last time I met a preservationist, young or old, emerging or experienced, and thought, “SNOB” (or whatever word you’d use akin to snob).

So, when someone comes in, who does not identify as a preservationist, and essentially tells us that preservationists can be snobs … why would we preservationists clap? Why would we agree, when we know that’s not the current state of preservation? Am I missing something? I need some contemporary examples, not the old stereotypes.

We acknowledge that not every place can be included in a preservationists’ efforts. Rather, not every place can be included in preservation efforts that are state and/or federally funded. Why? Because state and federal funding are tied to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, the National Register of Historic Places, and the National Park Service. Places awarded funding and protection by being listed in the National Register are part of the built environment or landscape (sites, objects, structures, districts, buildings) and they have integrity.

Need a refresher on the National Register? Read this Preservation Basics post. While you’re at it, read these myths about historic preservation.  

In other words, yes, the National Register has some restrictions. It has to, or else preservationists would be trying to control or save every piece of our existing built environment. That would not go over well with anyone, nor would it be feasible. The National Register aids us in the work we do every day. Maybe it does need a refresher, but it has done us so much good so far.

There is more to historic preservation efforts than the National Register. Look at Main Street programs and community efforts. Preservationists talk about sense of place and third place and the intangible elements that make a place tangible. Preservation wants all people to have pride in where they live and to have a good quality of life, enriched by the historic built environment.

My point? When someone says preservationists are snobs, why applaud? Was it politically correct to applaud? Maybe our response allows this “snob” rumor to continue. Why not show & tell all of the great work of recent and current preservation efforts that shows the advance of preservation theory and practice. Prove by example. Preservation has come a long way.

It must be noted that Mary Rowe was an engaging and energetic speaker and the work of MASNYC is well aligned with historic preservation efforts in a manner that can greatly benefit our communities. I’m glad to have heard her speak, and as a result, to think about this issue of preservationists as snobs, especially if a leader such as Mary Rowe feels this way. Please, join in the conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For discussion:

  • What do you think?
  • Were you in attendance? Did you applaud?
  • Are you a preservationist? Or not?
  • Do you think of preservationists as snobs? Why?

Other #PastForward Recaps: Emerging Professionals // Social Media

#PastForward Recap: Social Media

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.

Mr. Stilts is all over the #thisplacematters flag!

Mr. Stilts is all over the #thisplacematters flag!

Let’s talk social media!

The recent social media buzz are decries of “social media isn’t real life!” “avoid social media!” “be present!” and many more proclamations about the negative impacts it has on society. And, of course, it has some merit. Social media shouldn’t overwhelm or control your whole life. Your worth does not depend on social media. Stop spending so much time in front of a screen (say the critics to a country where most people work with computers). Stop documenting everything or posting your life to Instagram. And on and on.

Rather than the negative, let’s focus on the positive. Last week at Past Forward at the Emerging Professionals session we talked about how social media is helping our organizations. Many of us met each other in real life (“IRL”) for the first time after years of being online social media preservation friends. And those of us who know each other already might only catch up IRL at the annual conference, but we keep in touch throughout the year as friends and colleagues. Our professional (and friendship) networks have increased exponentially because of the power of the internet and social media platforms. And, our preservation message is so much easier to spread. Our time and money are used much more efficiently.

What’s your example of positive connections via social media? As for me, my network wouldn’t be what it is without blogging and other platforms. Other than blogging, Instagram is my favorite.

Why Instagram? I love documentation. I love documenting the fun, happy moments of life in order to create a collage of memories. Sometimes I scroll through my own Instagram to look back over the last few years. And I like seeing what my friends are snapping – what are they storing in their Instagram collages. It’s fun. And an image triggers memories of a day, a trip, a quiet morning at home, holidays, friends, family – whatever it might be. (Now if only Instagram would add the day rather than “weeks ago”). I do keep more than one Instagram account – one public account for Preservation in Pink purposes and one private account for friends and family with just a handful of followers. It’s a good system for me.

Such “snapshot” platforms aren’t good for all. The teen who quit Instagram shows the dark side of imagery and a staged life, and the harm it can take on one’s self-worth. And it’s true, comparison is the thief of joy. It can be easy to get sucked in to the snapshot comparison – who has a better job, a better house, a better city, a better social life? We’re only human! I know. I quit Facebook almost two years ago for many reasons including because I spent too much time aimlessly scrolling, comparing, and feeling as though my life was on exhibit. I haven’t looked back. However, I know some people love it and some businesses thrive because of Facebook.

Social media: it depends on how you use it and for what purpose. There are definite lines between the good of social media and the bad. Hopefully we all have learned or have someone to help us learn.

#thisplacematters. Who doesn't love a good hashtag?

#thisplacematters. Who doesn’t love a good hashtag?

Many preservation groups connect with new audiences because of social media and that makes preservation a more relatable and tangible field. A friendlier field, if you will. Imagery is powerful and graphic based platforms and websites can draw in new readers, supporters, and preservationists. And with that, I whole-heartedly say that it is a great time to be a preservationist.

Questions for discussion:

  • What do you think?
  • Do you use social for work or personal or both?
  • Is social media better for one or the other?
  • Have you dropped a particular platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and why?

Other #PastForward Recaps: Emerging Professionals. More to come next week!

#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?

Post Conference, Getting Back into the Swing of Things 

   
Conferencing is exhausting in the best way: inspiring, thought-provoking, social, dynamic, and on the go (which can be difficult in heels). Now that we’re all back at work, I’d like to hear what you learned and what you’re thinking about these days. I’ll be sharing my take-aways and conversation starters throughout this week. I hope you’ll join in the discussion. Catch up on twitter and instagram by searching #PastForward. 

Happy Monday! 

#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!

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#PastForward Conference: Instawalk Reminder

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.

https://instagram.com/p/0EN0szNSbR/

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?