#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!


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! 

Running into Fall

Evening running in the fall means I take to the streets and enjoy the neighborhoods instead of the bike path.

Last night was the first evening run for which I wore my reflective running vest (affectionately called the highlighter vest). Gone are my evening runs along Burlington’s bike path, overlooking Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. That route will have to be reserved for weekends. Gone are the simplistic evenings that require nothing more than shorts, a top, sneakers, and the Garmin for a run. Instead, I take to the streets of Burlington with my highlighter vest and another layer or two.

Over the past few summer months, I had forgotten how charming fall can be. The city streets bustle with college students back at school and tourists visiting for fall foliage season. The transitional weather means style will do, as long as you’ve brought along a few layers. Church Street remains busy, but not too crowded for a runner trying to squeeze in between the shoppers and restaurant-goers.

And the streets. I had forgotten how much I love running through the neighborhoods. The bike path might be my favorite place to run, but the dense streets always have a story. The sidewalks are less crowded and the setting is quieter. Now is the time to re-learn the hills, the good and troublesome sidewalks. With the evening setting in earlier, all of the houses glow with a warm, cozy aura. (It is also easiest to note which houses needed lighting overhauls. Lighting makes all the difference.)

Running in the dark is when I reacquaint myself with my favorite routes, favorite houses, and the idiosyncrasies of each street. It’s how I get to know and love Burlington so well. The crisp air is always refreshing and takes me back to cross-country memories, which I hold close to my heart.

Fortunately, fall provides a buffer between humid summer running and bitter cold winter running. While it feels like an end, it also feels like another beginning. New projects, new focus, new goals, new adventures. Bring it on, fall. You are the best running season, even when all of my weekday runs are in the dark.

What do you love about fall? Are you a runner?

Battling Poor Lighting Choices

Look up. What type of lights do you see? If you are sitting in an office, it’s most likely florescent bulbs. Florescent might as well be called the most annoying, least flattering light source out there, right? Unfortunately most office buildings and large commercial buildings have standard issue drop ceiling and florescent bulbs.

Now consider a historic building, one that currently operates as a coffee shop or a small store. You are more likely to find softer bulbs and more aesthetically pleasing light fixtures. Smaller spaces are financially easier than massive office buildings and stores. What would these places look like if there were large rectangular (or square) florescent boxes of light clinging to the ceiling?


Note the small fixtures in this historic store (Pierce’s Store in Shrewsbury, VT).

A beautiful medallion and historic light fixture that make a statement.

A beautiful medallion and historic light fixture that make a statement. The track lighting surrounding this could be more chosen more wisely but are small enough to not detract from the center light fixture, and can be controlled independently.

Many times I find myself in a historic building where the ceilings have been dropped and cheap (not necessarily meaning inexpensive) fixtures have been added. Not only does it change the scale of the room, but it detracts from my enjoyment of the setting.

All of this is to get you thinking about the impacts of lighting. Lighting is a critically important, often overlooked detail of buildings. The next time you enter a building, look around. What type of lighting is it? Do you feel at ease in this space? Or not? Perhaps the lights are too bright, too low, or do not match with the setting. 

And what about home, where you should feel the most comfortable because you control your lighting (unless you’re a renter and stuck with what the landlord gives you). What is your lighting in your house? Have you switched to CFL bulbs or LEDs? A confession: I cannot fully come around to CFLs because I do not like how they glow, unless I have the perfect lampshade to conceal the glare. Any suggestions?

Observe, look around, and let me know. Find some good example and bad examples, and let’s resume this conversation. 

Good lighting choices in Winooski, VT.

Good lighting choices in Winooski, VT.

Young or Not? A Round-Up.

Wow, the response to the post, “The Young Preservationists and The Not-Young Preservationists?” was overwhelming in the best way. For everyone who shared or commented, thank you. If you had time to browse the comments, you’ll see that many of you had much to say.

What is the general conclusion? Most of you agree that “a preservationist is a preservationist.” The term “young preservationists” is often a way to give the newbies some solid ground in the professional world, a chance to network and meet like-minded people.

However, the connotation of young is young-in-age as opposed to new-in-career, and it gets confusing. “Young” might mean inexperienced, which can be misleading or it can mean “full of energy” which more seasoned professionals might take some offense to. The connotations of “young” leave out those who have chosen preservation as a second career and are older than the 22 year olds just out of college. And what is the cutoff for “young” and “not-young”? There didn’t seem to be a consensus. Rather, it’s just a feeling. What’s the answer? “Emerging professionals” seems to fit the bill. Or, a group in Cincinnati avoids age all together and formed a group called “The Preservation Collective.”

Preservation is a field that requires a united front, so let’s keep it that way. Avoid “young,” go with something more fitting such as “emerging professionals” and be glad for seasoned professionals. Together we are formidable opponents working to improve the quality of life through the appreciation of our heritage.

Thank you to everyone who commented. Please feel free to keep this conversation going; it’s fascinating.

The Young Preservationists & the Not-Young Preservationists?

The frequency of the term “young preservationists” has increased over the past few years. On one hand, it’s great. It means more people are getting involved in preservation at a younger age and making a difference. Typically “young preservationist” refers to (a) kids in grade school, or (b) college students, or (c) those who have recently graduated college and are working in the preservation field.

There are groups across the country who call themselves the “young preservationists.” Most major cities have such a group. Even Burlington, VT has one, which was recently started by current UVM graduate students. Who can join a “young preservationist” group? It depends. Some say under 40, some say “young at heart.” So what happens when you’re over 40? You get kicked out? You cannot be a part of that group anymore?

“Young preservationist” means that more experienced professionals are giving the newbies credit. The National Trust is giving more attention to college students (and younger) than ever before. As a student attending NTHP conferences in 2004 & 2005, I always felt as though the conference didn’t make enough of an effort to be inclusive of students. That has changed, thankfully. So this attention to “young preservationists” is a good thing.

On the other hand…does there have to be such a divide? Are we really groups of “young preservationists” and by default, “not-young preservationists”? Is yet another label and division necessary? (Before we go any further, let me clarify, that this is not a getting older crisis I’m having, nor fear of getting older. I’ll still fit in the “young” category for a long while.)

Reasons for a distinction, that I’ve heard, are usually along the lines of proving that preservationists are not blue-haired ladies in tennis shoes anymore trying to save another building. Preservation is so much more! And, I agree. Preservation IS so much more. But it’s the entire field that’s changing. And it’s not because of someone’s age. People from all ages can attend college, graduate school, join an advocacy group or take on a new preservation job. Perhaps there is some confusion. Does “young preservationist” mean young in age,  young at heart, or young by professional years?

Is there an alternative to “young” branding? Do we need to bring age into this at all? Why do we keep bringing up the blue haired ladies in tennis shoes? Can we just move on? Or do we preservationists actually have to keep fighting it? Perhaps it depends on where you live and work.

I’d love a discussion about this. No matter what your age, how do you feel about “young preservationists” and then the not-young preservationists?

Thoughts about Home: Part One

Home is our common thread and universal conversation. Talk to a neighbor, stranger, fellow traveler halfway across the world and ask about that person’s home. Where is it? What is it like? Not everyone will have the same answers, but we innately understand each other. (And it’s a more interesting conversation than the weather.) Over the past few weeks, readers have answered questions about home and shared their stories about where they live now, what they love, and what home means to them. The conversation began with this post and this post, and continues here. Part One (today’s post) will discuss “What is Home.” Part Two will discuss the physical elements and making a residence a home. Part Three will discuss our expectations. 

Part One: What and Where is Home?

It takes me a long time before someplace becomes “home” to me.  For much of my adult life, when I said “home” I referred to my parents’ house. I never felt settled anywhere else or felt like I belonged anywhere else. Virginia was college. Nebraska was one summer. North Carolina was three years, but I knew it was temporary. I lived, wrote, ran, worked in preservation and made a few friends, but I always felt as though there was a new place to go. I had a gypsy soul. Where was I going to find another home, and what exactly did I want? I didn’t have answers. I called this form of wanderlust “geographic commitment phobia.”

Over four years ago, I moved to Vermont. Immediately, I was content to stay for a long while, which was a pleasant, unexpected surprise. However, “home” still didn’t seem like an appropriate description for Vermont. It didn’t matter that I registered my car here, attended school, voted, lived and worked in Vermont, and absolutely loved the state – it wasn’t yet home.  The feeling of home took a long time. In fact, it took about four years with many twists, turns, and moves. What happened? Finally, I discovered where I wanted to be and found a great community of friends. To me, that’s what home is after your childhood home: loving where you live (meaning your city/town and your residence) and having friends to share it with. That must sound obvious to many, but it can take a while to get it right – to find that happy, comforting place (other than your childhood house).

Mary (from NYC) writes that she had trouble feeling at home while living in the Panama Canal Zone. “The home of my childhood and young adulthood was the midwest. And then. . . at the age of 34 my husband and I accepted teaching positions in the Panama Canal Zone, where we stayed until we retired. Many “Zonians” felt that Panama was home, but I never did. Frequently I would ask myself, “What am I doing here?” It was, of course, a foreign environment–although the Canal Zone itself was all American. Still we were surrounded by a foreign culture and that is an easy explanation, I suppose, of why I never felt “at home.” Actually, I believe it was more the weather, the vegetation, the lack of seasons. I could never get used to a place where birds were green. Now I am back in the States–in New York City, which is a far cry from my midwestern roots, in many respects, but I feel quite at home.”

Not all feel the same. Some of you are lucky and feel at home immediately. Dave W (from NYC) phrased it nicely: “We’ve always adhered to the philosophy of “home is where the hearth is.” I guess we’re somewhat nomadic, never afraid to try living in a new place (though New York City is very hard to leave, with its endless things to do). We’ve always felt at home as soon as we’ve settled in a bit, cooked a meal, and slept comfortably. Whether in the mountains of Germany, working-class London, or New York City, we’ve always felt “at home” right away, wherever we lived.”

Interestingly, the varied responses all referenced home without outwardly defining it. It’s something we don’t have to specifically describe to know what someone means. (OR, you’re all excellent students and only answered the exact questions you were asked! I did not ask how you define home. Please do so in the comments if you’re so inclined.)

Based on your answers: home is where you live, where you work, where you shop, where you enjoy being. Jenny (Vermont) defines home as where her family is. Jane (Vermont) wrote that she does all of these things (live, work, sleep, play, socialize, etc.) here, and that makes it home.

Home is so many things: a particular landscape, the built environment, a feeling, who you’re with and where you feel a connection. Home is where you live your life and it is a place that defines you for a critical chapter of your life. There is not one answer suited for everyone, and there is no right or wrong explanation. It’s nice to know that different places are home to different people, because each place will be important to someone (“this place matters”).

Stay tuned for Thoughts about Home: Part Two, which will share more readers’ thoughts on how to make a place home (what changes do we make, what matters to us).

Twenty Questions (Give or Take) About Home

~ HOME ~

Taking a nod from the conference conversation starters, I’d like to ask you these, in hopes of getting us to talk about where we live, why we ;ive where we do, and how we make someplace our home, along with decisions along the way. As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s a good time to reflect on home, family, friends and the good things in life. Places and homes matter, and it’s important to understand our own preferences and it is interesting to hear those of others. Please comment below, or send an email to preservationinpink@gmail.com if you would like to share or have additional thoughts on the matter.

  1. Where do you live?
    • City? Country? Suburbia? New urbanism? Neighborhood? Development? Village? Rural? Urban?
    • North, south, east, west? Coast? Plains? Mountains?
  2. How do you define live?
    • Play? Work? Sleep? Socialize? Eat? Exercise? Rest?
  3. In what type of residence do you live?
    • Single family house? Apartment building? House divided into apartments? Duplex? Rowhouse?
  4. What is the age of your house?
    • Is it historic? Is it just “old”? Is it new?
  5. Do you rent or own currently?
  6. Do you prefer to rent or own?
  7. What is the first thing you want to change about a residence?
    • Paint? Ceilings? Rugs? Appliances?
  8. What is your ideal place to live?
    • Do you expect “ideal” to change?
  9. Do you live where you thought you would live?


Pondering “My Place”

Some people grow up and grow old in the same place, whether by never moving away or by returning home. Others wander around like gypsy souls, waiting to find that place to set down roots, personally, professionally, or both. And others are content to wander always, finding home wherever their feet land.

Where do you fit in? Counting my current residence, I’ve lived in 14 different houses/apartments in five states. It’s clear that I like to move within states, even within the same town. There’s always another building to love, a new neighborhood to call home. I’ve learned the fine skill of packing, moving, and downsizing (but only when necessary).

Why do I move so often? Life, school, job opportunities, restlessness – the same reasons as anyone else. And I suppose all along I’ve been looking for my place. We’re all told to find our people; those who get us, who support us and who help a place become home. Well, we also need to find our place; where we fit in, where the landscape and the built environment make sense to us, where we want to be. Aside from growing up in New York, I’ve lived in Vermont longer than any I have lived in any state. In fact, after one year in Vermont, I declared that it had cured my geographic commitment phobia and my gypsy soul tendencies. And four years later, has it? For now it has, which is good enough for me.

Burlington, VT: one of my places.

Oakledge Park and Lake Champlain looking to Burlington, VT: one of my places.

Lately I’ve been realizing that my place has many locations; I’ll never have just one, for all chapters of life will fit in different places. And those chapters might take me someplace new.  Slowly, I’m realizing that that’s okay. There’s no rule that I (or you) have to live in or feel at home in just one place. Not every town or city will feel like home, but then I’ll find it in the next one.

Instead of a geographic place, I find my place in other ways. Take, for instance, a track. Give me a 400 meter running track (preferably with a red surface) and I’m completely at home. Nine years of competing on a track team and four years of coaching and years after of running workouts, a track brings a calm feeling to me, one that is filled with good memories, strength, clarity, comfort and a knowingness of who I am. Or give me an open window with a breeze coming off a body of water and my heart swells with the feeling and memories of Point Lookout and family, my favorite place to be. And even though I’m not there, the comfort of that breeze brings a smile to my face. Give me sunshine and warmth or a crisp fall day, and I’m supremely happy to exist in that moment, wherever I might be.

So what defines my place? Aside from landscape and climate, maybe much of it is intangible, varying for all of us. Memories from previous places help to fill a new place and keep me connected from one to another. Yet, I move to find something new, so memory triggers are not the entire list of attributes of my place. Each place, geographic or otherwise, gathers its own memories.

It’s a complicated topic, perhaps one that deserves additional discourse. I’m learning that I’m happy to have my gypsy soul tendencies, and I’ll love new places because I know that I can always find home in each of them, at least in some elements. Yet, I know that Burlington, VT is one of my places, whereas Omaha, NE was not, even if I have good memories there. So maybe I take those memories with me and move somewhere new that becomes (one of) my geographic places, one of the places that I do feel at home. And then that gives me a complete place; my place.

Tell me, what do you think? How would you define your place? Is it geographic? Is it anywhere your family and friends are? How do you know when you found your placeDo you have one or more? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Irene: Two Years Later

August 28, 2011 was a day that many Vermonters will never forget. It’s etched in memory, vividly due to its recentness and yet vague in the sense of lifetimes ago. Tropical Storm Irene changed the landscape of Vermont and altered the lives of communities and individuals. Rain fell all day as Irene worked her way north. A snowy winter and wet spring left the ground overly saturated, unable to handle the incredible amounts of rain flowing in the mountains and into our rivers and streams. By nightfall, Irene had slammed and flooded more of the state than anyone imagined. Vermont’s villages and towns are settled in linear fashion along waterways and in valleys. The terrain is such that we have thousands of bridges in such a small state. While beautiful, the landscape leaves Vermont vulnerable to flooding. Irene took advantage of that fact, flooding towns, overtopping river banks, filling houses with feet of muddy water, washing away entire roadways and sweeping bridges off their abutments. It was devastation on an enormous, unbelievable scale, surpassed only by the flood of 1927 (history and photos).

This was the type of event that you see in the media and cannot possibly imagine it being your own town or home. That is, until it is your town and your home. And even then, your first reaction is: what in the world are we supposed to do now? What do you do when your house is flooded with river mud, sludge, and dirt? Well, you let the water subside and then pump out the rest of the water. And then cleanup begins. River mud is disgusting; it gets in every nook and cranny. Unless it’s a completely washable object, you might not want to keep it. Dried mud – dust – flies through your windows and the dust settles on everything. After dealing with the flood cleanup, I never wanted to be dirty ever again, nor swim in the Winooski River.

At the time of the flood, I lived in Waterbury, which was one of the hardest hit towns in Vermont. And my house was one of the least flooded in town, but the basement still filled with seven feet of water. The streets were covered in this heavy mud and garbage that people had to remove from their homes, with buckets and shovels. It was backbreaking work. Walking down the muddy sidewalks was an obstacle course, only not a fun one. The week following the flood was a week of cleanup for the entire town. I’ll never forget the volunteers (kind-hearted souls who were not flooded and could help others) who drove around food and drinks to those of us cleaning our homes. Green Mountain Coffee and Ben & Jerry’s, two big businesses in town, provided food and ice cream to the residents. It was a week of togetherness. People joined forces, organized and helped one another, even long beyond that first week. This was not unique to Waterbury; stories like this can be heard about almost any flooded town in Vermont.

Aside from the togetherness (Vermont Strong!), I will remember, always, the heavy-hearted feeling that I had as I traveled the state for work. My job included documenting the damage of historic bridges across the state, which took me to all of the flooded towns, seeing the aftermath of Irene at such a fresh, unique, sensitive time. Cleaning my house and dealing with my own matters seemed minimal compared to what others had to deal with, perhaps because they were in communities without as many resources or as much help, or because their entire house was destroyed. Driving through the Mad River Valley and the Route 100 corridor was difficult emotionally. Even though towns were recovering, the process was long, seemingly too long in some places, and it was heartbreaking. Slowly, most everyone visibly recovered, but even today there are empty, flooded properties with no occupants. It’s a visible reminder of the devastation for all. It’s still hard to see these places, knowing that some are still recovering and some people have yet to receive help, or just never knew what to do. And others were left without a home.

Thankfully, there are good stories to share, such as the reconstruction of the Bartonsville Covered Bridge and the businesses and residences that have been improved and are better than before the flood. Irene tested the strength of Vermonters, whether longtime residents or new residents, and we all came out stronger. We  all found friends and neighbors who opened their hearts and gave us time and care. Or we were inspired by the generosity and faith of others. I’m sure that I am not the only who learned that you do what you have to do, and that everything will be okay. Irene was cruel, but there was no option other than to get to the other side and recover. The process continues everywhere, but people and communities have come so far.

It’s been two years, and I might always cry when I hear Grace Potter’s Mad Mad River or watch the Rebuilding Waterbury film, but the tears are two-fold: heartbroken for everyone who suffered, but proud of Vermont for being so strong and inspiring, and proud to live here.