#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?

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?

Hey Buffalo, Wish I Were There!

This week is the annual National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in Buffalo, NY.

I haven’t been to a NTHP conference since 2005 in Louisville, KY and before that, 2004 in Portland, OR. These are large conferences with many events, lectures, field sessions and meetups to choose.  They were interesting when I was in college, but at that time, I always felt that the National Trust catered to more experienced professionals. As a college student and a newbie to the preservation world, I remember feeling out of place, despite my passion for preservation.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that the National Trust has been changing its attitude and encouraging the younger crowd of participants. Young professionals are all a-twitter at this conference (pun intended), and I would have loved to have met fellow preservationist, particularly those who I only know through the blogging world. Maybe next time?

Meagan at HISTPRES compiled her picks for young preservationists attending the conference. Twitter was filled with #presconf hash tags all day today, as was the young preservationist meetup.

So, now, I’m wondering — does the National Trust seem to be encouraging more “young” preservationists because I’m older (i.e. no longer a college kid) or because that is the trend. I’m thinking it’s the latter, but college kids, please correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, unable to attend? The Preservation Nation blog put together a list of highlights and links so we can follow along. Those of you attending, hope it’s a blast!