Preservation Careers: Getting Your Foot in the (Four-Paneled) Door

Posted on: September 22nd, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

Written by Priya Chhaya

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is home to the Preservation Career Center, a jobs board and resource center dedicated to allowing preservationists to pursue their passion. We recently stumbled upon HISTPRES, a website and resume review business that focuses on finding jobs in historic preservation for young professionals.

Gaining experience in the field is one of the hardest things for new preservationists  to do, but it’s often what makes the difference between getting a job or not. Inspired by our recent article “10 Ways to Gain Experience in Preservation,” the Preservation Career Center interviewed Meagan Baco and Laura Burghardt, the founders of HISTPRES, to learn more about this great resource for young professionals and those new to the preservation field.

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Tell us about yourself, and how the idea for HISTPRES came about.

Laura (left) and Meagan (right) at "The Bean" in Chicago.

Laura (left) and Meagan (right) at "The Bean" in Chicago.

Meagan: I'm an urbanite from Buffalo, NY with a degree in environmental design who realized that my favorite parts of the city were made up of historic buildings on narrow streets. In my quest to understand this, I attended graduate school for historic preservation in Charleston, SC, where the whole city is like that! It's the best place to get to know historic urban design, architectural history and the preservation profession.

I returned to my hometown to work for Clinton Brown Company, a full-service historic preservation architecture firm that specializes in revitalizing historic buildings often utilizing tax credits to ensure successful projects. My passion for preservation has always been centered on urban revitalization and I'm happy to see several of the firm's projects within a couple blocks of our downtown office.

Laura: From an early age, I was in tune with family history, centered in the Southeast, but wanted to explore all that America had to offer, and landed in Arizona for three years studying archaeology. Knowing that I always wanted to return to Charleston, I found the perfect match in the Clemson University and College of Charleston joint Master of Science program in Historic Preservation.

After graduation, I spent the summer diligently searching for jobs and accepted the position of preservation specialist at Joseph K. Oppermann--Architect, P.A. in Winston-Salem, NC, where I conduct research, documentation and make preservation recommendations for historic sites throughout the Southeast.

I was very happy with my job, but I continued to search for employment opportunities for former classmates and friends, not wanting my Internet-searching skills to go to waste. The job board HISTPRES came about because I enjoy the hunt and enjoy even more helping young professionals connect with unusual jobs in preservation-related fields.

Meagan: I was equally committed to the idea, so after creating our own online portfolios we began developing ideas for HISTPRES together. At the moment, everything is DIY and we're excited about the positive response to our site in the past six months.

Why did you think it would be useful, especially for the preservation field, to do the resume review service? Can you explain a little bit more about your process? Have you done many so far?

Meagan: For young professionals seeking jobs in preservation, it's often difficult to get your foot in the proverbial four-paneled door. That's why we post entry-level jobs in an array of preservation fields, like architectural history, community development, education/interpretation, museums, landscape architecture, urban planning and about 20 others - like costumed fife player at a historic fort. Jobs aren't just jobs, they are experiences, and I want young preservationists to do interesting things. I often lament that I can only have one job at a time!

Meagan (left) and Laura (right) at Fallingwater.

Meagan (left) and Laura (right) at Fallingwater.

Laura: Along with posting up to 10 new jobs per day, HISTPRES offers a resume review service that includes customized job suggestions based on the applicant's qualifications and interests. A new, but knowledgeable, set of eyes - like ours - identifies our client's particular qualifications and experiences in order to connect them with the best fitting jobs, while increasing their appeal to employers through a strong resume. I look at so many jobs every day! This allows me to suggest jobs that young professionals may not know they qualify for, or ones they may not know even exist.

Meagan: We find that it's less that young professionals don't have the needed experience, but have difficultly expressing their qualifications in a way that makes them desirable to employers. I focus on editing the resume; I highlight their specific experiences and insist on confident language. HISTPRES becomes your best friend, worst critic and biggest advocate.

Laura: The resume review service has helped preservationists from across the country in different stages of their job search maximize their applications. As we see more resumes, we learn about academic programs, internships and field schools we didn't know about, making our next review that much better.

What are your future goals for the site? Do you plan on adding new features?

Laura: Getting to the point where we count a couple hundred daily visitors to HISTPRES is already a tremendous accomplishment, but we want to be the can't-stop-checking blog for young preservationists. At the moment, our friend and Clemson classmate, Sarah Kollar, writes witty monthly book reviews, and we will continue to add similar features to the site. In terms of big ideas, we envision a place for young preservationists to network, post their experiences from around the country, and even a service that allows job seekers to host an online portfolio at HISTPRES.

Meagan: Laura's got the best big ideas! I'm working on a website design and functionality overhaul to accommodate the new content. In the mean time, expect HISTPRES to continue to post awesome education and employment opportunities for emerging preservation professionals.

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You can learn more about HISTPRES at their website. For additional job listings don't forget to visit the Preservation Career Center on PreservationNation.org. Follow us on Twitter (@PreservationJob) for the latest listings, or subscribe to our RSS feed.

Don't forget to also check out the latest “Profile in Preservation,” which looks at the career path of Preservation Oklahoma Executive Director Katie McLaughlin Friddle, and “Professions in Preservation,” which highlights people who work as architectural historians/preservation specialists.

Priya Chhaya is a program associate in the Center for Preservation Leadership at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She can be found on Twitter @PC_PresNation.

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National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

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