We've All Gone Local: Conference Digest, Day 1

Posted on: October 20th, 2011 by Julia Rocchi 1 Comment

Preservationists gather on the mezzanine level at historic Shea's Performing Arts Center for the National Preservation Conference opening plenary.

You may notice this post is coming to you on Thursday, but don't be fooled -- it's really about Wednesday, the day the 65th annual National Preservation Conference kicked off in Buffalo, NY.

We've been covering Buffalo a lot these past few months, both here on Preservation Nation and through our Buffalo Unscripted web documentary project. But once you arrive, and you're standing in Niagara Square with the newly restored Statler Hotel over one shoulder and the gorgeous Art Deco City Hall over the other, you're struck by the power of being in a place where preservation is not only applauded, but encouraged -- even expected.

This power certainly isn't lost on the record-breaking 2,500 attendees who have trekked from all over the world to learn from this city and its people. Even though the conference didn't officially begin until 4 p.m. this afternoon with the Opening Plenary, everyone fanned out across Buffalo from 8 a.m. onward with their respective tours, affinity sessions, and on-the-ground case studies, eager to begin.

By the time we reconvened for the plenary, everyone was more than ready to settle into Shea's Performing Arts Center -- the largest intact movie house in the world -- to hear what Buffalo mayor Byron Brown, National Trust president Stephanie Meeks, and keynote speaker and author James Howard Kunstler had to share.  (We've linked to their individual speeches, but you can browse the full Ustream channel here.)

Of particular note was Stephanie Meeks' address, in which she outlines the National Trust's new focus on local preservationists. Not sure what we mean by that term? Here are the fast facts:

  • There are roughly 15 million people in the United States who share our values and are already taking action on behalf of preservation.
  • They have been flying under the radar. They rank preservation lower on this list of charitable interests than our preservation "grasstops" leaders -- more like number5 rather than number 1.
  • They also tend to think of preservation in a larger context -- as a subset of their commitment to culture, community, and sustainability.
  • When it comes to how they spend their time, however, local preservationists take almost as many preservation-related actions as leaders do. As Stephanie put it, "they are kindred spirits."
  • Overall, they are younger, more plugged into technology, and more diverse economically, culturally, and in their level of education.

Pretty exciting stuff, and something I anticipate will be discussed in much more detail in coming weeks and months.

The other revelation of the day wasn't in a speech or a session -- it was online. Turns out that the number of actively tweeting preservationists has jumped exponentially since last year's conference. I'm not sure if more folks know about Twitter or simply more people have smartphones, but the #presconf hashtag was off the hook the whole day as people posted photos, shared tips, and debated viewpoints.

Here are some of my favorite tweets from throughout the day:

And my personal favorite ...

Ok, that's it from me for now. Time to dive into day two of the conference. Stay tuned for more posts and vlogs from our team of roving reporters, all the way from Columbia University. It will be PresConf in a whole new light!

Julia Rocchi is on the Digital + New Media team at the National Trust. She is thrilled to be back in the Queen City for now a third season.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

Conferences, General

One Response

  1. The Dayton House

    October 21, 2011

    Many of us locally who aren’t a formal part of this conference are trying to also make sure you visitors see us at our best. I own a home that will be on the tour of Black Rock and we worked like crazy to get the exterior ready for the event. I don’t know how many people will signed up for the tour but I hope those that do can walk away realizing that even though it’s not easy to keep up a house in a city neighborhood with low housing values and low income levels, the rewards when you do are that you end up with a gem of a home that would cost many times as much anywhere else.

    Enjoy the city!