Written by Kayla Jonas
Before the conference started I wrote about my top reasons as a Canadian for attending the Preservation Conference: I wanted to learn about the American preservation framework, meet some of my virtual friends, and see Buffalo's industrial heritage. I'm happy to report that I did all that and came away with three strong lessons and one amazing experience:
Embrace your Industrial Heritage
The conference had over 250 field tours. On Wednesday morning I went on a boat tour by the grain elevators on the Buffalo waterfront. I was so excited because I’ve often driven by them and it was great to get up close. The tour was run by the Buffalo Industrial Heritage group who provided an in depth history of each grain elevator, as well as a general history of the area. I learned that Buffalo was, in the mid-19th century, home to the first-ever grain elevator, and was sad to see the Wheeler Elevator being demolished as we rode by. This tour, as well as the two education sessions on Industrial Heritage I attended that day got me thinking about Hamilton, Ontario’s industrial heritage.
Like Buffalo, my hometown of Hamilton a very industrial city. There are efforts being made to revitalize Hamilton and mark it as an arts destination. Though I support this movement, I had a sudden realization that maybe we have been too quick to dismiss our steel history, and wondered what we are doing to preserve the history of the two large steel companies, and earlier industries, that have helped to shape our city.
Be Positive, Take Action
As a resident of an industrial city I know how hard it is to overcome the reputation associated with such cities. I am sad to say that I had negative ideas about what Buffalo was like, but this conference proved me wrong. The citizens are working hard to revitalize their city. My feelings were cemented on Friday night when I attended the premiere of Buffalo Unscripted, an amazingly inspiring documentary film showcasing the people of Buffalo. There was so much energy in the room, it was stunning. Every city should have an authentic and emotional video like this. There was so much love for the city that it almost brought me to tears. I want to show it to everyone I know as an example of what we should be focusing on: action and positivity.
Make the Opportunity Count
Buffalo seemed to embrace what the conference and the cloudburst of interest in local architecture could provide by taking every opportunity to show off their community to the conference attendees - but also involve locals in as many things as possible. Many of the main sessions for the National Trust’s Conference in Buffalo were open to the public. Locals could attend the opening plenary, as well as the two big morning sessions that set the stage, and then the closing speech. The evening activities, such as the candlelight house tour, were also open to the public - but they had to buy tickets. Local sites had special tours for conference attendees and many were open to the public for the first time. This mixing of attendees and the local community created a positive and exciting atmosphere. Everywhere you went, people were talking about the conference (including extensive media coverage). Not only were attendees spending tourist dollars in the community, but energy and excitement about these local places - and heritage in general - was shared by the local community.
Virtual Friends Made Real
Though the learning opportunities were plentiful, the most amazing experience of the conference was meeting so many of the people in person that I know on Twitter and through blogging! We had several people show up for the #builtheritage chat tweet up (@RocchiJulia, @wanderu, @k10death, @urbanmatt, and @elipousson) and I also got to meet several other tweeters during the conference (@pc_presnation, @atheritagearea, and @heritagewriter). It was nice to turn virtual friends into real life friends and have a conversation with them in more than 140 characters!
Kayla Jonas is a heritage professional based in Southern Ontario and blogs at Adventures in Heritage.