Author Archive

Teaching Preservation: The Truth About Sixth Period

Posted on: March 9th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Something

The Good Hope Quilt

As we get deeper and deeper into the semester, there’s really something you should know about us.

When we talk about Research History, we’re not talking about a normal class that meets at the same time every day. (Come on, you should know by now that there’s really nothing normal about Research History.) The truth is, we’re actually spread out over multiple periods throughout the day.

For me, sixth period is Research History, and I fondly remember my first day because it’s when I discovered that I would be a class of one. Seriously. All of my classmates who you’ve met here on our blog are all signed up for different periods, so I literally have the classroom to myself. To say the least, it was an environment that I wasn’t used to; most classes have more than one student, allowing you to ride the coattails of those around you (not that I would ever do anything like that, of course). And though I have lots of room to spread out, I wasn’t sure if flying solo was going to be a good thing in the long run.

I started the semester out by listening to a transcript of one of the first Vietnam veterans who we interviewed for the Veterans History Project. It was during this first project that I quickly realized what makes Research History tick. The first-hand accounts of history are so rich and interesting that it makes us students really enjoy what we're doing and learning about.

I have to say, no textbook has ever caught my attention like the stories of the men and women who served our country on foreign soil. The transcribing that I’ve done so far has taught me more about Vietnam than I ever thought I’d know. The raw emotion of the soldiers, the logistics of some of the campaigns, all the names and places…things that would require pages and pages of reading to pick up on, I got in an hour of listening to a cassette tape. It’s pretty mind blowing when you stop and think about it.

For my second project of the semester, I was paired up with Shannon (a classmate from a different period). We were tasked with writing an article on the Good Hope Quilt, which was auctioned off after being made by the women of Good Hope during the final years of World War I. Ultimately purchased by a Civil War veteran, the quilt was signed by 180 people in our area. Just a few days ago, I completed the article, which includes quotes from the oral history of one of the family members of the original purchaser of the quilt.

At the end of the day though, one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned in sixth period is how to stay organized and manage my time. (You kind of have to when all eyes are on you!) From being in a class of 25 to a class of just one, I’ve really realized (and started to better appreciate) my ability to hold my own.

Good luck finding that in any textbook.

- Dennis A.

Dennis A. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, he’ll be working with his Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

A number of inimitable members of Team Way Outside the Beltwayers can no longer recall when they participated in their first National Preservation Lobby Day, but all admit to becoming instantly hooked on the energy, camaraderie, break-neck pace, feeling of accomplishment and plain old fun that characterizes this annual event. It's the one day each year when preservation enthusiasts from across the nation storm the halls of Congress to not only speak in unison about the benefits of historic preservation, but to seek critical funding and support for national and local preservation programs and incentives.

Well, I remember the day I was officially introduced to this hallowed event as if it were yesterday. It was a dark and rainy December evening in Seattle (go figure) back in 2005 (okay, so it wasn’t all that long ago), a full month before I was slated to officially start my new job with the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. On that fateful evening, one of Washington’s most celebrated preservationists asked me to meet over a drink. I thought to myself, "how nice," but no sooner had I removed my soaking raincoat and placed my drink order that a dog-eared folder labeled “Lobby Day” was thrust upon me. And with that, the baton was ceremoniously passed to me and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. I’ll admit I had absolutely no idea what Lobby Day was when I took that first sip, but by the time I was down to my last olive, it was abundantly clear to me that Lobby Day was nothing to be trifled with. Oh, the wisdom contained in that folder.

But enough about me. Fast forward to March 2009. I’m delighted to report that the preservationist who crowned me the unofficial Lobby Day czarina (which is the glorified title for meeting scheduler, team recruiter, travel agent and general organizer, whose name would be worse than mud if she didn’t acknowledge the help of her awesome staff) continues to be the anchor of our team. And with each passing year, we build and strengthen Team Way Outside the Beltwayers by recruiting fresh, new talent to round out our cadre of stellar, seasoned veterans. Indeed, the Washington Trust raises travel scholarship funds to make it possible for the largest contingency of sharp, articulate and persuasive historic preservation enthusiasts to participate in Lobby Day. I especially want to thank Gull Industries for funding our Lobby Day scholarships this year and for supporting our advocacy efforts in D.C. every year since 2003.

For those of you interested in a slightly more detailed description of what Lobby Day is all about, I’ll start by explaining that it’s a bit of a misnomer; the annual Lobby day event organized by Preservation Action, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers and the National Trust for Historic Preservation actually spans two days, and what an absolute whirling dervish of a two day period it is.

On day one, we place ourselves in the capable hands of the experts – the real inside the beltway types – to become steeped in the issues that top our national preservation agenda. We get together as a team to strategize for our day of meetings on the Hill. We meet and mingle with wide-eyed first timers and reconnect with colleagues and friends from all across the country. On day two, we race through the halls of Congress to make meetings with all nine members of our Congressional delegation, our two Senators and our governor’s D.C. chief of staff. We articulate to each member or their staff how critically important it is to fund preservation programs (especially our state historic preservation office), improve preservation tax incentives and support local projects. Finally, we end the day by sharing stories from the trenches and raising a celebratory toast to our good work at the historic Willard Hotel, the legendary birthplace of lobbying. And yes, I’ll admit that it’s the martinis at the Willard that keep many of our team members coming back year after year.

But in all seriousness, it’s no secret that the already limited resources available for preservation are tighter than ever, making our collective efforts to foster strong relationships with our elected officials and to keep the benefits of preservation on their minds all the more critical. Team Way Outside the Beltwayers takes this work seriously, but we somehow manage to have a blast along the way.

I hope everyone checking out our adventures this year (we'll be blogging here on this blog and on our page on PreservationNation.org) will find our experiences fun and rewarding enough to consider attending Lobby Day. Come see for yourself what it’s all about and don’t be surprised if you find yourself back at the Capitol every March, racing to meetings armed with your fact sheets, one-sheeters and unbridled enthusiasm for preservation.

- Jennifer Meisner

Jennifer Meisner is the executive director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. As noted above, she is also the unofficial Lobby Day czarina. Stay tuned to PreservationNation.org and our blog next week as we bring you all the details of her delegation's action-packed trip to D.C. for Preservation Lobby Day.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Playing with the Future

Posted on: March 4th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Using Legos to plan regional growth.

I work in the Triangle region of North Carolina, one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country, where the dividing lines between Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and the surrounding communities are beginning to fade. The terms smart growth, mixed-use, and transit-oriented development are buzzing in our ears. But, how do we integrate these planning strategies with our plans for the region’s heritage resources? And what does a box of Legos have to do with it?

I and a colleague from Preservation North Carolina (PNC) participated in the Urban Land Institute’s Reality Check, regional planning exercise. As PNC's Partner in the Field focusing on urban preservation issues in Raleigh, the exercise was a unique opportunity for me to look at the Triangle area regionally and see how regional issues affect preservation on the ground in Raleigh.

The event divided the 300 participants into teams of 10, each gathered around a map of the 15-county region. We had a box of Legos representing the new residents and jobs coming our way. Our region is expected to grow to over 3.2 million residents by 2030. We had 90 minutes to put them all somewhere on the map. Our team, like all of them, was pretty diverse, with people from each of the large cities and several of the smaller communities, and we each had our own perspective on growth issues.

Everyone immediately agreed on the need for more transportation options, including mass transit. Turns out that 80% of the teams focused on mass transit. We also wanted to concentrate jobs near residential centers – the creation of mixed-use centers was the second most common theme among the teams. We wound up putting increased residential density in the existing downtowns of most of the region's cities and towns, focusing the most intensity on the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill core.

It became abundantly clear that smart growth, mixed-use, and transit-oriented development are necessary ingredients to planning the future of the Triangle region. But these strategies pose obvious challenges for the preservation community. An extra million people are going to put even more development pressure on our already threatened rural historic sites – we need to work with them now to protect them. While downtown density can be a good thing – we need to design carefully to integrate the new with the existing urban fabric and near-downtown historic neighborhoods.

I am more convinced than ever that the historic buildings in our downtowns represent wonderful opportunities for adaptive use and that the preservation community can play an active role in smart and equitable growth. This is going to be exciting work!

-- Elizabeth Sappenfield

Elizabeth Sappenfield is the director of urban issues at Preservation North Carolina.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Teaching Preservation: Notes from an Undercover History Lover

Posted on: March 3rd, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

To be totally honest, when I first walked into Paul “Lash” LaRue’s Research History class, I didn’t know quite what to expect. With the sound of recorded transcripts floating into the hallway and a seemingly bottomless supply of snacks, it always seemed like the students from years prior were having such a good time. This is ultimately why I added the class for my schedule. Who doesn’t love food?!

Something

Historic railroad remnants in Washington Court House, Ohio.

Luckily, it didn’t take Lash long to get me jazzed about our class projects. On my first day, I remember being beyond intrigued by him explaining how Thomas A. Edison might have lived and worked as a telegrapher for the local railroad in our town, Washington Court House, Ohio.

See, I have always been fascinated by big questions like this. I can just imagine myself in a long trench coat with a dark hat pulled low over my eyes as I storm into Research History flashing my research historian badge.

In working on the project, one of the first biographies I read was A Life of Invention by Paul Israel, the director and editor of The Thomas A. Edison Papers. This man has access to millions of documents and patents of Edison, many of which Edison wrote himself. We exchanged a few e-mails, as he was also interested in the mystery of Edison being in Washington Court House at some point during his life. It was amazing to talk to a person as knowledgeable as Mr. Israel. I felt like I was a student working beside a famous doctor. It was such an honor.

As I read more – including Wizard of Menlo Park and Edison – I was disappointed to find no mention of Edison even passing through our town. I discovered, though, that even when a door was closed on my research, a window opened. The big discovery? Five articles mentioning Edison that were printed in our local paper.

Jackpot!

Although my research ultimately proved that Edison did not, in fact, live and work in Washington Court House, I did find some other fascinating (and probably related) stories along the way. For instance, there was an African-American inventor, Grandville Woods, who was nicknamed the “Black Edison” who is well documented as having lived and worked here. Most likely, he is who the author of the newspaper articles mixed Edison up with.

Overall, Research History has been an enriching experience for me because it has taught me exactly how much information is out there that it is just waiting to be discovered. Badge (and snacks) in hand, I look forward to following more clues, exploring more hidden alleys and solving more cases in the future.

-Shannon M.

Shannon M. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, she’ll be working with his Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Teaching Preservation: There's Good Hope For Our Future

Posted on: February 26th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Last November, I had the distinct pleasure of joining Paul LaRue on a panel about youth service learning at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Now, truth be told, I wasn’t particularly psyched about the trip all the way out west (I’m a New Yorker), nor was I excited to hear that our session had been scheduled towards the very end of the convention’s schedule of offerings. In my mind, this represented far too closely the way so many preservationists prioritize and approach outreach to young people. They are, after all, the future of our movement and our work - not afterthoughts.

Despite my misgivings, the panel attracted a small but engaged audience of teachers and community organizers eager to discuss youth programs. And of course, with his signature enthusiasm and inspiring stories, Paul stole the show.

Before our session in Tulsa, my team at A&E Television Networks and History awarded Paul's Research History class from Washington Court House, Ohio with a national Save Our History Award for their inspiring work on the Staunton Cemetery. That was such a worthwhile and touching project. Not only did Paul’s students learn an enormous amount about the Civil War and race relations in the United States in the late 19th century, they figured out how to work with the VA to acquire headstones for forgotten soldiers.

My father was a World War II veteran, and when he turned 80, he reminded my mother and me to get the VA to provide his headstone when he died. "It's my right, and my due,” he would say. Between this touching personal experience and a general love of history that stems from an unusually empathetic response to events long past, I was enormously touched by Paul’s kids working so hard to get headstones for those African American soldiers' burial sites. Take a second to imagine being buried anonymously after going through what those men went through in their lives. Nothing makes me more proud than knowing that it was young people who ultimately got headstones for them.

To quote my dad, it was their right and their due.

These days, I hear a new Research History class from Washington Court House, Ohio is rolling up its sleeves and digging into history and archeology, this time at Good Hope Cemetery. What an apt name for their project - Good Hope. See, I know America is not - and never will be - a perfect place, but there is more justice and equality out there than ever before, and these kids are the future of that. Under Paul’s wing, they will learn so much…about process, about history, about memory. They are lucky to have him as their teacher and mentor, and I know Paul well enough to recognize that he feels lucky to have them as his students.

To Research History 2009: You are the future of historic preservation! Good luck and good hope!

- Libby O'Connell

Libby O'Connell is the chief historian and senior vice president for corporate outreach at A&E Television Networks. Stay tuned this semester as Paul and his students document their project at Good Hope Cemetery here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.