10 on Tuesday


If there’s one thing I hear regularly from historic sites, small preservation groups, and other people working to save places, it’s “I’d love to do social media, but I don’t have time!”

And I get that, really I do, because even though now my entire job is working with social media, that was not always the case. I’ve spent many years with Facebook, Twitter, and other channels (remember MySpace?) as sideline work, sandwiched in between other responsibilities.

So, when I say you can build and maintain an engaging social media presence with just a small window of time each day, I promise it's tried and true. Here's how:

1. Plan, plan, plan. Yes, crafting a plan can’t be accomplished in a half hour a day, but a little extra time before you get started will make daily maintenance much faster. Check out this handy 101-guide to setting up a conversation calendar -- or, here’s an infographic, if you’re more visually inclined.

2. Keep a list of resources. You may not always be able to answer questions -- or be the right person to respond -- so as part of your plan, make a quick cheat sheet of resources. I’d recommend keeping basic social info (website URL, Facebook page, Twitter handle) on hand for local and statewide preservation organizations, local government agencies involved with preservation, and your State Historic Preservation Office. If you find you’re sharing the same info -- like a tip sheet, for example -- over and over, save it somewhere you can get to it easily, like Evernote.

3. Don’t try to be everywhere. As I mentioned in my post about getting started with social a few weeks back, it’s better to have one or two strong social channels than a bunch of semi-dormant ones. This kind of focus is especially important if your time is limited.

4. Make it a habit. Because social media works best when it’s a two-way conversation, be sure to participate regularly. Even if you can only engage briefly, you’ll build a following faster if people know you’re reliable.

5. Set a timer. It can be all too easy to fall down the rabbit hole with social media, so set yourself a time limit and stick to it. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done in even 15 concentrated minutes.

6. Talk about what you’re already doing. A lot of the resistance I hear to participating in social is around having to “create” one more thing. Don’t -- there’s no need. Social media works best when it’s immediate and real, so talk about what’s already going on. Tweet a photo of a cool building you see on the way to work and ask your followers to do the same. Share a news clipping about an ongoing project and ask your fans to share their opinions.

7. Let Google help you. Not sure how you’ll know when there’s a news clip about your work or an interesting preservation story on a local blog? Google has terrific -- and free! -- tools to make this easy. You can subscribe to blogs using Google Reader and stalk your own projects by creating Google Alerts, which you can have emailed to you or added to your Google Reader account. And Google even makes it easy to share directly to Facebook or Twitter from Reader.

8. Let your fans/friends/partners help you. Follow/friend people who are involved in projects in your community and look at what information they’re putting out. Re-tweet or share interesting things that you see, follow their hashtags for more leads, etc. And let your community talk among themselves -- keep your Facebook wall open to posts and comments from fans. We’ve found that questions often get answered a lot faster from “the peanut gallery” on our Facebook page than we can get to them.

9. Use free scheduling tools. Facebook lets you time your posts in advance, so users with limited time can pre-load their big stories, and then use the rest of their time to answer questions/engage with users. Likewise, a tool like HootSuite can be helpful for pre-scheduling tweets so your account isn’t a once-daily “data dump” as you share articles, photos, etc. in your designated time frame.

10. Make it simple for people to connect with you. It’s easy to lose enthusiasm for social media if there’s no conversation going on, and it’s easy to blame “no time to do it right” when that happens. Making it simple for people to connect with you -- by linking to your social channel(s) on your website, business cards, and email signature -- can expedite the community building that makes social fun (and useful)!

What tips about social media time management have you picked up in your travels? Share them with us in the comments!

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

[10 on Tuesday] The Essential Preservation Reading List

Posted on: August 21st, 2012 by Emily Potter 4 Comments


We started you off on a reading list in a previous blog post a few weeks ago with a couple of books about how to research the history of your older home.  Today, we’ve put together a few more (10 titles to fit right in for this week’s "10 on Tuesday") for you to take a look at if you’re interested in delving in to the world of historic preservation for the first time or honing your professional skills -- or anything in between.

This list is certainly not comprehensive. In fact, we plan on growing it and would love to hear your recommendations for additions below in the comments.

Head to your local or online bookstore to look for these and other related good reads on preservation. Happy reading!

To Get You Started:

1. Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice by Norman Tyler

2. Historic Preservation Technology: A Primer by Robert A. Young

Books to Help You Dig Deeper:

3. The Future of the Past: A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism, and Historic Preservation by Steven W. Semes

4. Historic Preservation and the Livable City by Eric W. Allison and Lauren Peters

Putting Preservation into Practice:

5. Housekeeping for Historic Homes and House Museums by Melissa Heaver, edited by Byrd Wood (a National Trust publication)

6. A Richer Heritage: Historic Preservation in the Twenty-First Century by Robert E. Stipe

Some Helpful Guides:

7. A Layperson’s Guide to Preservation Law: Federal, State, and Local Laws Governing Historic Resources by Julia Miller, edited by Byrd Wood (a National Trust publication)

8. What Style Is It?: A Guide to American Architecture by John C. Poppeliers and S. Allen Chambers

9. The Economics of Historic Preservation: A Community Leader’s Guide by Donovan D. Rypkema

10. Sustainable Preservation: Greening Existing Buildings by Jean Carroon

And for a little lighter reading:

From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story by Ron Tanner

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

Some of you may remember the National Trust’s Preservation Books collection. While we are temporarily no longer selling these books through PreservationNation.org, you can find a list of titles still available elsewhere on the Internet.

There are so many helpful and comprehensive publications out there for both the historic preservation novice and professional. Please tell us in the comments about other preservation-related books you'd recommend!

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.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Ways to Green Your Historic Home

Posted on: August 14th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi 8 Comments


Job Corps students help restore Grey Towers National Historic Site to make it a more sustainable facility.

We walked you through 10 easy ways to weatherize your historic home a couple weeks ago. Now we want to help you take it a step further with these simple approaches to making your home more sustainable.

But what exactly do we mean when we say “sustainable,” at least in the context of historic preservation? Well, we’re talking about using what we already have -- in this case, buildings, and the features and materials that make them unique and historic. Many older homes were constructed with energy efficiency in mind (when home owners once had no choice, because things like central AC weren’t an option), so their “environmental friendliness quotient” is already high.

Today it’s up to us, the current caretakers, to continue retrofitting and reusing these places in ways that both honor their original construction and also reduce their environmental footprint in a modern world.

So let’s not waste any more energy -- here are 10 tips for greening your historic home.

1.    Keep original windows intact. Studies show that older windows can perform as well as vinyl replacements. Weatherstrip them so that they seal tightly, caulk the exterior trim, and repair cracked glazing or putty around glass panels. You'll reduce landfill waste and the demand for vinyl, a non-biodegradable material that gives off toxic byproducts when it's made.

2.    Use light paint colors for your house's exterior. Lighter colors reflect heat better than darker ones. Many older homes were typically painted with light-reflecting finishes, so you can be sustainable and accurate in one fell swoop.

3.    Insulate the attic, basement, and crawl space. About 20 percent of energy costs come from heat loss in those areas. Just take care to avoid materials that can damage historic fabric.

4.    Reuse old materials such as brick, stone, glass, and slate when making home improvements. You can also scour local salvage shops to find contemporaneous materials (and save it from going to a landfill).

5.    Plant trees. Evergreen trees on the north and west sides of your house can block winter winds, and leafy trees on the east, west, and northwest provide shade from the summer sun. Use old photos of your house to try to match the historic landscaping. (Don’t have photos? See our tips on researching your home’s history!)

Example of a well-shaded wraparound porch on a historic home in Oxford, North Carolina.

6.    When appropriate, open the windows and use fans and dehumidifiers, which consume less energy than air-conditioning. Many old houses were designed with good cross-ventilation; take advantage of your home's layout. Ceiling fans lower the perceived temperature in summer, lessening reliance on air conditioning and saving energy. And in the winter, they draw warm air down from the ceiling, saving on heating costs. So again, double benefit for one change.

7.    Keep doors airtight by weatherstripping, caulking, and painting them regularly. Recent studies suggest that installing a storm door is not necessarily cost-effective. Better to keep your doors in fighting shape -- and ideally in keeping with the character of the house.

8.    Install fireplace draft stoppers, attic door covers, and dryer vent seals that open only when your dryer is in use. An open dampener in a fireplace can increase energy costs by 30 percent, and attic doors and dryer vent ducts are notorious energy sieves.

9.    Restore porches and awnings. Porches, awnings, and shutters were intended for shade and insulation, plus they add a lot of personality to your home. To further save energy, draw shades on winter nights and summer days.

10.    Inspecting, maintaining, and repairing your existing roof is the best way to "go green" by using what you already have. Depending on the materials, installation, and ongoing maintenance, some roofs will last longer than others. We hope to present more info on solar-powered roof systems in future 10 on Tuesday posts -- stay tuned!

And as we mentioned in our weatherizing post, an energy audit is the best place to start. It will help you determine what you need to do now and exactly how much you’re likely to save.

Happy greening!

Want a ballpark estimate on the cost of going green? Check out our Green Guide to get a sense of how long it might take to recover the dollars you invest.

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 director of 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.


Credit: stevendepolo, Flickr

It seems like everybody and their mother (well, not my mother) uses social media: babies arrive on Facebook within minutes of their birth, drool-worthy recipes are pinned and re-pinned endlessly on Pinterest, and news breaks on Twitter far faster than NBC can get around to showing it on television.

It’s no different for preservation activists and organizations. A social presence is close to a requirement -- potentially daunting for those of us who love all things historical more than all things technological.

The good news is, doing a little bit of planning now can pay dividends for your cause later. Over the coming months, we’ll have tips and tools for using a variety of different social sites to advance your preservation goals. But before we get into the nitty-gritty, here are 10 things to think about before you start using social media to help save places.

First, some questions to ask:

1. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you advocating to save a single building? Are you trying to raise awareness of a historic neighborhood? Are you trying to influence local (or national) policy? Knowing what you want to do will help you decide which social sites to use.

2. What does success look like? Having a clear, measurable goal from the outset will guide the choices you make and let you know when your social program is officially working. Not sure where to start? Here’s a handy primer.

3. Where is your audience? The old saying “different strokes for different folks” applies in social networking, just as it does in other areas of life. Knowing who uses what can steer you towards the right social channels to meet your goals. A great resource for demographics is the Pew Internet and American Life project.

4. What’s your budget? There’s a common misconception that social media is free. It’s not. While Facebook, Twitter, etc., are free sites, they come with options (such as Facebook ads) that are not. In addition, don’t forget the human resources cost, because having an effective social media program requires staff time.

5. How much time do you have? It’s possible to have an effective social media program with an hour a day or less, but it does require a consistent, daily commitment. And, of course, the bigger your goals, the bigger the time commitment required, so plan accordingly.

6. What kind of content -- and content creators -- do you have? If there’s one thing social media requires, it is content, so know what you have at your disposal before you start. This will help you select what social media sites to use as well as plan your posting schedule. Some questions to think about: Do you have a blog or website with stories you can share? Are you comfortable finding and sharing stories from local or national news outlets? Does your team have someone with a particular talent for photography or video? Play to your strengths!

7. Do you need a social media policy? If you’re working on your own to save a place, probably not, but if you’re part of an organization -- even a casual or ad hoc one -- having some ground rules can be helpful (so long as they’re not overly restrictive). Your colleagues who are using social media already can be the best ambassadors for your cause if you let them. Not sure how to get started? The Policy Tool for Social Media offers a step-by-step wizard to create a customized policy that meets your organization’s needs.

And now, a few things to think about:

8. Don’t default to the intern. But don’t disregard the intern, either. It’s a common cliché that interns handle social media, because as “digital natives” they understand it better. What many interns don’t know, however, is your organization and its culture, which can make it hard to find the right voice online -- or a consistent one, as internships tend to be finite. Social media can be an ideal opportunity for two-way mentoring, with newer and more experienced staff working together to build an online presence.

9. Don’t forget the offline world. It can be exciting to think of connecting with supporters online, but it’s unlikely that all your stakeholders will be online. Don’t use social media as an excuse to abandon your tried-and-true offline engagement.

10. Don’t feel like you have to be everywhere. With so many options available, it’s easy to feel like you need to have a presence everywhere, when in reality, it’s far better to have one or two vibrant social communities than a bunch of haphazard ones.

Are you using social media to save places? Tell us how it's working for you!

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Ways to Research Your Home's History

Posted on: July 31st, 2012 by Emily Potter 6 Comments


When we make friends we like to learn about them -- we ask them where they grew up, where they went to school, and when they were born.

Our homes are a lot like that. We spend time with them, value them, and take care of them. So it makes sense that we want to know more about them -- who lived there before, how it’s changed over time, and when it was built.

If only walls could talk, right? Instead, here are 10 ways to uncover the story behind your older or historic home (or any other building you’re interested in):

1. Look closely at your house. Exposed rafters in the attic and bricks in the basement can tell you a lot about how old your house might be. You might find dates or stamps left by the builder; different-sized bricks will tell you that the house was built in different construction cycles.

Tip: Closets are great places to uncover clues like old wallpaper or paint -- certain paper patterns or color-schemes can be traced back to a popular period style.

2. Be your own archaeologist. Scope out your backyard the next time you’re in the garden and look carefully at buried treasure you might find, like old glass bottles or children’s toys. Items like that can tell you a lot about who lived in the house and when.

3. Talk to people. Talk to your neighbors, local business owners, even the mailman. They might be able to tell you who lived in the house before you and remember if any changes have been made to it over time.

4. Explore the neighborhood. Are there other older buildings that look similar? How does your house fit in -- for example, does your house face a different way? It could have been built on land that was once a farm while the rest of your neighborhood was built later.

Tip: If you live near a city, measure the distance to the city center. The farther you are from the original core, the younger your house might be.

5. Learn the history of the area. How old is the city or town you live in? Did any major events take place in the area? (For example: Was it the scene of a battle? Was your home, or any other nearby building, designed by a noted architect?) Answering these questions can offer important clues to your house’s own history.

6. Check your historic district status. If you don’t already know if your house is designated as a historic structure, you can check with your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) or other local preservation office. They will also be able to tell you whether you live in a historic district.

Tip: Look for properties in your area on the National Register of Historic Places.

7. Research land and property records. A simple deed or title search can tell you who owned the property and when and tax records can tell you how the property has changed over time. Many city or county records offices also have Sanborn fire maps, which can date back as far as the 19th or 20th centuries and show the footprint of your house and layout of the neighborhood.

8. Look up local census data. Census records can tell you more about the lives of previous owners, like the number of children in the house, cost of the home, whether the home had a radio, and more.

Also: Stop by your local public library and look for a city directory -- a precursor to the modern phone book -- which might offer more details on previous occupants.

9. Contact your local historical society and visit your public library. Ask to see old photographs they might have of your house or the surrounding land, historical maps of the area, or newspapers with specific articles that reference history of the local town.

10. Read! There are many books out there to guide you further in your research, such as Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around You by David E. Kyvig and Myron A. Marty; or Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood by Betsey J. Green. Search your public library or local bookstore for more titles.

You don’t need a master’s degree to learn about the history of your home, public building, or any other place. All you need is a little time, your eyes, ears, and feet … and 10 helpful tips to get you started.

Bonus: Check out the University of Maryland University Library’s webpage on researching historic houses. You’ll find the information there can be applied to places nationwide.

Let us know what you find out!

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.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.