Preservation as Public History

Posted on: April 8th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

The conference was held at the Biltmore, a historic hotel in Rhode Island. (Photo: HABS/HAER website)

The conference was held at the Biltmore, a historic hotel in Rhode Island. (Photo: HABS/HAER website)

Much of the discussion at the closing plenary session of the National Council on Public History conference centered around the future of the field. In particular, we discussed how to communicate what public history is to those who don’t see themselves as public historians. For us personally, public history is more than just history outside of the academy—it is really any history work done within the public arena, including activities in archives, curatorial and education efforts, and of course historic preservation.

So what makes preservation public history? In the closing plenary the discussion focused on looking at history in terms of place and space, something that preservationists are more than familiar with. As preservationists, we also often use personal narratives to demonstrate the importance of saving a particular historic building, landscape, or site. Public historians also work to preserve historic sites and buildings, just as preservationists do, and both groups hope to have a positive impact on the community around them by fostering civic engagement.

One of the sessions that we attended was entitled “America’s Historic Sites at a Crossroads,” based on a 2007 conference at Kykuit and later documented in an issue of our Forum Journal. Jim Vaughan, Vice President for Stewardship of Historic Sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Executive Director Katherine Kane spoke at length about the future of America’s historic sites, something that public historians are deeply concerned with. The session made it clear that those of us working in public history wear many hats; we are preservationists, educators, historic site managers, and advocates. We believe that both preservationists and public historians need to start using these designations more fluidly, and think of themselves in new ways. By allowing for flexibility in terminology and identification, both groups can expand their toolbox and resources to better accomplish our goals.

Katherine Kane stressed the importance of staying passionate, and that in doing so our work as public historians will demonstrate the importance of our activities in our communities, organizations, and beyond. Hopefully, by recognizing common goals and utilizing new strategies, preservationists as public historians can continue to have a positive impact on the world around them.

-- Priya Chhaya and Leah Suhrstedt

Priya Chhaya and Leah Suhrstedt both work in the Forum office in the Center for Preservation Leadership. They are both preservationists and public historians. You can read more about the 2009 NCPH conference in Providence on the conference blog. For more information about the National Council on Public History visit the website at www.ncph.org.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

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

Tell Us: What Place Matters to You?

Posted on: April 8th, 2009 by Sarah Heffern 2 Comments

 

Sharp-eyed preservationists watching Good Morning, America this past Saturday might have seen something familiar flash by in the "Your Three Words" segment. (Miss it? Go have a look... We'll wait.)

This Place Matters.

Chase Stone Barn, Wisconsin

Chase Stone Barn, Wisconsin

The folks at the Chase Stone Barn in Wisconsin filmed themselves shooting the photo above -- part of our This Place Matters campaign -- and sent it in to GMA for inclusion in the segment.  We're so excited that they got such great national exposure for their beautiful barn!

What place matters to you?

Honor a your special place by sharing your This Place Matters photo with us -- or plant a flag on our map if you're a little camera-shy. If you're like me and can't think of how to pick just one place, there's no need to worry. You can add a photo or flag for all your favorites!

Get started now »

This Place Matters is sponsored by Fireman's Fund Insurance Company because places that matter need to be protected. Learn more »

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.

Review Heritage Destinations and Win a Free NYC Theater Tour

Posted on: April 7th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Through my travels for business and pleasure, I’ve visited over 500 cities in 35 countries and nearly every state in the U.S. I've learned the value of traveling with the information necessary to get to the "must-see” sites. In the old days, I would ask family and friends for recommendations. Occasionally, I found their definition of "must see" differed markedly from mine.

Times have changed. Now, gathering information about travel destinations is as simple as logging onto the Internet. But it’s often difficult to find reliable information about heritage- and culture-rich experiences.

Heritage Travel, Inc. , a new subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is being designed with this purpose in mind. This exciting new online community will enable consumers to find, book and share experiences that match their interests.

This includes reading reviews from people who share your interests. As we build this new online community, we are seeking reviews of heritage destinations and sites, and we are offering an exciting incentive to to encourage submissions. Your review could win you and a guest an amazing tour of New York City Broadway theater. Heritage Travel's "reviews" contest deadline is now May 1st.

The tour highlights include:

  • A private performance by current Broadway entertainers.
  • A behind-the-scenes tour of Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater (you can even perform on stage!)
  • Tickets to two Broadway shows of your choice.
  • Privileged access to the New Amsterdam Theater.
  • A special visit to The Players, the theater world's most prestigious private club.
  • A private meeting with the president of the National Arts Club.

Each review earns you another chance to win

If you haven’t submitted a review yet, now is your opportunity. It’s free to sign up and share your reviews - all you need to do is login (or sign up if you haven’t already), choose a destination or site, and submit your review. You can submit as many reviews as you like, and each one will earn you one entry into the “Reviews” contest.

The reviews submitted to date range from a few sentences to the maximum of 2,000 words. Provide as much information as possible about the site or destination, such as recommended local hotels and restaurants, must-see’s, best times to go and other helpful tips.

Keep in mind that the winning review will be the one that best embodies the spirit of heritage travel: engaging, informative, and inspiring.

Don't miss out--submit your review today.

-- John I. Williams, Jr.

John I. Williams, Jr., is President and CEO of Heritage Travel, Inc.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

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

Teaching Preservation: Tracing My Family Roots

Posted on: April 7th, 2009 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 

This week, my period of Research History took a field trip to the nearby Mark Cemetery. When we got there, we were greeted by a special guest speaker – my dad.

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Research History in action (and finally in short sleeves) in Mark Cemetery.

That’s right; he’s a retired township trustee, and he met up with us to discuss the unique history of the cemetery and the people who are buried there, including members of my family.

Coincidence or what?

Come to find out, Mark Cemetery is where many of Fayette County’s first settlers are buried, and it is located right in the middle of where members of my family made their first homes here. In fact, they established their farms on what is now Staunton-Jasper Road and a housing development called Lake Wood Hills.

Our project that day started with taking measurements of the cemetery. We also sorted through the broken headstones located in the back corner of the property, which we pieced together and took pictures of so we could record the names and birth/death dates in our new cemetery record. In doing this, we actually discovered several broken headstones that had not been recorded in any previous databases.

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Piecing together history.

Back at school, I created three separate spreadsheets for the headstones: one for graves that were accounted for on previous lists as well as my own; one for the new graves we found; and one for the graves included on previous lists that we could not locate. I also uploaded all of our headstone photos and organized them by where they were found and what condition they were in.

One of my projects for the remainder of this semester will be to make a scale map of the cemetery that brings all of this research together, including data and photos for each headstone.

This research obviously means a lot to me because of my family roots in the area, so I hope that you’ll stay tuned to our blog as my work progresses.

- Marci M.

Marci M. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. For the remainder of this semester, she’ll be working with her Research History classmates on a variety of preservation projects, including documenting and preserving local cemeteries. 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.

 

Our own Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has an op-ed in today's New York Times. It bears an unfortunate title, but that doesn't lessen its strong message about greening historic homes:

Experience has shown that virtually any older or historic house can become more energy-efficient without losing its character. Restoring the original features of older houses — like porches, awnings and shutters — can maximize shade and insulation. Older wooden windows perform very well when properly weatherized — this includes caulking, insulation and weather stripping — and assisted by the addition of a good storm window. Weatherizing leaky windows in most cases is much cheaper than installing replacements.

He goes on to point out that this retrofitting work has an additional benefit:

The labor-intensive process of rehabilitating older buildings would also create jobs, and this labor can’t be shipped overseas. The wages would stay in the community, supporting local businesses and significantly increasing household incomes — just the kind of boost the American economy needs right now.

The full article is available here. It's well worth reading.

Learn more about our sustainability initiative.

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.