By Steve Hartley

Students pour metal for the Smithsonian Arts and Industries building exterior restoration. | Credit: Savannah Technical College

Students pour metal for the Smithsonian Arts and Industries building exterior restoration. | Credit: Savannah Technical College

“We should be able to find someone who can restore that leaded glass...or plaster ceiling...or crumbling brick chimney.”

This is a common lament around preservation projects, as building owners struggle to find craftspeople who know how to work with historic materials. While the appreciation for traditional architecture increases, the supply of artisans trained in the techniques that people venerate continues to diminish. This disappearance of traditional craft practitioners is one of the greatest threats to our historic places. As these older practitioners leave the workforce, fewer young people are replacing them in the field.

The lack of qualified craft practitioners has been noted as far back as 1967  in the Whitehill Report. Commissioned by the National Trust, the report noted “These ancient crafts are a significant part of our national cultural resources. Their continuation as a living tradition is essential to insure the authentic conservation of our early buildings.” Some 50 years later, little has been done to address the problems noted within the report. Organizations such as the Preservation Trades Network, the Association for Preservation Technology as well as specialized groups such as the Timber Framers Guild and American Glass Guild have promoted traditional craft skills within the field, however, opportunities for formal education in preservation crafts in the United States are still limited.... Read More →

When Buildings and Landscapes Are the Collection

Posted on: August 19th, 2014 by Preservation Leadership Forum Staff 1 Comment


Forum Journal 2014 Summer CoverMost historic sites and house museums currently follow museum collections standards that do not generally acknowledge that their buildings and grounds often represent the most important and tangible “objects” in their “collection.” In this context, institutions struggle with balancing their stewardship of the museum objects they hold with their stewardship of the buildings and grounds they are also charged with protecting and interpreting. Recently the National Trust spearheaded an effort to reconcile these long-standing conflicts by modeling a new approach—one that treats the historic structures and landscapes, and the object collections, as being the same type of resource. This approach places the historic buildings and landscapes on a par with the museum collections objects and recognizes the interconnected stewardship and interpretation of all three elements. It also reflects both the preservation mission of the National Trust and the realities of, and best practices in, stewardship of its historic sites.

--Katherine Malone-France, vice president for historic sites & Thompson Mayes, deputy general counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the Summer 2014 issue of Forum Journal.

The latest issue of Forum Journal looks at the future of historic sites including how these places are breaking ground with innovative programming, updated collections policies, and community outreach initiatives.

Today we take a look at two pieces of enhanced content from the Summer 2014 issue of Forum Journal.

  • Expanding the Collections to Include Historic Structures and Landscapes
  • The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Collections Management Policy

To access the entire Forum Journal you must be a member of Preservation Leadership Forum. In addition to the in-depth research provided in the quarterly journal, membership benefits also include discounts on conferences and training, analysis into current issues in Forum Focus, topic-specific Affinity Groups for exchange with other preservationists, and much more.

... Read More →

Come High Water – Seven Tips for Preparing for a Disaster

Posted on: August 18th, 2014 by Special Contributor 1 Comment


By Daniel Ronan

Post Katrina and Sandy, the United States is seeing increasingly severe weather events resulting from global climate change. At risk in this sobering trend are our cherished historic resources. To help equip preservationists to combat this new reality, we are offering a six-hour primer on Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Preservation on Wednesday, November 12, during the PastForward National Preservation Conference in Savannah, Georgia. You can read more about disaster preparedness in the post below. Register for the training, (registration is in addition to registration for the National Preservation Conference) at

The sun sets over the Cedar River, the site of the 2008 floods. View from the Dr. Martin Luther King Bridge. |Photo: Daniel Ronan

The sun sets over the Cedar River, the site of the 2008 floods. View from the Dr. Martin Luther King Bridge. |Photo: Daniel Ronan

In June 2008 a 32-foot flood swept through the town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, destroying more than 1,300 buildings, many of them historic . “It used to be once in your generation’s lifetime, you would see a 20-foot crest,” says Mark Hunter, researcher at the Linn County Historical Society in Cedar Rapids. Today the town has largely recovered, and preservationists are justifiably proud of their efforts to rebuild as I discovered during a recent visit  there.

But bigger floods and bigger storms are becoming the norm, not the extraordinary, so following my trip, I talked with Jennifer Wellock, a technical reviewer and historian at the National Park Service, about what steps preservationists need to take to make sure historic resources are part of disaster planning.

Wellock strongly encourages preservationists to make sure that historic resources are part of their communities’ hazard mitigation plan. She cautions, “Do not wait for a disaster to pull out that plan and, say ‘wait, we’re not in it.’”

Along with her colleague, Grants Management Specialist Jennifer Eggleston, Wellock made the following recommendations:... Read More →