Sometimes All You Need to Do Is Ask

Posted on: November 14th, 2012 by Forum Reference Desk

Ironically, in an age of information overload, the information you really could use is often the hardest to find. What we all need is our own reference librarian, or better yet, two knowledgeable and resourceful information coordinators like those staffing the Forum Reference Desk – Melita Juresa-McDonald and Lindsey Wallace. Each month they field hundreds of inquiries from preservationists across the country. Here’s just one example from October:

Question: An Iowa preservationist left a voicemail with the Denver Field Office that they forwarded to the Forum Reference Desk (FRD)--the central point of contact for preservation leaders. The individual wanted technical assistance with the rehabilitation of his family’s historic barn and advice on listing another archeologically and historically significant property in the National Register of Historic Places.

Answer: His question required a multi-tiered response, including general information available from the National Trust as well as state-specific resources. Several years ago, the National Trust partnered with Successful Farming magazine to create and manage BARN AGAIN!, a program that offered publications on technical issues, organized educational workshops, and recognized good stewardship through an Awards Program. Many of the resources developed through BARN AGAIN! are available on the National Trust’s website--including the barn preservation landing page, an extensive FAQ, and a page on how to find a qualified contractor. The FRD  shared these  links as background.

For his barn rehabilitation project, he specifically wanted information on possible funding sources and suggestions for qualified contractors. FRD researched the resources available through the State Historical Society of Iowa (Iowa’s SHPO) and found it was an excellent source of information and technical assistance for barn projects. The Society even has an entire section focusing on barns and possible tax credits for barn rehabilitation and direct contacts for barn-specific and tax credit questions.

FRD also encouraged the caller to speak with the State Historical Society of Iowa and Preservation Iowa, Iowa’s statewide nonprofit organization, for contractor recommendations, since staff there would have more knowledge of local contractors than the National Trust. In fact, Preservation Iowa has an entire section of their website devoted to barns.

For his question about listing his other archaeologically and historically significant property, FRD first explained the National Register criteria and the nomination process and then directed him to the State Historical Society, as it  would be the organization to guide him through the National Register process in Iowa.

And that was the response to just one inquiry!  Imagine the help you might receive with your preservation questions. Look for more questions and more answers in upcoming blogs.

About Forum Reference Desk

Staffed by Melita Juresa-McDonald (San Francisco Field Office) the National Trust's Forum Reference Desk provides preservation leaders direct, easy, and timely access to the latest and best information, referrals, and tools.