For part 1 of this interview, click here.
Aaron: Both of you are on Linked-In, I believe I’ve seen you on Twitter a few times… you guys are already starting to expand your brand a little bit, so the website is on the ups. I’m glad to see that.
Meagan: I don’t understand Twitter, but I’m trying to participate in the National Trust’s Twitter Chat, You basically write something intelligent, and then edit it down into nonsense! We think in the future, if we have a better discussion board, I could get all my bloggers together, maybe in a video chat, and try to expand and connect people. We’ll probably be more involved in the future with media and the internet.
Aaron: What is your favorite part about your job? This could be working with the National Trust, this could be working in preservation, working in archaeology, anything like that. What is the best thing about what you do?
Laura: So, I’m an archaeologist for the National Park Service at San Antonio Missions, and I think the best part of my job, and why I always wanted to work for the NPS, is that you have a really captive audience. It’s not just an archaeologist out in the middle of the forest exploring a site! There’s always people who are really interested in history and archaeology who I can talk to. That’s my favorite part about my job.
Aaron: What about you, Meagan?
Meagan: My favorite part about being a preservationist is community activism. That there are people whom are mounting their own grass-roots campaigns and starting their own projects. You know, getting off the couch and thinking of something to do with a building; buying a building, saving a building, developing re-use plans because the city won’t pay for one on their own. I guess what’s interesting to me is getting to the point where the preservation can happen. You can’t redevelop the building until you know that it’s not going to get demolished. Just continuing to educate through positive events as well as protests about the importance of the building to individuals, to community groups, to elected officials. Just organizing that, and being a part of something. That’s why I run the blog; I love that I can put something online and a couple of thousand people will see it.
Aaron: Is there some project you’ve always wanted to pursue, but couldn’t because of a lack of time or budget? If you had a blank check and as much time as you wanted to do whatever project you wanted, what would your project be?
Meagan: One, it’s not always money, it’s a lot of hard work. Hist Pres is something we wanted to do, so we did it. I don’t necessarily use money as a retardant to my imagination. What I would do, I would love to own an historic building, I would love to live in it, I would love to have that building host my businesses. I would also like to host community meetings, or other events, with kind of an open-door policy. Either a small-business incubator, or a place where community groups can meet. Just to be a hub for community revitalization in a city. That might not be something that I would have to do on my own; in the future I would like to be a Main Street manager, like the manager of a business improvement district, or a community association that’s very active. But if I don’t ever find that job I would love to buy a building. It’s pretty simple, but I would love to do it.
Aaron: Maine is selling lighthouses, from what I hear! In your opinion, since preservation and/or archaeology are largely hand-on kinds of jobs, how important is the internet to the field as a job hunting tool, a source of industry-relevant information, and as a tool for public outreach? Let’s start with your website. I think that your website sort of answers that question, but go ahead and give me your thoughts, if you would.
Meagan: What we’ve found is that the majority of jobs that we post are not hands-on jobs. A lot of the jobs are education and interpretation, management, research… they’re not necessarily as hands-on as graduate schools will lead you to believe. And also, there are specific degrees in material conservation; honestly, chemists do a lot of that work. But [the internet] is essential for jobs, and also for ways to get involved. Laura had mentioned to me before we started that the internet is the only way to apply for government jobs. And a big majority of preservation jobs are government jobs. As an activist tool, I point to Egypt.
Aaron: That’s the example on everyone’s mind, I think.
Meagan: And actually, Buffalo’s Young Preservationists, which I am a part of, we started a Facebook but we also have a smaller community that gets emails and an even smaller one that gets texts. So I think that the internet fuels our ability for direct contact, but what I do in terms of advocacy is publishing at a national level.
Aaron: Let’s go to the second part of that. What do you think of the internet as a source of industry-relevant information?
Meagan: Well, the government sites for preservation, like the Advisory Council, is not a good website and is not updated regularly. Previously NPS was not very good; they’ve since updated. Statewide it varies; some states have searchable databases for National Register properties, some do not. I do not see the internet as the way to get the best preservation information; but preservationists still say to look at the National Park Service preservation brief. They haven’t been updated since, I don’t know. Before Laura was born! You know, the only membership, really is Forum,and that’s paid. So… I don’t know, really. There’s some great websites out there. I think that Preservation Directory filled a need as the preservationist’s telephone book. And Preservation Nation has a great blog and they’re updating their main website. Ever since their new outlet program kicked in, it will be a lot more about connectivity and getting people together. But it terms of technical information I would point to Association for Preservation Technology, and if you’re a conservator the AIC, etcetera, etcetera. I would still got to the professional organizations for real information.
Aaron: And what do you think of the internet as a tool for public outreach?
Meagan and Laura: NUMBER 1!
Aaron: A resounding number 1.
Meagan: There’s a couple of things I learned about advocacy through the internet. It’s really important to focus on your website; one. And then social media, because there are people who don’t have accounts, and they have ads, and they take down posts… I don’t put a lot of stock into fad social media. I think your website should be a representation of the best work your company or initiative can do.
Aaron: One last question for both of you. Do you have any advice for history professionals who want to do what you do?
Meagan: What do we do?!
Aaron: That’s up to you to decide! From what you’ve told me it sounds like, between the two of you you do pretty much everything.
Meagan: If you’re interested in historic preservation, I would suggest, if you’re still in school, seek out courses in architectural history or public history. Then, wherever you are, look for regional organizations that have a docent training program. Learn your downtown, learn about one specific building, but in a lot of cases you’re trained in the stock information to say to visitors. When I was working with Buffalo Tours, they had some very talented historians who in their own research came up with something, and then created a tour that became an official tour of Buffalo Tours. So if you’re interested in historic preservation, the good thing is there’s usually something happening. A friend of mine in Buffalo officially considers herself an activist historian. If a building is going to be demolished, she does all sorts of research. She’ll reach out to descendants who are still alive. She has the ancestry, genealogy and the research background to get involved. Laura, what do you think?
Laura: If you’re already a professional and not [in school]… I guess there are some classes that you can take that provide a little introduction to historic buildings. Like if you were a history professional focusing more on… non-building history!
Meagan: Well, you could try to find a certificate program, like the National Council for Preservation Education. Or you could find a docent program. Or there is one national organization called the Institute for Classical Art and Architecture, and they have a lot of classes but they’re very expensive. Depending on how much you put into it, I think there’s a way to learn about it. So, 1; seek out academics, 2; get involved.
Aaron: Sounds like good advice to me. Ladies, thank you very much for agreeing to sit down and go through all of these questions. You’ve given me a ton of information; I think I may actually be able to get two posts out of this!
HistPres. Web. 19 Jan. 2013. http://histpres.com