The courses I have taken for a Historic Preservation major include an The American Built Environment (architectural history), Introduction to Museum Studies, Documentation and Field Work, American Archaeology, and Adventures in Digital History.
The most notable paper I wrote in Introduction to Museum Studies was an analysis and evaluation of one museum exhibition, titled Exhibition Review. What was the goal of the exhibition? Overall, did the exhibition accomplish this goal?
Evaluating an exhibition at a well-established museum gave me the ability to see what does and does not work in an exhibition. Looking at an exhibition and a museum from the outside makes it much easier to see flaws and limitations in design. That is more difficult to do when designing an exhibition, but it is important to try to look at an exhibition objectively to try to see it through the eyes of the average visitor.
This is a very important skill that I will utilize in my future career. It is most relevant to museum work, but objective reflection of one’s own work or field of study is a valuable skill that is useful in many fields.
Documentation and Field Work
In this course, I gained skills to research and document buildings. Two significant projects that I completed were a historic narrative of a property in Fredericksburg, VA and a series of architectural photographs taken of a structure in Leesburg, VA.
The Historic Narrative required me to research information in a way that I had never done before. I never thought I would go to the courthouse four times or scan so much microfilm for any project, but Historic Preservation has proved me wrong. Doing historical research is more than just doing online research. It requires time and effort spent going to different locations to find the information needed to produce a substantial report. The information found at these locations, however, is very historically and culturally rich, and is invaluable to the field of historic preservation.
I learned a different set of technical skills in completing the Architectural Photography assignment (sample pictured above). Preservation is often associated with the state and federal governments, therefore there are standard procedures for conducting many preservation-related projects. The main program is HABS, the Historic American Buildings Survey. HABS has guidelines for all forms of documentation, including photography. I learned what those standards were and, even with limited equipment, created a series of architectural photographs that followed those standards.
In the course American Archaeology I have studied methods of preservation-related archaeology in North America. This usually includes the excavations of historic and precolonial structures. The main project that I completed in this course was titled Garbology. I recorded the things I threw in the trash over three days and analyzed the data as if I knew nothing about the individual. I practiced the use of different archaeological principles and used them to objectively analyze a fictional individual. This recalls the skill discussed earlier of objective self reflection. It is a challenging but important skill to have in any career.
Adventures in Digital History
I have never taken a class like this one before. This class has tested my ability to learn new skills very quickly and adapt to changing circumstances. It has also been valuable for building my confidence in working as part of a team. While the course is still in progress, my group and I have been creating a digital archive of the letters that were written by and about Jerome Peirce, a soldier in the Union army during the Civil War. The most presentable work I have from this class so far has been my blog. I created this blog for Digital History and it has given me the chance to start creating a digital identity. Having a digital identity is becoming more and more important in today’s digital society. It is invaluable to have the skills and knowledge to create and maintain a digital identity. You can view my blog posts from Digital History under the category Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020.