Friday, October 4, 2013

Preview the Upcoming Massachusetts Historic Preservation Conference

We are excited to present our guest blogger for this week, Mary Cirbus. Mary is graduate student at Boston University in the Preservation Studies Department, and she has played a large role in the planning of this years Massachusetts Historic Preservation Conference, which this year will be held in Lexington. She has agreed to give us an insiders view of what we can expect to experience at that conference. 

 On October 18th, the Massachusetts Preservation Coalition will present the 2013 Massachusetts Historic Preservation Conference in Lexington, Massachusetts. This conference will be the first preservation conference hosted by the Massachusetts Preservation Coalition and the first state preservation conference in 6 years. As a final-semester graduate student in Preservation Studies at Boston University, it is fitting and fortunate that my time as a student will culminate in a gathering of preservation professionals, educators, advocates, and volunteers from across the state. As a student in transition to a (hopefully!) professional, it is an exciting endeavor of which to be a part.

Boston University’s Preservation Program is a member of the Coalition and has been instrumental in planning this event. Thanks to a generous grant from Boston University’s Center for the Humanities, I’ve been given the opportunity to serve at Boston University’s student assistant for the conference, allowing me to serve on the logistics committee, collect recommended readings for each of the sessions, and assist with the conference website and publicity, among other administrative-related tasks. Since July I have had the privilege of working closely with representatives of Coalition organizations, including Historic Boston, Inc. It has been fantastic to meet and learn from these professionals (and finally to put faces to names I have heard about through my coursework, research, and fieldwork). These individuals have been working for months to assemble a full day of panels, workshops, and roundtable discussions about preservation activity in Massachusetts and beyond. Many of the speakers they’ve lined up for the conference have lived and worked here for much of their careers, and will offer their firsthand experience from the field.

A particular strength of this event is its accessibility to all levels of preservation professionals; educational and training sessions geared towards volunteers and new professionals will run alongside advanced panels and workshops for seasoned attendees. The conference will examine ongoing preservation issues and address pertinent topics such as advocacy and funding and the evolution and evaluation of historic resources. The inclusion of training for all backgrounds reflects the nature of our field as most preservation activity begins at the town level. Without the dedicated advocates on the groundwho have worked tirelessly to protect character-defining town buildings, structures, and landscapes, many Massachusetts landmarks may not exist today. As professionals, we must continue educational outreach to these local preservationists so they may increase the effectiveness of their advocacy at the town level. As the collector and reviewer of recommended readings for the conference, I am excited to see how many fundamental publications—for beginners and beyond—are included on this list.

As a student about to enter the field, I am particularly excited about progressive preservation topics such as its role in sustainability through adaptive reuse and energy efficiency. With a “green” revolution upon us, the opportunity arises for the general public to view historic structures in a new light, as a means of contributing to sustainability rather than hindering it. Preservationists have the unique position to be advocates for historic structures, stressing their importance to community character, sense of place, and quality-of-life. This conference will highlight the varied backgrounds of preservationists and advocates but will bring together their knowledge, strengths, and connections to begin conversations that will impact future preservation activity in Massachusetts.

For more information on the 2013 Massachusetts Historic Preservation Conference, please visit

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