It’s been a couple of weeks since my trip down the road Indy for the National Preservation Conference. Aptly entitled Preservation at the Crossroads, this year’s conference took a hard look at the future of preservation, our roles as preservationists, how to stay relevant, and how to attract new audiences to our cause. I don’t currently work in preservation proper; however, I still consider myself a preservationist. Newly transplanted in the Midwest from the deep South, I joined the social media team for Indiana Landmarks to meet some new folks, check out Indy, and reintroduce myself to the world of preservation. Here are some of my takeaways from this year’s preservation conference.
5. Indy is beautiful.
I'm so glad I squeezed in some time to walk around downtown Indy. Like Mayor Ballard said at the opening plenary, "I bet most of you will leave Indy saying, I never knew.” So true; I had no idea. Look forward to coming back!
4. Times they are a changing.
"Is it time to move away from the house museum as our “go to” strategy for preservation?"- Stephanie Meeks. "Historic Preservation should be focused more about quality of life and less about history."- Gustavo Araoz. "Always let people comment. Even if they're crazy." -@presnation twitter
Are we becoming more laid-back? Or are we just realizing that the more inclusive preservation is the more we can achieve? Perhaps a little of both.
There also seemed to be a new catch phrase to describe advocacy and membership tactics to attract the elusive "young, engaged, and diverse" crowd preservation is after: "Preservation through the back door." Couldn't help but think of this...
3. Preservationists are jumping on the social media bandwagon.
One of the biggest challenges for preservation has been spreading the preservation gospel to the unconverted; thanks to social media, the message is spreading a little faster. The presconf tweetup was the biggest to date and the New Media, New Audiences session led by Kaitlin O’Shea of Preservation in Pink was packed. It was great to finally meet many preservation bloggers/tweeters I’ve been following for a while!
2. Don’t be stodgy.
Preservation doesn’t have to be boring. With some creativity and strategic partnerships, preservation can be fun, dare I say cool. An inspiring and important session was Cocktails, Coloring Books, and Cyberspace in which the Landmark Society of Western New York introduced several of their new advocacy and membership tools. My favorite? The "Where the #&@$ am I? coaster. The Landmark Society will partner with historic bars in Rochester, New York in order to have these coasters available for patrons. Each coaster has a QR code specific to that bar; when scanned, the code will direct the user to a website that will tell the history of the bar and show it's location. Pretty genius.
1. Just Do It.
Art, Heritage, and Quality of Life: Lessons from the Venice Biennale preached a “just do it” approach to public places, heritage, and art. Traditional preservation work can be quite tedious because of bureaucratic red tape but this session left me feeling inspired to work on a few preservation projects I’ve kept on the back burner for a while now. The Howling Mob Society (bottom left), New Public Sites (top left), and M12 Studio (right), reminded us that it can be quite liberating to operate outside the lines.
Bonus takeaway: Verncaular architecture rockstar and keynote speaker, Henry Glassie, holds a striking resemblance to Sam Elliot. Thanks Tiffany from Historic Indianapolis for pointing that out!
Thank you again to Indiana Landmarks for the opportunity to work on the social media team! Stay tuned for more about my upcoming preservation projects.