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  • 13 May 2015 10:30 PM | Christine R Henry

    by Christine Henry

    Dear VAF members,

    Welcome to the Spring edition of the Vernacular Architecture Newsletter (VAN). This quarterly issue is dedicated to field schools, with a number of field school announcements as well as several alumni from field schools reflecting on their experiences.   You will also find information on how to use a really powerful feature of our new website, the member forums.  It is a place to put in timely announcements, start discussions, or look for roommates at a conference. So take a look and sign up to stay in touch.

    Also in response to some readers suggestions, I have made some improvements to the format of the newsletter this quarter, which hopefully make it easier to read.  You can browse titles and click on individual stories in this e-mail as before, or you can click on this link and scroll through the entire newsletter from top to bottom.

    Our conference in Chicago is just around the corner June 3-7 and selling out fast. Don't forget to check out the dynamic conference website for our VAF conference in Chicago http://www.vafchicago.org/.  Hope to see you there!

    As always, I would like to invite any member to submit an article, news, or resource that you would like to share.  Please feel free to send them to me at vaneditor@vafweb.org  The newsletter is a great way to share your ongoing research or resources you have found useful in your practice.

    Thanks so much, and happy reading!

  • 13 May 2015 10:25 PM | Christine R Henry

    The reorganization of the VAF website in the fall 2014 presented the opportunity to integrate member discussions that used to occur on the list-serve. VAF listserv editor Aaron Marcavitch has decided that this is an appropriate time for him to pass on the role of listserv management. We would like to thank Aaron for his many years of hard work and dedication managing the listserv on behalf of VAF. 
    So the VAF website is the new home for this content. The page, titled "Member Forum” under the “Members" tab on the main VAF website menu, is a convenient site for discussions, queries, and announcements about job, internship, and field work opportunities. Past announcements and threaded discussions are fully searchable.

    Screen Shot-VAF Members Forums Page

    Members can check the forum at any time when logged in the VAF website. To be alerted to new content on the forum, members can either subscribe to individual categories (discussion, opportunities, etc) or individual posts within those categories by clicking on the appropriate subscribe button. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Chad Randl (cgr5@cornell.edu). 

  • 13 May 2015 4:32 PM | Christine R Henry

    by Jennifer Dickey


    Travis McDonald instructing the students on Jefferson's retreatFor twenty-five years Travis McDonald, Director of Architectural Restoration at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest has operated the Poplar Forest Architectural Restoration Field School at Poplar Forest near Lynchburg, Virginia. I was one of the lucky attendees in the summer of 2014. It was refreshing and invigorating for me, a college professor, to sit on the other side of the desk for a couple of weeks and become a student once again—not that we did very much sitting.

    Our field school class had a wide range of participants, from graduate students who were just embarking on their careers to practitioners who are engaged in hands-on preservation work and even a lawyer who simply had an abiding interest in history and historic preservation. The Poplar Forest program is designed to give everyone, no matter their level of expertise or experience, a peek behind the scenes at the preservation prog2014 Poplar Forest Field School students on the rooframs at Poplar Forest, Monticello, Montpelier, and the University of Virginia, as well as an opportunity to participate in the assessment of a historic resource in the Lynchburg area. The experience was exhilarating. The work that Travis and his crew have done at Poplar Forest is an inspiration to anyone with an interest in historic preservation. Getting an inside perspective on their fine work certainly heightened my appreciation and understanding for how things should be done. I returned to my classroom at Kennesaw State University, where I coordinate an undergraduate public history program and serve as the campus preservationist, with renewed enthusiasm for my work and for spreading the gospel of historic preservation.

  • 13 May 2015 4:08 PM | Christine R Henry

    The following are reflections from the 2014 Pacific Northwest Field School in Swan Valley, ID.  This year's Field School will be located in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area in one-week increments in August and September. Each session of the program will include hands-on projects at both sites, giving students ample opportunity to learn techniques of preserving a pioneer-era house and log cabin. Applicants may register for more than one week, with no-credit, undergraduate, and graduate credit options available. A Director's Student Scholarship is available. For more information visit the field school website https://hp.uoregon.edu/pnwfs.



    “For a student entering a field such as Historic Preservation, there couldn't be a better introduction than Pacific Northwest Field School. Not only do we have a chance to meet a few of our cohort and begin to develop those relationships, but we are gifted with the opportunity to be immersed in projects we otherwise might not have been until after we graduate.

    The selection of people brought along to work with us was terrific. Before coming to Idaho, and purely judging my opinions on the brief profiles found on the website, I was intimidated by the people I would be coming across. Those worries quickly diminished, and I found the staff to be very approachable and furthermore, eager to teach.

    Within those five days, I realized that I am much more of a “go-get-em” and hands-on learner. Although I enjoy and value research and writing, I realize now that I want to be as immersed as much as possible within any given project. However with that being said, I now understand to what extent preservationists have to go in terms of details in the form of measurements and like-materials. With that in mind, it is amazing to me the types of stories that can be understood just by understanding materials, dimensions, etc. 

    In closing, this week was fantastic. The bonds made between my peers were a great surprise, and I am sure that they will continue to strengthen. I came into this program and this that week with a deep interest in Historic Preservation, and left with my love and affinity for the field growing even stronger. My urge to get back in the field hit me as soon as I pulled out of the campsite on the last day.”

    -Participant of the 2014 Pacific Northwest Preservation Field School in Swan Valley, Idaho at the Fisher Bottoms ranch.




                “Day One: A bleary-eyed morning turns into an eye-opening afternoon.

    When crawling out of my tent at around 6:50am on Monday morning, I thought to myself simply, “This will be a long week.” I was being a little bit of a negative-Nancy, but those sentiments quickly faded away as soon as I arrived to the Fisher Homestead. The physical nature of the walk to the site energized me. However, seeing the Loafing Shed and the newer cabin placed in front of the mountain backdrop with the aspens beginning to paint their surfaces, made me quickly realize that this was going to be an amazing opportunity…

    In looking at the structure of the Loafing Shed, a story begins to unfold. In a remote region of Idaho, such as Swan Valley, the luxury of trained craftsmen did not exist. The Fisher family needed a place to keep their livestock, and they had the tools and materials to create one, but perhaps not the skill. When it came down to it, the Fisher’s didn’t seem to be concerned about preciseness or uniformity when it came to building the Loafing Shed. Furthermore, although being in rough form, the structure was still standing after being heavily weathered for over a century, so they obviously did something right."

    -Participant of the 2014 Pacific Northwest Preservation Field School in Swan Valley, Idaho at the Fisher Bottoms ranch.

  • 13 May 2015 3:46 PM | Christine R Henry

    by Sunny Townes Stewart


    Field School 2013Each summer, UNC-G’s Historic Preservation graduate program offers its students a chance to attend a three-week Field School, giving them hands-on experience with a variety of preservation trades. I took the class in 2013, and it was an appropriate way to end that first year of the program. I had spent those semesters in the classroom building the foundational knowledge necessary to get out in the field, and I was anxious to “get my hands dirty,” both figuratively and literally.

    The Field School always begins with a week at Old Salem, a restored eighteenth-century Moravian town that has been a crucial part of the preservation movement since its foundation as a historic overlay district in 1948. While there, we were given a number of behind-the-scenes tours by professionals in the field, where we learned about construction methods and how to date buildings using nail and wood types, saw marks, and brick and metal technologies and techniques. We also had the opportunity to try our hand at a number of eighteenth-century trades, including carpentry and blacksmithing, as well as plaster repair.

    Building hands on skillsDuring the second week, students go to work on an active restoration project with specialist Dean Ruedrich. My group worked on an outbuilding at the Barker House, built in the mid-1700s in Henderson, North Carolina. Our main task was installing a cedar-shake roof, but we also honed other skills, including how to identify the type and age of wood, repair and reglaze historic windows, cut slate, form concrete, just to name a few.

    In the third week, students get in-depth lessons on masonry repair and paint analysis. Our site was a mid-nineteenth century Quaker meeting house in High Point, North Carolina, where we repointed brick and repaired gravestones over the course of two days. Among the most memorable moments of the experience was our discovery of a small, nondescript soapstone marker engraved with only the name Julia Ann Jester. The stone had been dislodged and broken into three pieces, so we carefully repaired it and returned it to its home. Even though we didn’t know anything about Julia Ann, we all became attached to her gravestone. I was struck by the power of historic graveyards, which are poignant reminders of the fragility of life and I discovered that repairing and preserving markers—which may be the only lasting legacy of a person’s life—is a rewarding task.

    On our last day, we returned to the classroom, armed with tiny tools and microscopes to practice paint analysis. The process was fascinating and I was blown away by the details that could be revealed just by peeling back the tiniest fleck of paint layers.

    In looking back, those three weeks provided some of the most formative experiences of my time at UNCG. As preservationists, we spend a lot of time talking about the experiential qualities of historic buildings, those elements that we can feel but not necessarily quantify. In many respects, Field School is similar. While there is much to be learned in the classroom, the real lessons of preservation can only be acquired through direct observation and first-hand experience.

    Beyond the preservation knowledge I acquired, I also took away from that experience a number of more general life lessons:


    1. When at first you don’t succeed … you know the rest. Just ask Johann Gottlob Krause. Krause was a potter-turned-brick-maker in the Moravian town of Salem in the eighteenth century, and his first attempt at molding bricks was, from a modern perspective, a bit comical. The bricks and bond patterns in his first building–the Salem Tavern were awkward and irregular. But within a few years, he had become skilled enough to mark his initials using the bond patters of his buildings. Certainly his success is a lesson in perseverance.

    Mastering plastering2. The first step is always the hardest. I learned this during our plaster lesson with master plasterer Dwight Love, as I struggled to get the plaster from the hawk to the trowel without it splattering in a mess at my feet. Dwight said his father made him practice that one motion (which he made seem effortless, of course) over and over and over until he had mastered it. Another lesson in perseverance.

    3. When all else fails, keep moving forward. Dwight Love told me this as I applied the plaster to the wall (once I finally got the plaster to the trowel) because I always wanted to go back and fix imperfections as I went. I decided that not only was it good advice for plasterwork, but that it was an excellent motto for life in general.

    4. The line between too much pressure and not quite enough is a fine one. This was a lesson I learned while cutting glass for window repair. It was a job that I found terribly intimidating, but I somehow became the glasscutter for the project. It struck me that the lesson was yet another one that could be applied to life beyond preservation.

    5. If you love your job, you won’t ever “work” a day in your life. By the end of week three, I was more confident than ever that my decision to return to school was one of the best I had ever made.

  • 13 May 2015 10:34 AM | Christine R Henry

    by Dr. Carroll Van West

    2008 Summer Institute at Drayton Hall with Matt WebsterThe MESDA Summer Institute has trained both students and young museum professionals in the practice of material culture study annually for nearly forty years. Through a unique combination of hands-on object exploration, primary source research, and intensive fieldwork, the Institute embraces a multidisciplinary, experiential approach to decorative arts education. 


    Over the last few decades the academic approach to interpreting history has changed dramatically.  While previous historians analyzed political, military, and institutional milestones, recent studies embrace social relations and cultural change, gender, race, religion, and economics.  This shift has opened the door to incorporating architecture and decorative arts as critical elements in writing a more comprehensive American history. More than ever, scholars are turning to landscapes, buildings, and objects to enrich their understanding of the past. This is most recognizable through the inclusion of once marginalized groups, who left far fewer written documents than they did material culture evidence of their role in shaping our culture.


    2010 Summer Institute at Pear Valley with Bernie HermanBecause of its experienced faculty, professional network, and proven track record, MESDA’s Summer Institute teaches a methodology that emphasizes “reading” material objects as historical evidence.  This object-centered approach enhances historical scholarship and brings new research questions into the open. The result is better research, better questions, and expanded professional networks: three steps to a stronger field of American material culture studies.


    MESDA’s Summer Institute has played an important role in shaping the careers of many scholars in the field of American material culture. Landmark publications written by Institute alumni include Ron Hurst’s and Jonathan Prown’s Southern Furniture, 1680–1830: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection; Maurie McInnis’s Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade; Louis P. Nelson’s The Beauty of Holiness: Anglicanism and Architecture in Colonial South Carolina; and Betsy White’s Back Country Makers: An Artisan History of Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee.


    2014 Summer Institute student Nathan Jones studying a headstone at the Thyatira Presbyterian ChurchMESDA is dedicated to ensuring that the Summer Institute meets the highest educational standards through meaningful interaction between our excellent faculty and the high caliber of students who choose to attend. Through a proven methodology, the Institute teaches an approach that informs the cultural history of the South and extends into related regions throughout America. Through its Summer Institute, MESDA is educating scholarship leaders, not followers.

  • 13 May 2015 10:14 AM | Christine R Henry

    Dear VAF members:

    Sorry for this very belated thank you for the lovely flowers you sent on Rick's passing.  They were beautiful and I was very touched.

    I hope you will keep me posted on the outcome of the scholarship competition in Rick's memory.  He would have been so pleased (though I am sure would say someone else was more deserving).

    I am also so glad he was able to attend the meeting this last fall in South County (I enjoyed it as well).  Even though exhausting, it was [editor note: missing word unfortunately not legible on original] his effort to do something he enjoyed so much.

    Thanks again,

    Ginny Greenwood

  • 13 May 2015 10:00 AM | Christine R Henry
    Congratulations to VAF member Sally Berk who has just received the Individual Lifetime Achievement award from the DC SHPO for her work in that community!  There is a press release on the DC SHPO web site about the awards and a short video about Sally's work in Washington.
  • 13 May 2015 9:30 AM | Christine R Henry

    College of William and Mary and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

    Architectural Field School, History 413/590

    June 1-July 3, 2015

    Williamsburg, Virginia

    Carl Lounsbury, Instructor

    The Colonial Williamsburg Architectural Research Department in conjunction with the College of William and Mary’s National Institute of American History and Democracy offers a five-week course this summer that is open to all undergraduate and graduate students as well as those with a special interest in early American architecture and historic preservation. The field school is intended to introduce students to the methods used in the investigation and recording of historic buildings. They will learn how to read construction technology and stylistic details to determine the age of various features, use period terminology to describe buildings, take field notes and measurements, and produce CAD drawings, which are the fundamental skills necessary to produce Historic Structure Reports. 


    Following several introductory lectures on building technology and architectural features, students will study structures in the Historic Area of Williamsburg and visit buildings in the surrounding Tidewater region. During the fourth week, students will document farmsteads, churches, and other sites in Piedmont North Carolina in preparation for the Vernacular Architecture Forum’s Annual Conference to be held in Durham, N.C. in June 2016. Students will measure, record, and describe a variety of buildings that will be seen on the conference tours. During this time, they will be in residence in the region. Back in Williamsburg for the final week, they will convert their fieldwork into measured CAD drawings write reports on their sites.


    Except for the fourth week, the class will meet four days a week, Monday through Thursday, from 10:00 to 4:30 at Bruton Heights School, the Colonial Williamsburg research campus. Students must be enrolled for the course through the College of William and Mary. For more information about the nature of the course, please email Carl Lounsbury at clounsbury@cwf.org or call (757) 220-7654. Registration information is available at the William and Mary website: http://www.wm.edu/as/niahd/summerfieldschool/index.php

  • 13 May 2015 9:15 AM | Christine R Henry

    University of New Mexico

    June 2015 Southwest Summer Institute for Preservation and Regionalism

    UNM poster 

    The 2015 Southwest Summer Institute offers stand-alone courses, which can also be taken as part of the UNM School of Architecture & Planning, Graduate Certificate in Historic Preservation and Regionalism. The transcripted six-course Certificate integrates historic preservation with contemporary design, planning and community development grounded in history, culture and place.


    Each one week, 3 credit course meets from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Friday at the UNM School of Architecture & Planning, Albuquerque, including field trips. Students complete on-line readings before the "in-class" week, and those who are taking the course for credit also complete a term project after the “in-class” week.


    Who Should Take These Courses: Students and professionals in preservation, design, planning, history, sustainability, library science and related fields, as well as the general public, who are welcome to register as non-degree students.


    Projected Tuition and Fees: $905 per undergraduate course; $1,110 per graduate course.


    For More Information: Beth Rowe, graduate student advisor, erowe@unm.edu, (505) 277-1303; Chris Wilson, HPR Director, chwilson@unm.edu; or search the internet: UNM Southwest Summer.


    Eating New Mexico: Agriculture, Food & Community Development

    CRP 470 002 / CRP 570 002 June, 8-12


     Experience the diverse flavors of New Mexico through an exploration of the working landscapes and people that produce our local food. Examine the historic and contemporary food cultures of New Mexico, from farm to fork. Students will engage critical local and national perspectives on food systems; tour farms, commercial kitchens, and restaurants; sample foods, and document the intersections of food, culture, and economy.


     Instructor: Sarah Wentzel-Fisher, editor of Edible Santa Fe, National Young Farmers Coalition organizer, and local food advocate. Tentative Guest Speakers: Seth Matlick, Vida Verde Farms; Heidi Eleftheriou, Heidi’s Jam; Celerah Rutledge, non-profit, Delicious New Mexico; Joanie Quinn, New Mexico organic educator; Cherie Austin, Farm & Table restaurant; Matt Rembe, Los Poblanos Inn.


    Preservation and Design in Traditional Communities

    ARCH 462 001 / ARCH 662 001 June 15-19


    Conflicts often arise between federally-mandated preservation standards and the cultural values of traditional communities. This course explores alternative approaches to preservation and infill design that mediate community values and participation with federal standards. Such thinking is critical to the resiliency of tribal and rural communities as well as urban ethnic enclaves in New Mexico. Students will debate thought-provoking readings covering international standards, charters, and approaches, while guest speakers and field trips will emphasize on-going initiatives in the region. 


    Instructor: Shawn Evans, AIA, Director of Preservation and Cultural Projects, Atkin Olshin Schade Architects, and James Marston Fitch Fellow. Guest speakers: Pilar Cannizzaro, NM State Historic Preservation Office; Tomasita Duran, Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority; Joseph Kunkel, Enterprise Rose Fellow at Santo Domingo Pueblo; Pat Taylor, adobe expert; Don Usner, author of numerous books on Chimayo.


    New Methods in Digital Archiving: The Plazas of New Mexico

    ARCH 462 002 / LA 512 001 June 22-26


    Introduces students to photogrammetry, 3D visualization and other innovative technologies and interactive platforms. Students will travel to Las Vegas, NM to create a three-dimensional repository of the historic plaza, and then use this to create an innovative visual, place-based interface linking to on-line historic photographs, documents and other information about the evolution of this classic environment.

    Instructors: Tim B. Castillo, Professor of Architecture and Director of UNM’s digital media Art, Research, Technology and Science Laboratory (ARTS Lab); Fred Gibbs, UNM Professor of History, leading Digital Humanities scholar; Adriane Zacmanidis, multi-media specialist, ARTS Lab. Guest Speakers: David Beining, immersive specialist, ARTS Lab, Megan Jacobs, Associate Professor of Media Arts, New Mexico Highlands University; Chris Wilson, co-editor of The Plazas of New Mexico.

    Fourth of July Fiestas parade, Bridge Street approaching the plaza, Las Vegas, July 6, 2002, by Miguel Gandert. From Wilson and Polyzoides editors, The Plazas of New Mexico.


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