Connecting the Past

I am just back from the US/ICOMOS conference “Why Does the Past Matter” at University of Massachusetts Amherst, sponsored by the University’s center for Heritage and Society. I gave a paper on our work in Weishan, as a contrast to the touristic monocultures that often engulf heritage sites in China (and made several new Chinese friends in the process).

Students working in Weishan, 2009

The conference features many archaeologists amongst its collection of heritage professionals and scholars, and I saw quite a few excellent papers and made quite a few new friends while rekindling old connections like Henry Cleere, an esteemed English colleague whom I spent a week with in the Ukraine in 2006.

Henry Cleere and Vasyl Rozhko at Tustan, 2006

One of the papers related, surprisingly, to me and to this blog, but it also related to the work of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Jeffrey Guin of the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training in Natchitoches, Louisiana gave a talk on Communicating Heritage Online. He apparently has read this blog for some time (Thank you!) and has quite an excellent site devoted not simply to disseminating heritage conservation information and insights, but fomenting conversation amongst heritage conservationists. The site is Voices of the Past and I have linked it here.

wicked cool killer Brutalist campus center where we held the conference

Jeff also opined that the National Trust’s “This Place Matters” program, where people submitted photos of the places that matter to them, was just about THE BEST use of online media by a heritage conservation organization to date. I always thought so, and I will promote doing it more as we go forward, along with the Partners in Preservation effort supported by American Express. I wrote about This Place Matters in Forum Journal last year, noting both its ability to connect directly to people and determine what buildings, sites, structures and landscapes they care about – without mediation by the professionals, as well as the nature of the resources they chose, which tended to stray far from the architectural purism favored by geeks like me. Most importantly, the contest created a level of community engagement (and democratic process) that all professionals in the heritage conservation field should envy.

the ultimate New England church in Lee, Massachusetts

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