Educators Convene to Share Ideas on Teaching the Next Generation in Historic Preservation

Tour of an historic building in Providence

This story came to the AIC office from Brian Clark at Roger Williams University. 

Tour of an historic building in Providence
Conference participants toured historic properties in Providence during the two-day event.

BRISTOL, R.I., Sept. 14, 2012 – How the next generation of historic preservationists is educated has profound implications across the preservation world, especially given that effective education means a greater likelihood of qualified professionals. But while the U.S. is home to an array of quality preservation programs at colleges and universities, there has been surprisingly little conversation among educators about how best to teach those who will comprise the preservation workforce in the future.

On Sept. 8 and 9, more than 75 educators from not just the U.S. – but from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Mexico and more – convened in Providence, R.I., to discuss best practices at a conference titled “Preservation Education: Sharing Best Practices and Finding Common Ground.” The conference was hosted by the School of Architecture, Art and Historic Preservation at Roger Williams University with support from Clemson University, the College of Charleston, the University of Florida and the University of Georgia.

After two days of discussion and debate, a set of key ideas emerged. Jeremy C. Wells, assistant professor of historic preservation at Roger Williams and the conference chair, says the ideas focused on everything from embracing technology and encouraging innovation to linking the built and natural environments, integrating with other disciplines and building partnerships with K-12 education, real estate professionals and more.

Wells also noted that the attendees agreed that without a more concise definition of what the “discipline” of historic preservation is, there would continue to be difficulty in defining what students should be accountable for as far as skill sets and knowledge are concerned.

“We need better understanding and consensus around our view of the world,” he said. “There is even some discomfort with the term historic preservation itself. Does preservation imply stasis – that things never change? Would conservation more accurately represent our approach? We need to envision a future in which we build consensus on these questions, among preservation practitioners and educators alike.”