Architectural Conservation Lab

Vanishing Treasures: A Technical Preservation Needs Assessment and Training Strategy

There is a growing crisis of traditional building craft skills at the global scale, accompanied by a critical knowledge and skills gap between trade schools and graduate conservation programs. Conservation is not taught in the former, and technical hand skills are not sufficiently taught in the latter, resulting in a practical and crucial skills gap in the conservation workforce. To address that gap, the Architectural Conservation Laboratory (ACL) is developing a preservation training strategy to guide the technical preservation of cultural resources in the National Park Service’s Vanishing Treasures Program. This project is the latest in the long relationship between the ACL, the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit – Colorado Plateau, and the National Park Service (NPS).

This research is already seeing practical application, as it is incorporated into the first phase of a cyclical three-year training curriculum for NPS staff. The curriculum creates a clear learning trajectory, offering a pragmatic introduction to the foundation principles, history, and methodologies of preservation practice. The ultimate goal of the project and partnership is to build a more knowledgeable and skilled workforce that is well-versed in the principles and practices of conservation.

ACL team members began by assessing the state of technical preservation training needs internationally, evaluating preservation training opportunities available to NPS staff and querying NPS employees about the priority preservation needs of park cultural resources and staff. They collected data using publicly-available and government-secure sources and solicited input from NPS staff through an online questionnaire and interviews.

Based on the findings of this research scan, team members have developed a cohesive Vanishing Treasures Technical Preservation Training Curriculum that responds to the current NPS employment structure and the need for in-house education and training. The curriculum’s courses focus on methodologies of technical preservation and examine the building materials and construction technologies of the traditionally-built cultural resources within Vanishing Treasures parks. 


Erin Gibbs, University of Pennsylvania


Frank G. Matero, Chair, the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, Gonick Family Professor
Kecia L. Fong, Lecturer, Editor, Change Over Time