Historic Preservation

Posted February 10, 2020
  • Joe Elliot showing Jennifer Boggs camera operation basics.

  • The 2019 Summer Institute cohort

  • Dara Epsion and Xiaoran Zhang working to reset a headstone.

Historic Preservation Summer Institute

2019 Cohort

On Monday, August 5, 2019, twenty new faces arrived at Meyerson Hall on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus. The Historic Preservation department’s new cohort was starting their Summer Institute. This experience is meant to orientate the new students to Philadelphia and its history, allow the group to bond before classes begin, and introduce the resources, skills, and issues at the center of historic preservation. The three-week-long course consisted of skill workshops, field trips, and guest lectures.

First-year student Gregory Maxwell reflects, “The Summer Institute quickly opened my eyes to the many permutations of preservation and just how far-reaching it can be… I feel that the Summer Institute has left me in a position to hit the ground running.” Workshops with a wide variety of professionals taught the students fundamental skills and knowledge they would need during their time at Penn. Stewart Varner and Laurie Allen of Price Labs for Digital Humanities presented unique tools for data mapping, digital exhibits, community archives, and text analysis. The Associate Director of Communication Within the Curriculum, Sue Weber taught methods to master effective public speaking. The basics of architectural photography were introduced by Joseph Elliott, including positions, lens optics, and manual mode operation. These skills will be incorporated into many of the program’s classes.

The incoming students were privileged to explore many sites around Philadelphia. Each field trip sought to expose a different aspect of the preservation field. Jennifer Boggs recalls, “One of my favorite excursions during the Summer Institute was Eastern State Penitentiary… A prison in ruins that uses history to touch upon modern issues in the criminal justice field can be the focus of preservation.” A favorite of Basak Siklar, Namthrata Kondam, and Dara Epison was the visit to Woodlands Cemetery, where students participated in a conservation practicum. Documentation, masonry cleaning, stone resetting, and pinning repairs were the focus of the group’s efforts throughout the day. Other field trips involved Independence National Historic Park, Society Hill, Athenaeum of Philadelphia, and Fairmount Park.

The students also benefited from numerous guest lectures that focused on preservation topics. Molly Lester discussed the importance of community engagement and how Penn Praxis created the Preservation Toolkit with the assistance of community members. Patrick Grossi, the Advocacy Director for the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, introduced students to preservation advocacy currently occurring in the city. Health and safety were the topics of Roy Ingraffia’s lecture which, highlighted different policies and regulations. Patty Guardiola and Hannah Bennett of Fisher Fine Arts Library taught the incoming students research resources, including collections, databases, and citation management software.

Although the day-to-day practical education was vital, Basak Siklar felt, “the absolute best part of the Summer Institute was getting to know the 1st year cohort as well as the wonderful faculty & alumni of the Preservation program.” The skill workshops, field trips, and guest lectures contributed to a robust three-week agenda where the students finished as “preservationists-in-training.”