This summer I worked as a Research Fellow for the Center for Architectural Conservation (CAC) at Fort Union National Monument in New Mexico and Wupatki National Monument in Arizona.
Fort Union is a 19th century US military fort consisting of remnants of adobe walls from over thirty structures. In response to increased deterioration due to climate change, the CAC has developed a framework to identify and monitor site vulnerability, in order to inform treatment and contribute to a site preservation and management plan. Our team documented the adobe walls to digitally annotate existing HABS drawings, which will complete the architectural data section of the park’s Historic Structure Report. We also worked with the staff at Fort Union to develop a pilot documentation program of the most at-risk walls. The adobe walls at Fort Union are shelter coated, which reduces surface erosion of the adobe bricks. While the shelter coats protect the adobe beneath, they also conceal the condition of the adobe, so assessment of the walls cannot be done until the shelter coat is removed. As such, we removed the shelter coat from one high-risk wall, which allowed us to complete a graphic conditions survey of the adobe construction and test and record the process of shelter coat removal and reapplication.
At Wupatki National Monument, our team worked at Wupatki Pueblo, which dates to ca.1100. Our team launched a Rapid Assessment Survey (RAS) of the masonry walls in the Pueblo, the data from which will be analyzed to identify the most at-risk walls. The park staff plans to implement the RAS and ultimately transition to a preventive conservation approach rather than a reactive one. We also laser scanned the Pueblo to produce a 3D point cloud, which will be used to update the existing site map. Lastly, we developed and tested a methodology for recording conditions of each wall and worked with the park staff to refine the process.
My experience at Fort Union and Wupatki taught me how to systematically assess built heritage at sites with large amounts of architectural resources and how to analyze that data to improve the sites’ conservation and management methodology. I had the opportunity to work with and learn from National Park Service staff including archaeologists, architects, and conservation crew members. At Wupatki, I worked alongside engineers from the University of Minho, Portugal and collaborated with members of the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps. I learned how to perform graphic conditions surveys and use a laser scanner, honed my photography and AutoCAD skills, and became proficient in Agisoft Metashape. The knowledge and skills I learned from Building Pathology (HSPV 551), Conservation Science (HSPV 555), Theories (HSPV 660), Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites and Landscapes (HSPV 747), Digital Media (HSPV 624), and Documentation II (HSPV 601) were invaluable and prepared me for working in the field. I relished the opportunity to work in a region of the United States so unlike the East Coast, which exposed me to a climate and architecture that I have not experienced before.