Getting Hired and the Evils of Private Property

This week’s reading raised two questions for me; How do I get hired? and How important is private property in preservation?

My first concern is in the relevance of preservation to our qualifications. Last year, I attended a “Speed Dating” night of history professionals and history students. We were exposed to different avenues that our history degrees could lead us. One of those was historical preservation and it was one of the paths that I was most intrigued by at first. Unfortunately, my interest was way-laid as I learned from the two professionals that a MAHR does not really equate to historical preservation. Both of them had Master’s of Historical Preservation and either majored or minored in architecture.

As we learned from chapter 3 of Tyler’s Historic Preservation, knowledge in architectural history is a pretty essential component to being a historic preservationist (at least professionally). I would love to work for a city or in a State Historic Preservation Office, but I’m doubting my qualifications? Tyler asserts that preservation is done either by private individuals as part of a personal crusade, or government entities. My question is…how does one make a living in this? Who is doing these jobs and can we, as MAHR students, actually get hired?

I am also contemplating the tricky issue of private property. I was disappointed in the toothless National Register “Does and Does Not” list. While it’s wonderful that the register identifies places and “encourages their preservation”, I was dismayed that it has no power to protect or guarantee preservation. In true American fashion, the Register does not, “restrict the rights of private property owners in the use, development, or sale of privately owned historic property.” (p. 49) What then is the point? If we are not going to actually fight the good fight, why bother identifying those places at all? I was particularly irked by Tyler’s assertion that “it was politically necessary to leave such control (federal government protection) out of the original act.” (p. 50) I’m exposing my radicalism, but I believe that once artifacts and places mature past a certain point, they should enter into the public domain and should be removed from private ownership in order to be enjoyed by all. It is no different than classic literature.

I know. That will never happen. But I’d like to see preservation have a little more punch and power. Had we had that in Boise, we might not have lost so many fantastic historic buildings downtown to the gharish mall renovation in the 1970’s or seen so much gentrification and renconstruction of historic districts like the North End or Warm Springs.

2 thoughts on “Getting Hired and the Evils of Private Property”

  1. I’m intrigued to see how Dr. Madsen-Brooks will respond to your employment and preservation question.

    I don’t have any sort of evidence to back what I’m about to say, but I still think you could easily get a job in historic preservation with a MAHR. Sure you might have to take some architecture crash courses & do a little bit of networking, but at this point in your career you’ve proven that you have the skills required to seek and interpret historical information. Don’t let architects scare you!

    I think the problem with the “public domain” thing might be trying to find the funds to keep the buildings maintained after they become a public entity. Alas, it always comes down to the money. ☹

  2. The architecture crash course was exactly what I was thinking as a possible way to apply an MAHR degree to preservation work. Or perhaps a preservation field school? These tend to be more hands on about the science/technology of preservation, similar to how an archaeology field school is a way to get hands-on in an actual professional experience. Surely not every preservationist is a city planner or architectural historian…

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