From June 14-16, Preservation Pennsylvania and its partners hosted 2017’s Statewide Conference on Heritage in delightful downtown Carlisle with the theme Community Connections: Stories, Places, and Ideas that Matter. Read on ICYMI!
This year’s conference explored many of the ideas and perspectives that exist at the heart of the intersection between our valued small communities and our larger preservation goals for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If you weren’t able to attend the conference or missed a session you wanted to get to, take a look at this page on the conference website where many of the conference presentations have been uploaded.
From presentations by celebrated Pennsylvania muralists Ophelia M. Chambliss and James Gloria that highlighted the power of placemaking in the cultivation of community pride and culture, to sessions exploring the successes and pitfalls of Section 106 consultations, this year’s conference embraced Pennsylvanians’ authentic stories of preservation to recognize how they all contribute to the charming patchwork of community experiences that make the culture of Pennsylvania one that is worth our efforts to preserve.
In accordance with the theme Community Connections: Stories, Places, and Ideas that Matter, the 2017 Statewide Conference on Heritage sought to provide conference attendees with a plethora of opportunities to build relationships with the historic downtown landscape of the city of Carlisle, its local businesses and institutions, and its residents.
In planning the conference setting, organizers pursued venues of historic value located in the heart of the community. From spaces in beautifully restored buildings at historic Dickinson College, to the actively used circa 1939 Carlisle Theatre, and the inviting Cumberland County Historical Society, the backdrop of the conference allowed attendees to interact with the vibrant historic culture of the city of Carlisle.
Walking and bus tours throughout the Cumberland Valley region also allowed conference attendees to relate with the local culture. Bus tours of the Carlisle Indian School, led by Barbara Landis, and of the Cumberland Valley, hosted by the South Mountain Partnership, provided conference attendees with the opportunity to learn about the larger region, while focused walking tours of the city of Carlisle offered participants the chance to become more intimately acquainted with the culture of their historic host city.
In addition to embracing the downtown and regional places of Carlisle and the Cumberland Valley, the gathering of statewide preservationists and stakeholders took time to share and discuss a few of Pennsylvania’s important stories.
Dickinson College’s Waidner-Spahr Library graciously opened their Archives and Special Collections to conference attendees to supplement the stories told in the various walking and bus tours, and sessions related to telling difficult stories, preserving underrepresented sites – such as historic African American cemeteries – and examinations of historic trends in domestic modern architecture, amongst other conference sessions, served as effective vehicles to communicate different stories of Pennsylvania’s culture to conference participants.
This year’s schedule also included a free open-to-the-public Community Conversation on Preservation event to talk with PA SHPO’s Director Andrea MacDonald and Preservation PA’s Executive Director Mindy Crawford about historic preservation, local concerns and issues, and how to keep the momentum going.
The conference also harnessed the inherent creative abilities of the Commonwealth’s historic preservation community. Through sessions like “Help Us Help You! Community and Public Involvement, Transportation, and Preservation,” “PA Conservation Heritage Project and Opportunities to Inspire Conservation Leadership and Stewardship,” and “Getting the Public Involved: Down and Dirty Hands-on Programs,” attending preservationists had the opportunity to discover the creative skills of their peers.
With the “Preservation Generation: How Young Preservation Organizations are Training Tomorrow’s Preservationists” session, the conference also capitalized upon the opportunity to highlight the burgeoning Young Preservationist movement (which was introduced to our readers in a previous blog post that you can review here!) This session underlined the wealth of preservation ideas and the amount of grassroots energy that is produced by groups like the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh and the Young Friends of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.
Furthermore, conference attendees had the opportunity to engage creatively with a future adaptive reuse project in its earliest stages by exploring Carlisle’s historic Odd Fellows Hall – a building formerly used by the Odd Fellows fraternal organization and previously open only to members who could provide the secret password! Unused since the 1990s, some of Pennsylvania’s preservationists got chance to exercise their creative muscles to reimagine an important cultural site in downtown Carlisle by offering real suggestions for the future of the lofty space.
Watch for a blog post in the upcoming weeks to see what everyone had to save about re-using this historic gem!
In addition to the hard work of the staff of Preservation Pennsylvania, the conference’s gracious sponsors made it possible for Pennsylvania’s preservation community to “think, act, and interact” with both historic Carlisle and the larger preservation landscape of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a huge thank you goes out to both them and the host city for their generosity!
The support of conference sponsors, conference attendees, and downtown Carlisle came together to form a great backdrop for all those who participated in this year’s Statewide Conference on Heritage to embrace plenary speaker Mimi Iijima’s definition of culture – “Culture is the way we think, act, and interact” – and crafted a setting in which preservation-related discussions and ideas could thrive.