We all know that summer is a great time to kick back and relax, and it’s even better when you can do so while hanging out at the State Museum of Pennsylvania with your friends and learning some interesting stuff at the 2015 Statewide Conference on Heritage. There was so much going on, and so much to see and do, that I thought perhaps our readers would like a recap of the conference highlights.
The Stats: 3 days, 200 people, 17 sessions, 4 field trips, and 1 great birthday party for the State Museum Complex. Preservation Pennsylvania, as the conference organizers, did an amazing job with everything – the conference sessions, logistics, last minute tech troubles, and opening reception after the plenary Thursday afternoon. PHMC (the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission), PennDOT (the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation), and PA DCNR (Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources), as the planning partners, lent a hand organizing the sessions, mobile workshops, and any number of other tasks.
The Place: The conference was held in the State Museum of Pennsylvania, and that alone was a reason to go! Not only did this provide a somewhat central meeting place in the state, it gave everyone a chance to celebrate the Museum’s 50th Birthday and tour its many interesting spaces. The plenary session by PHMC’s own Andrea Lowery showcased the Museum’s Mid-Century Modern aesthetic and the challenges of its preservation. Many attendees commented that they hadn’t been through all of the exhibits since they were kids (or their kids were kids)! The State Museum Complex even got its own “This Place Matters” photo!
The Sessions: So many sessions, and so little time! And not just lectures, either – in addition to the traditional speaker-oriented sessions, the conference offered a number of field trips like one day-long trip to Michaux State Forest to learn about the great work being done by the South Mountain partnership or the tour of the buildings and beautiful landscape of the Harrisburg State Hospital. BHP staff gave a two-part Cultural Resources Essentials workshop on Wednesday covering great topics like the importance of public involvement in the Section 106 process, the soon-to-be released new Historic District guidance, and using CRGIS when working in historic districts.
There were so many types of sessions from crowdsourcing with Mod Betty (the internet sensation that makes great videos about cool vintage places) to transportation planning for historic communities with PennDOT’s newly-appointed Secretary Leslie Richards. Conference goers on Friday morning were treated to an open conversation with BHP’s Deputy SHPO Serena Bellew and Preservation Pennsylvania’s Mindy Crawford about preservation hot topics. While all of the sessions were well attended, BHP’s session on Meaningful Mitigation and Historic Landscapes were huge hits in terms of number of attendees. There were even a one or two “Just For Fun” sessions, particularly Preservation Pennsylvania’s “What Kind of Preservationist Are You,” with a personality quiz (rather un-scientific but enjoyable nonetheless) and some great conversation about why we do what we do and how we do it.
The Parties: What is a conference without some networking and fun-filled social hours? Preservationists know how to have a good time, and there was no shortage of opportunities. On Wednesday night, attendees were invited to attend a preservation Meet-Up at Millworks, a brewery/restaurant – and recent rehabilitation tax credit project! – in Harrisburg. On Thursday, attendees got to enjoy delicious hors d’oeurves and drinks during the “Mad Men” Reception in Memorial Hall in between touring the museum with PHMC architect Andrea Lowery and a visit to the Planetarium.
If you didn’t have a chance to attend the conference or you would like to catch up on some sessions you may have missed, PCN (Pennsylvania Cable Network) will be broadcasting portions of the conference on Friday July 24 at 1pm.