Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

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Unscripted: an archaeologist’s journey into the world of film production


In my position here at BHP, I am involved in a wide variety of activities, in addition to my primary job duty, review of compliance projects in the Western Region for archaeology. Most of these activities center on keeping all the internal bits and parts of BHP moving, including processing archaeological reports for final storage in our archive, collaborating on updating our Guidelines for Archaeological Investigation, or chairing the committee on addressing our bureau storage and archive issues. All of these activities keep me entirely within my Historic Preservation, Cultural Resource Management comfort zone. Like all comfort zones, though, it can sometimes get, well, a little too comfortable. Back in the summer of 2011, looking for a change of pace, I volunteered to manage a PennDOT/Federal Highways (FHWA) mitigation project: a short film about historic bridges aimed at inspiring public interest in bridge advocacy. Did I know anything about historic bridges? Nope. Did I know anything about producing films? Nope. Did I know a great deal about public advocacy? Nope. Piece of cake, right?

Bridge_Film_PosterSo, a small team of PennDOT, FHWA, and PHMC folks, myself included, set out to make our vague mitigation directive a real live film. Slowly, with the help of Commonwealth Media Services, Brian Kreider, and Max Zug of TC Motion in Lancaster, our plan became a reality.  We made it through filming and scripting and editing– despite our ignorance and plenty of mistakes along the way! Looking back three years, the journey all but done, I can honestly say bringing this project to completion was one of the most difficult and most rewarding experiences yet from my time here at BHP. So, am I now an expert on historic bridges, film production, or public advocacy? Nope. But I have a great new perspective on what it takes to reach out to the public in a big way, a lot more practice in finding compromise, and a real appreciation for how people feel about their history. I hope all of that comes through when viewing this film.

I invite you to check out the finished product, Pennsylvania’s Historic Bridges: Connecting our Past and Future for yourself. This film is intended to inspire folks to start a conversation. To talk about the importance of historic bridges, their place in the future of our communities, and the balance between safety and history. With that in mind, we encourage you to be a critic! Post observations, questions, and respond to others here in the comments. We want to know what YOU think…

Author: Kira Heinrich

Kira Heinrich is the archaeology compliance reviewer for the Western Region. She has a Masters degree in Archaeology/Anthropology from Washington State University.

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