Friday, November 2, 2012

National Trust Conference, Day 2: Native Canoes and World's Fairs

Big day at the National Trust. The only way I will complete this post is if I summarize everything ever so concisely...

Future Bing Crosby Theater, host to Conversation Starters
A special feature of this conference are the morning "Conversation Starter" sessions. These begin at 8:30, have no competing events (other than field sessions) and have a reading list provided beforehand. I missed yesterday's conversation starter, Good vs. Good on Public Lands, so made sure to catch Telling Richer Stories of Place today. Participants included Keith Magee from The National Public Housing Museum, Edgar Garcia of the City of Los Angeles; Michelle Magalong from My HiFi in Los Angeles, and Aissia Richardson of  Uptown Entertainment in Philadelphia.

It turned out that "Richer Stories of Place" meant including more non-white actors in our stories of place--which is a worthy goal. We heard a lot of interesting stories about oral histories, working with some very dilapidated properties, and trying to bridge the chasms between developers, community groups and preservationists. My favorite line from the session was when Richardson recounted how she would urge community organizations to participate in planning by telling them: "If you are not at the table, you are on the menu."

For my mid-morning session I checked out Indigenous Cultural Landscapes: New Ideas on Place. The presenters were from a variety of organizations around the Chesapeake Bay, working together on the Piscataway Cultural Landscape Initiative, which seeks to become a national model for working with native cultural landscapes. It was a fascinating and wide-ranging session. I especially appreciated Deanna Beacham's obwervations on the Park Service's 1963 Leopold Report, which advocated caring restoring public lands "to primeval wilderness." Beacham noted that "wilderness" is not even a word in native vocabularies, and called the Leopold report "profoundly ignorant" on native shaping of the North American landscape.
1968 dedication of Piscataway Park

The other great thing about the Cultural Landscapes sessions was this--they left time for and solicited audience interaction. About half the session was set aside as a conversation, and session facilitator guided what was absolutely the best audience-panel interaction I have ever seen at a conference. Well done.

At noon I checked into one of the 25 minute power sessions at the exhibit hall, this one a demonstration of the National Public Housing Museum's 3D laser scanning project. The YouTube we watched is here. The short version is that the museum, which hope to renovate an abandoned Chicago public housing project into a museum, partnered with the Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA) at the University of Birmingham to create an extraordinarily detailed 3D scan of the building, used in planning and fundraising and to give remote visitors a 3D immersive experience.

My first afternoon session was Washington's Maritime Heritage, which described the work that has gone into a proposed Washington State Maritime Heritage Area. You can read the report here. I cannot do justice to this rich session in a few sessions. The high point was seeing the blending of historic sources and GPS and other technologies that went into identifying and mapping the 2300 miles of shoreline and 500 historic properties in the initial survey.

I have been thinking about a northwest National Heritage area for some time, so I took a lot of notes. Watch this space for a future plan.

Dare the Bubbleator!
Finally, I attended Landmarks of the Future: The Heritage, Legacy and Promise of World’s Fairs. This session featured Knute Berger, author of the terrific Mossback blog as well as Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes on Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, and Bill Youngs, author of The Fair and the Falls: Spokane's Expo '74 : Transforming an American Environment. The two compared the Seattle's and Spokane's fairs in 1962 and 1974. Seattle's theme was the future and the long-term goal was to leave Seattle with the seeds of its high-tech future, such as the monorail that would eventually link the entire region, the Space Needle, and the Bubbleator. a dozen years later Spokane focused its fair on the environment, with the long-term goal of transforming a tangle of rail yards and parking lots into Riverfront Park.

Honestly I was blown away by the interest and quality of the sessions today. This is my first National Trust conference, but already I am making plans for next year, in Indianapolis.


SusanJohnsonTAC said...

Thanks for attending the Washington's Maritime Heritage session and for the good press! FYI, here's the link to the final survey report with more info on the GIS mapping integration and project in general:

Best regards,
Susan Johnson

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