As the web continues to profoundly change the way the world communicates, NCPTT is developing technologies and online content that help preservation professionals advance the future of America’s heritage at the office, or in the field.
Connecting & interacting through livestreaming
One of the ways NCPTT is reaching out to its audience and reducing costs is with livestreaming technology. NCPTT held its first live webinar on April 7 at its headquarters in Natchitoches, La. More than 120 participants from around the world viewed the presentation “Addressing Landscape Maintenance in Cemeteries” on USTREAM.tv. NCPTT’s Jason Church hosted the discussion. Participants were invited to ask questions through the USTREAM chatroom. The full video from the webinar is available for viewing on NCPTT’s website.
Following the success of the landscape webinar, NCPTT purchased a TriCaster, which is computer equipment that will empower the National Center to create professional broadcasts on par with broadcast networks. The device is portable enough that it can be used at any of NCPTT’s training locations with an internet connection. The National Center can also partner with other preservation organizations to livestream events. NCPTT has long been a host site for the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Network, a satellite-based learning system administered by the National Park Service to stream training internally. During FY2010, 33 personnel took part in 13 programs at NCPTT. Some of those participating were staff from the Cane River Creole National Historical Park and the Cane River National Heritage Area Commission and CRNHA staff.
Reaching out to deliver information instantly and interactively is a capability few preservation organizations share. NCPTT supported this goal has been supported throughout 2010 by continuing to build its presence on popular social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. It recently published the 26th episode of the Preservation Technology Podcast, which features discussions with thought leaders who are using technology in preservation. Episodes of the podcast have been downloaded a total of 15,000 times.
Life is mobile. So are we.
Recognizing that the future is indeed “mobile,” NCPTT’s media–from podcasts to blog posts–have been optimized for both web and mobile access from the beginning. Now NCPTT is taking its investment in mobile technology a step further by developing apps for preservation professionals. Features like GPS, cameras and long battery life make the popular distribution model of the Apple App Store ideally suited for historic preservation applications. Archeologists are already using iOS devices in the field with general purpose applications. NCPTT’s goal is to provide a suite of simple mobile apps and website plug-ins to help preservation professionals capture and analyze data in the field. A group of people with iOS devices can spread out to quickly document cultural resources impacted in a disaster, then converge to synchronize data amongst themselves wirelessly in the field. While mobile development projects are currently focused on Apple’s iOS platform, future plans include porting apps to the Android and Blackberry platforms.
NCPTT is currently developing an app that allows arborists and other landscape professionals to document historic trees, inventory features, assess conditions, and provide treatment recommendations. Data can be collected for metrics like caliper, height, tree form, crown, trunk, root flare, roots, overall condition, and other data such as GPS location, photographs of specific areas of interest, voice notes, and text notes. The application is approximately 60 percent complete. It will be tested at the Historic Tree Preservation Workshop in Fredericksburg, Va., at the end of November and is expected to be released to Apple for review and inclusion in the App Store by the end of December.
ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage
The Heritage Preservation asked NCPTT to look into developing an iPhone/iPod Touch app based on the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel. This cardboard guide provides information to help people salvage collections damaged by disasters. Consolidating this guide into an app brings this information to the fingertips of both collections managers and the general public. The prototype for this app was developed very quickly and is nearly complete. By the end of the calendar year it will be submitted for review and approval by Heritage Preservation.
David W. Morgan, former NCPTT Archeology and Collections chief and current Director of the NPS Southeast Archeological Center (SEAC), and Sean Clifford are collaborating on the development of an iPhone app to assess vulnerability to looting, vandalism, and other incidents. This project is based on vulnerability assessment work done with the Louisiana Army National Guard and on current paper-based assessment requirements for federally managed archeological sites.
Gaining Worldwide Web Recognition
In 2009, NCPTT converted its website to WordPress, an easy to use and modify open source content management system. All NCPTT staff members are able to easily edit and publish to the NCPTT web site. In FY2010, the NCPTT website had over 1 million visits by over 130,000 unique visitors who viewed over 6.4 million pages and downloaded tens of thousands of PDF publications. While 84 percent of visitors are from the United States, NCPTT’s site and publications continue to have international appeal. Historic American Timber Joinery: A Graphic Guide (2008-06) has been downloaded by over 1,500 people. This and other timber joinery products have received a great deal of attention from Russian preservation forums dedicated to preserving historic 19th century homes. Government Video Magazine named NCPTT its “Website of the Week” in December 2009, citing the National Center’s use of “photos, videos, podcasts and every other modern method to demonstrate [its research].” Additionally, tech blog Honeytech named NCPTT number four on its international list of “Top 10 Government Sites Powered by WordPress.”
Top 5 NCPTT Website Downloads
NCPTT’s website provides a central location to search for preservation products, and most products are downloaded electronically. NCPTT’s most-downloaded products include the following:
- Building Dry Stone Retaining Walls (2002-06) Video: 1,425 downloads
- Historic American Timber Joinery – A graphic guide (Jack Sobon) (2004-08) PDF: 1,229
- Testing the Energy Performance of Wood Windows in Cold Climates — A Report to The State of Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, Agency of Commerce and Community Development (1996-08) PDF: 822
- Walls of Stone: How to Build Drystone Walls and Rock Fences (1996-01) Video: 736
- Digital Image Analysis of Petrographic Thin Sections in Conservation Research (2004-01) PDF: 735
Additionally, 243 products were requested in hard copy over the last year and mailed to the public. These products were requested through the online product catalog, faxed order forms, and call-in requests.
In-office Computer Systems
With its increasingly public role on the web, NCPTT strives to make its in-office computer systems as secure and efficient as possible. This year the IT staff began implementing two factor authentication (2FA) on the office workstations and laptops. Two factor authentication is a security process in which the employee’s identification card can be used with a preassigned PIN code to log on to Interior Department and NPS applications and networks through a Virtual Private Network. The IT office is researching the possible purchase of equipment to enable Center IT staff to authenticate and reset Center ID cards rather than driving to Alexandria, Louisiana. This would also allow other NPS employees in the area to make the shorter trip to Natchitoches to have ID card administrative tasks performed.
The Center’s library is a significant resource for locating preservation information. Our library database currently contains 1,181 items. Over the last year, 23 new books have been added to the library:
- Greening Existing Buildings by Jerry Yudelson 2010
- Problogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett 2008
- The Southern Heirloom Garden by William C. Welch and Greg Grant 1995
- Zinc Sculpture in America 1850-1950 by Carol A. Grissom 2009
- Shaping the American Landscape by Charles Birnbaum 2009
- Understanding Green Building Guidelines by Traci Rose Rider 2009
- The Future of the Past: A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism, and Historic Preservation by Steven W. Semes 2002
- Heritage Values in Contemporary Society by Smith, Messenger, and Soderland 2010
- Shop Class as Soul Craft by Matthew Crawford 2009
- Green Building and Remodeling for Dummies by Eric Corey Freed 2008
- The Northwest Green Home Primer by Kathleen O’Brien and Kathleen Smith 2008
- Green Your Home by Jeanne Roberts 2008
- Lime and Lime Mortar by A. D. Cowper 1998
- Green Inheritance: Saving the Plants of the World by Anthony Huxley 2005
- Building Evaluation for Adaptive Reuse and Preservation by J. Stanley Rabun and Richard Kelso 2009
- Building Green by Snell and Callahan 2009
- Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog by Thord Daniel Hedengren 2010
- Architectural Conservation: An Introduction by Leo Schmidt 2008
- The Participatory Museum by Nina Simon 2010
- Stone Decay in Architectural Environment by Alice V. Turkington 2005
- Infrared Spectroscopy in Conservation Science by Michele R. Derrick. Dusan Stulic, and James M. Laundry 1999
- Specifications in Detail by Frank W. Macey 2009
- Green Restoration: Sustainable Building and Historic Homes by Aaron Lubeck 2010