This lecture is part of the National Council for Preservation Education meeting held July 15-16, 2014 in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
All Preservation is Local, Except…: Reflections on Conducting Preservation Coursework Abroad by Jeffrey M. Chusid, Cornell University
Many students want to travel internationally as part of their education, and preservation students are rarely an exception. But if “all preservation is local,” what does that imply for the validity or “authenticity” of coursework that places students abroad, in a learning environment that typically has culturally distinct (and unfamiliar) resources and clients? What kind of preparation is required before a trip, and what level of direction should happen on site? And what expectations should there be for the results?
I have conducted preservation studios or workshops in Fiji, India, Ukraine, and Bosnia (as well as in Texas, California, Louisiana, and New York), beginning before I truly understood the implications of what I was doing and continuing for several decades during which time my sense of what foreign travel means and who benefits has evolved. Discussing several of these trips briefly, I will explore how the already well-known challenges and opportunities of service learning are magnified in an international setting, and suggest how the lessons students learn abroad can be applied at home. Of course, an additional wrinkle is the growing percentage of students in US preservation programs who are doing this in reverse: for them, studying preservation abroad means coming here. Traveling with multi-national teams adds more interesting perspectives to the questions raised above. Some of the specific issues I will touch upon include identifying stakeholders abroad, leaving a meaningful product, negotiating local politics, and crafting the educational experience for the students.