For some time, Roddy Rivers, a teacher at the A. Phillip Randolph Career and Technical Center in Detroit, Michigan had wanted to introduce his students to preservation and traditional building techniques in addition to new construction. After some initial work at the school to get the preservation effort off the ground Roddy contacted The City of Detroit Historic District Advisory Board (HDAB), and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN). HDAB staff provided encouragement and offered to meet with students and to develop a “preservation field trip”. Board members and staff at MHPN had long wanted to see preservation trades taught at the high school level and had developed a working relationship with many skilled preservation crafts persons throughout the state. This relationship allowed the expedient identification and recruitment of skilled and knowledgeable instructors. A cooperative partnership was formed and the approval of a modest grant from the State Historic Preservation Office set the project in motion.
It became immediately evident that adding a new curriculum component approved at the state level department of education would be very difficult. Michigan, like every other state, has a state school bureaucracy that has a very long and difficult process for reviewing curriculum changes. The only successful example of this “top down” approach has been the Brooklyn High School of the Arts Historic Preservation Curriculum. In 1997 The World Monuments Fund enlisted Kate Burns Ottavino, Director of Preservation Technology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology to develop and implement a comprehensive high school curriculum that integrated precepts of Historic Preservation into required general education subjects at all high school levels.
After 11 years, the first students will graduate with both New York State and City of New York approved, career-endorsed technical diplomas. In Michigan, after attempts at a similar “top down” effort were frustrated, the partnership pursued a “bottom up” approach. This involved several elements and conditions coming together at Randolph CTC that resulted in a successful program implemented in one year.
The initial success at Randolph CTC hinged on several basic precepts:
- Historic Preservation was an adjunct or overlay to the existing curriculum.
- Little or no extra work was assigned to existing staff and administration.
- Students were self-selected, from those students who had selected career training in the building trades. Second, they had selected Historic Preservation as a specialty interest within their trade.
- Historic Preservation instructors were recruited and vetted for their work experience and appropriate teaching skills. They were also paid for their services.
- Students worked in the field on historic buildings performing valuable restoration work and providing a service to their community.
- There was an active partnership between governmental agencies, volunteers and organizations.
- There is a person inside the system who has the vision and passion to pursue the idea.
A year later, the Randolph School Preservation Trades Program was implemented. After the second year of continuing success, MHPN Board Member James Turner began a dialogue with the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) about documenting the Randolph School success as a model for potential use in other high school CTCs across the United States. MHPN volunteers and staff knew that there were other models and experts around the country. With funding from the NCPTT, they gathered experts from around the country to a preservation trades summit in Detroit in mid-March, 2008. The experts came from varied backgrounds and experience. Some were teaching at the community college level, others were owners of small preservation trades businesses, others had experience with high school preservation trades programs, and still others came from the preservation advocacy organizations. This guide is the result of the sometimes lively, always interesting discussion that followed.
The NCPTT grant also allowed for a follow up meeting in October in Tulsa attended not only by many of the Detroit attendees, but also several other interested and experienced preservation educators. At the Tulsa meeting, discussion centered on possible improvements to the guide and further steps to promote the effort. This document is the result.
A somewhat “in-between” program is being developed in Colorado, where High School students will be able to take Historic Preservation classes at Colorado Mountain College for dual credit toward an Associate of Applied Science degree in Historic Preservation. Generally, the more preservation education-oriented and the more official the program is, the more difficult it is to get the program introduced. A less official and less preservation education-oriented program is easier to introduce but potentially harder to sustain since it isn’t as institutionally accepted. Preservation trades training can therefore be thought of as existing on a continuum. The following chart summarizes the characteristics of programs along that continuum and shows where they are the same and where they are different.
Since this guide is aimed primarily at the educator or preservationist who wants to initiate a program, this guide will focus on how to get a preservation-oriented program introduced relatively quickly into an individual school. The program can be enhanced and strengthened over time.
To introduce a preservation trades program, this guide offers 21 steps divided into three phases—Making The Case, Implementing The Program, and Sustaining The Program.
Supplementing this guide in Appendix I is a summary of the best practices found in programs ranging from high school through four-year colleges that teach preservation trades. Appendix II is a sample of duty task sheets for the most commonly utilized trades. A sample evaluation document is included as Appendix III.