The Journal of the Society of College and University Planning recently produced a volume of essays highlighting campus heritage and preservation planning. The special themed edition Planning to ensure the preservation of campus heritage details the many complexities of balancing student trends, new technologies , living landscapes, adaptive re-use and nostalgia on America’s college and university campuses. Aimed at the stewardship of these campuses, this volume is the result of collaboration between SCUP and the Getty Foundation’s Campus Heritage Program.
Welcome to the Preservation Training and Technology Podcast; the show that brings you the people and projects that are advancing the future of America’s heritage. I’m Kevin Ammons with the National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. Today we join Addy Smith-Reiman as she speaks with Dr. Claire L. Turcotte, Managing Editor for Planning for Higher Education, The Journal of the Society of College and University Planning, and Project Administrator and Researcher, Getty Foundation, Campus Heritage Initiative.
Addy Smith- Reiman: Hello, and welcome to the podcast Claire. It’s great to speak with you today.
Claire L. Turcotte: It’s wonderful to see you.
ASR: I’d love to start out with a history of the project and the role of the Getty Foundation.
CLT: Well, the Getty Foundation initiated a Campus Heritage Initiative in 2002. It ended in 2007 and in the process, they, the Getty Foundation, gave away about thirteen and a half million dollars to eighty-six schools nationwide to develop preservation plans for their institutions. This included historic buildings, campus sites, and cultural landscapes. So, it was a very comprehensive scope of work. What happened was, the Getty Foundation realized wisely, that there was a tremendous amount of information in these final reports that came back to the Foundation. At the same time, we began discussing this project with the Getty Foundation and applied for seed money in 2007 to organize a project here to analyze these reports and pull out the important information and then do something with it. We had not quite figured out exactly what. So, we did receive a grant in 2007 to allow us to really organize and outline major tasks with this project. So for example, we interviewed people nationwide who are involved in preservation planning and our campuses across the country and asked them what they would like to have, whether it was a maintenance kind of manual or what. We kept hearing a searchable database, so that is what we have developed.
ASR: There is an impressive scope of work of the eighty-six institutions receiving grant funds, and I’m really intrigued by this forethought to develop the framework to disseminate the case studies to a broader audience of planners, managers, and preservationists who would continue the sharing of lessons learned and best practices. Can you explain how the collaboration materialized and how the database materialized.
CLT: Well the first effort was to obtain these final reports. The Getty Foundation forwarded them to me and some of them I obtained directly from the schools. Oftentimes, this was a difficult task because the person in charge had moved or something. I remember getting an email one winter day saying, “Aloha Claire. I’m the person you’re looking for. I have the report, “and it was from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. So I did obtain about eighty of the eighty-five reports. One school closed so the field was eighty-five and those reports are all on our website. Further, we developed a template, a one page summary, outlining the planning process that was used, the outcomes and so forth. That is useful for anyone doing research. Perhaps Addy, you’ve discovered this yourself. It was a tremendous amount of work but very rewarding as it is being used.
ASR: Now I’m wondering, can this template be used by other universities and colleges if they start addressing their preservation needs?
CLT: Well yes, and as a matter of fact, the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a professor there sent me a message saying she stumbled on this website, and her preservation planning senior level class was developing, as part of their class work, developing preservation plans in concert with the school itself, who were developing their own plans. They found, they identified twenty or so useful models for their school by virtue of either geographic location or size, and they could use the information in these reports as useful models. So it was key to their successful planning effort.
ASR: So there are really two components to the grant that you received from the Getty Foundation; one was the creation of the database which is accessible and online, and the other is this culmination of the essays that materialized in your Journal.
CLT: Exactly, but let me go into a little more detail about the website. It also is a network. We now have two hundred and seventy-one members. Anyone can join. It’s free and it also has a whole listing of resources and links to organizations such as yours for example, the National Park Service, AIA, and others. So it has a tremendous amount of resourceful material on the website. The Journal itself is a collection of some wonderful images. It’s all in color and on the inside, it does cover many aspects of preservation planning, the economic angles. There are several articles about the mid-century buildings that now are historic and many are in need of improvement and so on. So again, this is another major resource and the third thing that we are doing as another resource is we are developing a symposium. It’s kind of a culmination of all of our work as the grant winds down at the end of this year. The Journal was kind of a nice prelude to the symposium.
ASR: Now this database will be accessible on the website in perpetuity. What are the plans in the future? Can people continue to add to this database or is it really just the project itself, the information is out there and it’s available for everyone to use.
CLT: It’s available, it’s out there. We are planning to house it permanently. We have not quite decided, maybe internally, but it will be accessible to anyone over time.
ASR: Now let’s talk a little bit more about the Journal. As you said earlier, there are articles ranging from the economics to cultural landscape preservation. All seem to embody the greater goal of the project on the whole, which is, how best to integrate change while maintaining campus character. Why don’t you talk a little about some of the articles that really address that on the whole that can be a great resource for anyone out there in preservation planning on heritage campuses or any campus.
CLT: There are a great variety of wonderful articles here. One by David Newman from the University of Virginia that outlines a ranking system for example; how to prioritize, redevelopment, reuse, of some of the historic buildings and additionally the landscapes, which are sometimes a little more elusive because they are so dynamic. The University of Oregon developed a similar ranking system. Theirs was a matrix. The other important thing that we discovered in these reports and this is acknowledged in the Journal, is the idea of stewardship and in particular I think, the University of Kansas and the Cranbrook in Michigan, both of those reports address individual sites, individual gardens. The University of Kansas talks about view sheds and distances and avenues of site and the need to preserve these as the landscape changes. I have never been there but it sounds like a beautiful campus. It’s built on a ridge so the views are important. Individual gardens are important at Cranbrook. So each campus is significantly different from one another and the issues are quite different at many of these campuses. The importance of this grant initiative cannot be under estimated. There are benefits to the students as well, and the neighboring communities as they often were involved in the process. Mills College for example, comes to mind. They actually had classes for their students. The students were involved in inventorying their buildings. SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design included ninety something students in doing their inventory. So it was very beneficial to many groups and yes, the importance of the use of the US Department of Interior Standards and other guidelines by the reporting institutions and therefore; there was a common language that was useful. You know, integrated cultural landscape and so forth; this type of vocabulary. The required analysis and documentation to develop through preservation plans allows these plans to gain importance as standalone planning tools.
ASR: Now the symposium has many of the authors of the articles in the journal.
CLT: Yes, that is true. David Newman is part of this from the University of Virginia. Frank Martin who is a landscape writer and historian, and Joan Weinstein from the Getty Foundation are attending. So yes, we will have Robert Melnick from the University of Oregon and others. So we are thrilled with the response that we are getting. It promises to be another excellent resource.
ASR: Well this is a huge resource for anyone involved in preservation planning at our nations’ colleges and universities. Thank you so much for sharing this with us today.
CLT: You’re welcome. It was enjoyable.