The project work, especially the success of the Workshop, has confirmed that there is not only a need for this kind of training but that professionals of varied backgrounds and professional responsibilities are eager to have opportunities for such training. In addition, it was clear from conversations at the Workshop and evaluations of the Workshop that attendees valued the rare opportunity to meet with and share expertise with a wide range of people interested in historic preservation. A recommendation arising from this project is that more conferences be held to educate people on restoration methods for historic metals, making sure that advertising and recruiting draw from the varied constituencies interested in and responsible for historic preservation of metal structures, bringing together contractors and engineers, historians and blacksmiths, government officials and people interested in saving the historical record of bridges and other metal structures. This suggestion includes a strong recommendation that hands-on demonstrations and opportunities for participants to handle equipment and experience the restoration methods firsthand be included.
It is worth noting that the success of the project was greatly enhanced by the excellent facilities at LCC’s West Campus that included full conference services and a state-of-the-art welding facility, by outstanding instructors and professional support staff who engaged in regular training and planning throughout the grant year, and by professional film/videographers with an award-winning record in producing high quality media. Also important to the project’s success was the involvement of an advisory committee during the proposal writing stage and beyond, and the selection of external speakers for the Workshop who brought direct experience with the restoration of historic metal structures to their presentations. Speakers and advisory committee members were drawn from across the United States. Finally, the grant period of 16 months (March 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010), rather than 12 months, contributed to the success of the entire project and to a natural pacing for completion of its component parts, especially within the calendar of an academic institution.
Training in metals restoration methods requires ongoing research into effective and feasible practices, especially regarding those methods that are least familiar to most engineers and other decision makers. As a result of discussions and conversations at the March 2010 Workshop, specific areas for future research were identified, including a comparison of rivets and bolts in restoration work (effectiveness, cost, etc.) and the testing of wrought iron repaired with various welding processes. Research could be carried out as a collaboration between a research university and the community college.
In a letter of support for this project, David A. Simmons, President of the Ohio Historic Bridge Association, Ohio, wrote: “There is an urgent need for the type of expertise covered by your proposed workshop on historic metal restoration techniques. Too often, if a metal truss bridge is saved from demolition, it must then face inappropriate preservation techniques from well intentioned but misinformed engineers and general contractors. Over the three decades I have been involved in historic bridge preservation, I have seen the unfortunate use of these techniques time and time again. You are working to regain what many in the engineering and contracting worlds had assumed was lost. It is an extremely important effort.” The grant from the NCPTT, with matching funds from Lansing Community College, has supported the effort to educate people in a variety of appropriate techniques for the restoration of historic metals. In order to sustain this effort beyond the grant-funded period, plans are already underway to organize and raise funds for a Conference in March 2011 to be sponsored by Lansing Community College, designed to offer something new to those who attended the NCPTT-LCC March 2010 Workshop and also to introduce additional people to the restoration methods featured in this project. The goal is to make this an annual event, providing leadership in metals restoration for historic preservation.