Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Teaching Practicum: Historic Preservation Trades

I completed my teaching practicum in HP580 Historic Building Materials and Technology. If anyone has been following the History Graduate Program's Facebook page they have seen the pictures of the awesome workshops!

I taught some classes concerning the production and history of materials, such as roofing and the development of different types of siding, but my absolute favorite part was the workshops. Because of my experiences during my first AP (window restoration at Felixe Valle), second AP (5 weeks in Virginia with HistoriCorps, Institute), and an opportunity to attend the NCPTT cemetery workshop in Bardstown, Kentucky, I was able to bring these experiences and skills back to SEMO and into the classroom to educate upper-level undergraduate and graduate students.

Window Restoration Workshop:

The first workshop I taught on was on proper window restorations and repairs. Students were presented with windows made in different styles. They had to take the lessons learned in class and apply them to their window. What was broken? What caused the damage? What should be repaired? Then I taught them how to do the repairs. We discussed chemical cleaning versus steam, different glazing points types, styles, and uses. Different brands and composition of glazing materials. Tools and glass. I was able to bring real-life experiences I had to the class to answer questions, offer guidance, and teach appropriate restoration and preservation techniques. I loved the experience and moreover, the students really enjoyed it, as well!
Students work in teams on historic windows

Masonry Workshop:

The next workshop I taught was the masonry workshop. Again, prior to the workshop, I taught in class on composition of masonry units, different types of mortar, color matching, etc. At the workshop itself, we talked about the different compositions of uses of mortar. We also talked about the best way to mix mortar. Students were able to practice mortar removal, repointing, and different strikes. I made sure to explain the plethora of tools available and how to determine which tool to use on what job. The students were most surprised by the amount of water it took to wet the masonry units. They said reading about soaking the stones and actually spending forever soaking them with a hose was completely different than what they had imagined. This also allowed for a good discussion and better understanding of rising damp.

Students (and Dr. Hoffman) carefully chiseling joints to remove failing mortar

Students soaking the area with water to begin repointing

Before repointing
After repointing

Cemetery Workshop:

The final workshop I taught was the Cemetery Workshop. I spent the class prior to the workshop discussing with the students the different types of materials used in monuments and headstones, as well as the most common types in Missouri. We discussed inherent flaws, deterioration causes, and remediation methods based on the type, style, and location of the stone or monument. A key part of our discussion was the appropriate maintenance and cleaning of the stones. The workshop was held during the next class period we worked on stones, mostly marble, from the late eighteenth- to early-nineteenth-century. Using natural fiber brushes and D2 solution, students soaked, scrubbed, and rinsed the historic stones. As I had already explained, D2 takes days to reach full effect, they were surprised by hoe much difference scrubbing and rinsing the stones had made. They were proud of their work and many expressed interest in continuing in these efforts. Students also looked at different damaged or broken stones and applied their education and training to making recommendations for how to repair the stone.

Students prepare the stones for D2 by soaking them thoroughly with water

Students thoroughly scrub historic stones with natural fiber brushes

I greatly enjoyed my teaching practicum in HP580 Historic Building Materials and Technology. I think the part I loved the most was being able to bring back these preservation trades and share the knowledge with other preservationists. None of these experiences would have been possible without the aid of the amazing faculty here at Southeast or the donations of Historic Preservation Alumni to make education experiences like these possible for current Historic Preservation students.


First Impressions: Year One

     I think the most memorable part of my first year at SEMO was the people I got to know in the History department itself. Coming from a different state and not knowing a single person when I moved down here was intimidating at first, but by the first day of classes I had found some great people who were very inviting and willing to include me in whatever fun was happening in Cape. Over the course of the year, those people were more than just colleagues and fellow students, they became true friends, who I could trust with any problem. However, it does not stop with just my fellow grad students. The faculty in the History department were willing to do anything they could to make the year go smoother. All were willing to help whether you knew them or just met them in the hallways. The various departmental seminars and picnics were a great chance to get to know them on a personal basis and helped to relax the tension of grad school as the year went on.

     My plans for the summer are to go back to the state of Iowa where I have a few historic preservation jobs awaiting me. I am excited to get to work and preserve some of the historic places that have been important to me since I was young. The biggest project for the summer will be researching my thesis. I will spend much of this time happily sifting through old letters and archives in Missouri and Iowa to develop my thesis. Only a history student would love to spend the beautiful summer days locked away in an archive and reading old manuscripts. But I am sure I will make it to the river for a little kayaking and relaxation, one cannot spend all their time living in the past. I am looking forward to another year at SEMO and the chance to meet new students coming in for the new year. If next year is as entertaining, fun, and, at times, stressful in a good way as this year, it will hard to leave SEMO.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Current Experiences in the State Historical Society of Missouri

Katie Lewis came to Southeast Missouri State University in the Spring of 2017. Katie was awarded a Graduate Assistantship due to her amazing educational and professional background. In this blog, she tells us a little about her experiences here at SEMO during her first semester. 

In January, I started my Graduate Assistantship at the State Historical Society of Missouri, Research Center. Most days at the research center consist of going through old documents from the Oliver Law Firm; this is an ongoing project that the center has been working since before I started working there. When I go through the documents, I very carefully remove staples, paper clips, and other metal objects from them; by removing the metal from the documents it helps preserve the papers a little longer. Other days in the center, I get to go through old photos that have been donated to the center; most of these photos end up on the State Historical Society's online database. On our busier days, we have people that come in to do research; on these days I normally just copy documents for the researchers. When there is not much to do around the center, I spend my time reading for my classes.
So far everything is going well at the State Historical Society. I'm excited to get to learn more about the history of Missouri by working at the State Historical Society as well as how to properly archive items that we receive in the center. I cannot wait to see what the next two years have in store for me at the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Field Experience at Summerseat in Ettrick, Virginia

During the Fall 2016 semester at SEMO I had an awesome opportunity to work with HistoriCorps for five weeks gaining hands on field experience in Historic Preservation in Ettrick, Virginia. Through an agreement between Southeast Missouri State Univeristy’s Department of History and HistoriCorps Institute, funded by donations from Historic Preservation Alumni, I completed my graduate level Advanced Project in Applied History working to restore an 1860’s Italianate house. Not only was I able to meet the requirements for my AP, I was also able to earn HistoriCorps Institute’s Certificate of Achievement in Heritage Conservation and Construction. What this means is that I have the experience and skills needed to work within the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring, and Reconstructing Historic Buildings. This experience helped to expand my education with SEMO that incorporated all the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historical Documentation, Architectural and Engineering Documentation, Registration, and Preservation Planning.
Week One at Summerseat, Ettrick, VA
HistoriCorps is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to preserve historic structures on public lands in the United States by utilizing volunteer and student workers and funding provided by various types of grants. HistoriCorp began in Colorado in 2009 and quickly spread across the nation. They have since completed work on over 138 buildings and structures. The project I was involved with was the restoration on Summerseat in Ettrick, Virginia. This building is ca. 1860’s Italianate, with an elevated brick basement. There is also a two story addition, ca. 1880. The building was restored through funding provided by the Cameron Foundation, a 501(c) whose focus is on the improvement of Petersburg and the surrounding areas. Through an intricate agreement between the Cameron Foundation, Virginia State University, and Concerned Citizens of Ettrick group, HistoriCorps was contacted to restore the building for reuse. Though the final intended purpose of the building had not yet been decided by the time I had finished with project, the general hope is that the house will be used in some way to represent the mill workers and carpenters in the Ettrick area in the 1860’s. Additionally, it is one of few remaining buildings of the Ettrick Historic District, and the only one of its type.

During my time there, my direct focus was the restoration work on Summerseat, though I was afforded multiple opportunities to speak with volunteers and professionals from different backgrounds and gain a better understanding of their involvement with Historic Preservation. I made multiple connections, learned new perspectives, was educated on new resources, and interacted with historic preservation in a real world setting. I still remain in contact with many of them.
I was in Virginia for 5 weeks, working with different volunteers. Each week with HistoriCorps incorporated something new, while building on what we had learned before. Natalie Henshaw and Mike Reigert, both with fantastic credentials, were excellent in educating us on masonry. Answering questions, giving demonstrations, and supervising our work allowed all of us present to leave with a strong foundation to continue building on what we had learned while working with them.
Week One: Kira and Natalie
repoint the East elevation
Week Two: Marc Wagner gives a talk
about the Summerseat project

Week Two: Whitney repoints
the East elevation

Week Three: Ricky and Natalie
remove rotted stairs

Week Three: My beautifully
repaired windows.

Week Four: I conquered my fear of heights!
Look at those gorgeous dentals!
They were also willing to share their own professional experiences to help us understand the historic buildings trades and different opportunities in the field. I had experience in window restoration from work at the Felixe Valle State Historic Site in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. I was really happy to be able to put those skills to use working in Ettrick. Natalie was a font of knowledge on the subject and I learned even more way to handle window repairs and restoration. Dennis Moran was also very experienced and knowledgeable in his field. Dennis supervised the carpentry work being completed. He was always willing to teach us something new, answer any questions, and give advice on projects we may have in the future. Though, I did get the chance to teach him how to build a steam box. It was really a great confidence boost to be able to show someone so knowledgeable something new. Between these three, all of the students and volunteers learned a fantastic amount about project planning, management, and budgets.

In addition to training in the historic trades, we were given many opportunities to interact with professionals in the Historic Preservation field, as well as learn about the way many different groups interact and work together to fund and complete a single project. Robert Ogle, Director for HistoriCorps Institute,  was a valuable source of information on the administration side of project planning and funding. Bob was always willing to take a moment to answer questions and explain anything that was happening.
Marc Wagner, Architectural Historian for Virginia, was also an amazing person to work with. Marc asked questions about the various programs supervised in Missouri, as well helped me understand the similarities and differences in Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources. HistoriCorps worked closely with Marc, making certain the project stayed within the Standards. As the house was eligible for nomination to the National Register, work needed to stabilize and repair any damages had to be done with careful consideration to not damage the historical integrity of the building.
Week Five: The volunteers and staff in
front of (nearly) completed Summerseat

This experience with HistoriCorps provided a well-rounded experience in which I could apply previous classroom experience in documenting, interpreting, and preserving the built environment and combine it with the ability to comprehensibly articulate project planning and scheduling, and how that work could best be completed within the Secretary’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. This is just one of the many opportunities provided by Southeast Missouri State University in experiential learning.

Week Five: On my way out of town, I had to stop and
say goodbye to Summerseat!