Tag Archives: heritage

Carla Bruni provides levity, and rich preservation content for broad audiences

SAIC Alumni Profiles: Carla Bruni (MS 2008) from SAIC on Vimeo.

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An inclusive approach to historic preservation outreach, coming up on this edition of Voices of the Past. #00:00:50.7#

Welcome to Voices of the Past. The show that helps you connect to — and advocate for — heritage. I’m Jeff Guin.

I want to start this show with an invitation to share your questions and success stories on the website. Connect by visiting us at voicesofthepast.org and comment there, or look for your favorite social network at the top of the page. Or you can click the “send voicemail” tab on the right side to share your thoughts and questions directly from your browser .

Speaking of heritage success stories, I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with Carla Bruni. Carla is a historic preservationist who is author of two blogs. She’s also a good friend and supporter of Voices of the Past. We’re going to talk about her latest blog, BuildingRevival.com [NOW INACTIVE], which explores ways to make historic preservation more accessible to the public. I know of few people who articulate the challenges and opportunities in that arena more effectively. Here’s that interview …

[INTERVIEW] #00:01:45.1#

Guin: Carla, you’ve been on Voices of the Past before, featured in a blog post. What are you up to these days? #00:02:07.7#

Bruni: Last time I was talking about my blog “The Green Preservationist,” which I’ve had going on for a few years now. There’s a few things I learned writing that blog that made me want to create a new website called BuildingRevival.com [site dep. I talk a lot about sustainability in preservation. I’ve been concerned for a long time about those topics and wanted to focus on growing a preservation audience. Preservation is kind of a dirty word in some circles. I wanted to change that and not necessarily call it preservation but at the same time encourage preservationist thinking by simply talking about vintage buildings and how things used to be done and making them more fun and positive. Think of it as being “sneaky preservation” in the way that we’re targeting an audience that doesn’t realize they’re preservationists but they are compelled to preserve regardless. #00:03:11.1#

Guin: What kind of content can people find on your site? #00:03:13.5#

Bruni: We have things like a fun style guide so you can figure out what different parts of your building are called. We want to talk about what the general styles of buildings are in the first place so people can get interested and understand better where they are living and connect more to it. We have a series called “Barn Porn” that people seem to think is fun. We take or find pictures of beautiful barns in all different parts of the country from different time periods. We come up with sort of playmates profiles that we call “HayMates.” This is to help people look at architecture and not just see rotting buildings, but something that can be fun and sexy from a certain point of view. We just want people to care about buildings again. #00:04:12.6#

Guin: Sounds like a great educational tool, and possibly even a heritage education model. #00:04:25.4#

Bruni: It’s kind of like when you hear people say, “when you’re walking down the street, just look up.” Nobody does, but the cornice tends to be the most beautiful part of the building. We just don’t pay attention. We want to do that with kids as well, who don’t notice buildings that much and don’t really have an opportunity to learn about them or understand the materials. It kind of like “Preservation Lite” in that way. It’s introductory, but at the same time we have hundreds of resources on the site. Technical and otherwise. I’ve heard there are people from the National Trust reading it now. And I’ve heard lots of stories of the content cracking people up at work, which makes me really happy because preservation offices can sometimes be kind of sad places. Things go wrong a lot. So it provides levity while providing rich resources. If you want to know how landmark your house or know how to properly repoint a building, that’s also on the website. #00:05:50.2#

Guin: You have a collaborator on this website … #00:05:50.2#

Bruni: Elisabeth Logman is my collaborator. She’s done a lot of landmarking. She’s also a masonry and mortar expert. We went through the same graduate program a couple of years apart but became friends through our common need to proselytize preservation and still smile. #00:06:12.2#

Guin: Where are you taking the site? #00:06:15.3#

Bruni: Elisabeth designed the site and it’s the first website she’s done with this kind of depth. We’re always tweaking it–always trying to get feedback on the content–what’s working, what’s not. Looking at our stats and figuring out what stories people are responding to. We’re on Facebook and tweeting now with the “building revival” brand. I’m playing around with the social media part of it, trying to figure out what to post where. Am I posting the same things on Facebook as I am Twitter? Is there a point of doing that? We’re trying to study who our audience really is and how to grow it. #00:07:23.5#

Guin: Do you have any particular kinds of partnerships you are looking for with the site? #00:07:26.8#

Bruni: We want preservation organizations to participate. We also have a lot of stuff about green building and sustainability. We even have content about canning and composting in your home, so we have a really broad scope. That’s something I wanted to change after Green Preservationist because I had some people from green building interacting, but it was mostly preservationists. We’re willing to partner with anyone who cares about old buildings and has anything to do with them and the space in and around them–that we don’t find unethical or frustrating. Probably not window salesmen! #00:08:26.9#

Guin: Does this replace the Green Preservationist blog? #00:08:29.6#

Bruni: Green Preservationist is more technical and specifically geared toward green building people, preservation, and people working specifically in the field. For Building Revival, we’re targeting a really general audience. People like my friends who have nothing to do with architecture and normally bore them to tears over beer talking about these things. I find them liking these stories online and engaged with the content of the site. #00:09:11.3#

Guin: I love how you integrate topics of vice into your blog posts–porn is a very popular term, and the key to one of your most popular posts on Green Preservationist. #00:09:25.4#

Bruni: Absolutely! To be clear, it was about “ruin porn”–architecture. But I swear we got most of those hits from people searching porn online. I’m aware of that and I’m fine with exploiting that as long as it gets people reading things that I think are important. #00:09:50.6#

Guin: Did you coin that term? #00:09:50.6#

Bruni: No. Ruin porn as been around for a few years. “Barn Porn” was Elisabeth’s brainchild. Barn porn sounds good to the ear–the vowels hit right, it’s fun and everyone giggles when we say it. That’s what it’s about. We work in a pretty tough field where we tend to be on the defensive about what we do. Everyone needs to laugh a little more and have fun with it. #00:10:22.8#

Guin: You can defuse some of the spirited debate or at least give it a more positive spin when you apply humor. #00:10:31.3#

Bruni: It terms of sustainability, it’s not just growing an audience. I know a lot of people who were in the preservation field and are now librarians. One person I know is a yoga teacher. People can burn out in this field. It makes me happy to hear people are enjoying the content. #00:11:20.4#

Guin: You do a lot of consulting, correct? #00:11:20.4#

Bruni: I do a lot of educational programming. I do a lot of work with the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association. I’m working on another project with the U.S. EPA. I’ve done a lot of work with the Chicago Department of Environment, working on their green rating system trying to make it more preservation friendly. I do landmarking as well. I consult homeowners privately sometimes to help them make their homes more sustainable. I help them put a plan together to prioritize what they’re doing to make sure they don’t throw their money out the window. My focus in graduate school was greening historic properties. At the time it was a challenge, but now it’s everywhere. It got me on the right path working with environmental groups–some really smart, innovative people. I’ve been working on the environmental side to help push the preservation agenda through that way. I find that seems to work better than pushing the environmental agenda through on the preservation side sometimes. Things have changed a lot over the past few years. We’re learning more about passive houses now to use historic homes and implement more of those practices. #00:13:02.2#

Guin: What’s your grand vision for making preservation tangible and practical to everyone? #00:13:07.5#

Bruni: I think its just about collaboration. We’ve been a bit of an island. First I saw it in terms of we need to be friends with the green building advocates and professionals. But it goes beyond that. One key we can take from the green building movement is they are very adamant about involving engineers and landscape architects and designers–everyone on the ground level when they’re planning something. I think we need to be more mindful of that too. Planting trees around that historic house is extremely important. How can we reach out to different groups and be really integrated with that instead of our own specialty field? I know we can make more money specializing but I think the effect is that we come off as inaccessible and sometimes a little elitist. It’s a stigma that we need to continue to combat. #00:14:12.1#

Guin: The fact is that everyday folks can do as well for their historic homes even if they can’t necessarily afford a professional. #00:14:24.1#

Bruni: Just showing how easy it is to fix your boiler and tune things up–little easy fixes so things aren’t so intimidating that we want to rip them out and replace them with things that are supposed to be easier to maintain but often are not. They’re just newer looking. Breaking down a lot of that lore that surrounds old things that are “just so hard to deal with.” They’re generally not; they’re usually a lot easier to maintain because they were built to last for a much longer period of time. #00:15:09.1#

Guin: Tell us again how people can connect with you. #00:15:09.9#

Bruni: The website is BuildingRevival.com. Folks are still welcome to check out greenpreservationist.org. Twitter account is “buildingrevival.” Facebook is also “buildingrevival.” #00:15:37.5#

Guin: There’s branding for you! So if we google “building revival” we’ll probably run across you.” #00:15:49.5#

Bruni: I sure hope so! #00:16:01.1#

 

Related Links:

Building Green Bridges and Fostering Pride

Carla on Twitter

 

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The Earth Pyramid: Giving the world a chance to become a part of history

By Steve Ward

The Earth Pyramid project was started nearly three years ago with the aim of creating a monument that will get the world looking at the future of our planet and create a platform for discussing the many global issues this generation will be facing. This new pyramid will hold contributions from every government, indigenous peoples and all the world’s children in designated chambers within the structure. Once gathered, these contributions will be sealed within the pyramid for 1,000 years to be opened by people in the next millennium.

Although ambitious, the venture has gained the support of Nobel peace laureates Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu and President José Manuel Ramos-Horta as well as having 25 governments interested in participating.

Creating a new pyramid (at 50m high) is obviously a lofty goal but French architect and pyramid expert Jean Pierre Houdin has lent his support and advice to the project and the whole venture is starting to gather support from leading experts within the construction industry. Building the pyramid using a mixture of ancient and new technology will make for a fascinating build and go some way to answering the many questions that still exist regarding how the great pyramids were built.

The location of the pyramid will be decided by a global vote with one school from every country participating. This will not only give children from around the world a chance to connect, it will offer a chance to learn about the world’s nations and the issues they are facing.  This approach to deciding its location will also mean that the finished pyramid will be constructed in a country where it can do some good with regards to raising awareness of its pressing issues and generating funds to tackle them.

With so many different aspects to the Earth Pyramid it was decided that social media would be the way to get projects goals across and Bradford University’s SCHIM department has been working on a series of videos about the pyramid project with some leading experts participating in them. These videos are now on the project’s YouTube channel and more will be added to as the venture progresses. Twitter and Facebook are currently being used to keep followers of the project informed of new developments and with plans to develop a “Virtual Pyramid “ where anyone can have their thoughts recorded in a digital format (for eventual storage within the pyramid) social media will pay a big part in the projects progression.

The Earth Pyramid now needs to gather support from a wider audience and to do this we need people to start discussing the venture and it’s potential. The website has all the social media details.

Alltop.com adds Voices of the Past to its Social Media Page. Sweet!

For a while now I’ve used Alltop to keep up with the thought leadership in the online world. I never imagined that Voices of the Past would be added to it.

But there we are! On the Social Media page with folks like Mashable, Chris Brogan, Liz Strauss and a host of other greats. That alone is incredibly awesome, but check out the neat badges they give you when you get picked 😉

Since this is a resource I routinely use, and believe you can benefit from as well, I’ve added a widget in the Voices of the Past sidebar where you can view the latest headlines from other social media blogs they feature.

If you aren’t familiar with Alltop, it’s an online directory that aggregates the latest headlines from top blogs and organizes them topically. You get all the news on each topic, at-a-glance, without having to browse individually to each website. It’s best described as a digital magazine rack of the Internet. You can then hover over the title of a post to read the first sentences and click to visit the blog. You can even create your own personal page with blogs that you pick.

It was founded by Guy Kawasaki who is best known as the original chief evangelist at Apple. Guy is a venture capitalist, and well-known author. In fact, I recently read (and am currently re-reading) his latest book “Enchantment” and highly recommend it for folks who want to create a presence people will remember, online and off.

THANK YOU to the folks at Alltop for giving major props to the heritage field by choosing Voices of the Past for their social media page. The heritage crowd is accomplishing incredibly creative things online these days. So proud to be an annalist for that legacy.

 

Can you help this heritage project? Preserving Nicholson’s Past by Renovating and Restoring 1849 Railroad Station into a Community Center

nicholson teaser

UPDATE:  Great news! The Nicholson Heritage Association purchased this station in June 2012. The next step is a feasibility study and the Association is waiting to hear back on whether or not they received a state grant to assist with this phase of the project. More information can be accessed at:  www.nicholsonstation.org

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The town of Nicholson, Pennsylvania is like many rural towns across America, hit hard by the migration of residents to cities and urban areas. At one time, small dairy farms surrounded this borough. Now, there are only a few farms left. While the permanent population hit an all-time high in 1940 at a little over 1,000 residents, it is now less than 700. U.S. Census Bureau population statistics for Nicholson since 1880 are captured below:

Nicholson PA Population
Nicholson PA Population
Station around the turn of the 20th Century
Station around the turn of the 20th Century

As someone who grew up in this small town, I myself now live and work in the Washington, DC metro area. Even so, Nicholson is still my hometown and there are many fond memories of summers spent mowing neighbor’s lawns, winters shoveling snow, afternoons after school delivering newspapers on my bicycle, and Friday nights and Saturdays working at the local grocery store. I still go home often to visit family. This project is one way for me to give back to my community.

In 2009, I contacted the Chair of the Nicholson Heritage Association, Marion Sweet, to offer my assistance and we’ve been working hard ever since! The Nicholson Heritage Association was founded as a non-profit organization in 1989 to organize the 75th Anniversary of the Nicholson Bridge and is dedicated to the historical preservation of Nicholson, PA. Not only can we preserve Nicholson’s past by renovating and restoring the former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) station into a community center, we can revitalize the town and the region at the same time.

Station in 2010
Station in 2010

History abounds in Nicholson, from the American Indians that lived and traveled here to the coming of the railroad and trolley that opened Nicholson to the rest of the region. Building a rail line in Nicholson forever changed the community as it connected people, commerce, and trade. In May 1878, the first telephone service in Northeastern Pennsylvania connected the Nicholson station to the DL&W Scranton station. In 1855, the local United States Post Office moved from the edge of the settlement to the Nicholson station.

With the completion of the Clarks Summit-Hallstead Cut-off in 1915, passenger service was provided out of the station next to the then just completed Nicholson Bridge, or Tunkhannock Viaduct, a half mile long reinforced concrete bridge that was the eighth wonder of the world when completed. After 1915, the station handled all freight, including after the merger of the DL&W with the Erie Railroad to become the Erie Lackawanna Railroad (EL). Due to financial hardship, the EL permanently closed the station in 1971 and only managed to survive until 1976 before being absorbed by Consolidated Rail (Conrail) in 1976.

Purpose of the Initiative
The Nicholson Heritage Association wants to renovate and restore the more than 160 year old historic railroad station into an innovative community center to encourage revitalization of the local and regional economy. We also believe that this community center will have a positive impact on the small town of Nicholson and the surrounding region by providing a place for residents to gather, as well as a local/regional museum for visitors.

Moreover, we want to encourage innovative partnerships and approaches to the historic preservation of this station, which was previously the center of the community, with local, state, and federal partners and other organizations. By working together, we can preserve this historical, cultural building and promote economic development within our region.

Right now, we are in the running for a Pepsi Refresh Project grant, but we need votes to win. You can vote for the project at http://www.refresheverything.com/revitalizeruraltown, up to ten projects once each day throughout the month of January. You can also vote by texting 105508 to Pepsi at 73774. We need your daily votes, one each by visiting the Web site and sending a text, to ensure that this preservation project gets funded and not left behind. Remember: VOTE daily, spread the word by telling your family and friends, post on your Facebook status, or even send a Tweet!

Moving Forward: Ideas Welcome!
At the moment, we are focused on the Pepsi Refresh Project, but voting will end on January 31, 2011. No matter the outcome, we will move forward to make this project a reality. Not only have we set up a website to get the word out about us and all our initiatives at www.nicholsonheritage.org, we also created a Facebook page and a Twitter account @NichlsonHertige. Moreover, we reached out to railroad historical societies and historical preservation organizations.

What else would you suggest? Do you have any ideas on how else to move forward, get the word out, and get individuals, not just in Nicholson, involved?

Besides this initiative, the Nicholson Heritage Association meets regularly to discuss projects, including sign placement at the Route 11 scenic stop, the Viaduct Valley Way Scenic Byway, and the 100th anniversary celebration of the Nicholson Bridge to take place in 2015. Nicholson Heritage Association’s next meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at the First Presbyterian Church, 65 State Street, in Nicholson.

Untitled4

Photos courtesy of Josh Stull

Railroad background teaser photo by oops00086 on Flickr

Mike O’Laughlin of the Irish Roots Cafe talks about discovering shared family history through new media

“Who are you?” A simple question, but one that could take someone on the adventure of a lifetime. For Mike O’Laughlin of Irish Roots Cafe, it took him on a trip to discover his Irish roots and began his journey to help others find theirs using his books, blog, podcast and personal tours of Ireland. Today we join Bethany Frank as she talks with Mike O’Laughlin. Mike is going to explore the ease of podcasting and how he uses it to share connect folks around Irish heritage worldwide.


olaughlin teaser

Frank: Well Mike, thank you so much for joining us today at Voices of the Past. Tell us about yourself.

O’Laughlin: Well I guess we are talking about how I got into the website and the Irish heritage or the Irish American heritage, and actually now it is the Irish heritage all over the world — Canada and Australia and England and Ireland and the U.S. It’s amazing. And it really started when I was a young boy when I go to the grandparents’ house with the parents on Sunday. And the old folks would always talk about the old days and sometimes they would hold it over you about how they knew everything and you didn’t even know who these people were. So at one point I came and found a travel brochure to Ireland, and it said, “O’Laughlin’s Castles.” And it said, “Here’s an O’Laughlin’s Castle in County Clare.” And my O’Laughlin family knew we were Irish, they didn’t know why, they just knew it. And maybe it was the “O” in front of the name, but I thought, “you know what. If I could go over there and see that castle and claim it as ours, then I would have something on them and I could drop by on a Sunday now that I am a little older and tell them some things that they might not know.” That’s really what started the whole thing. I made a reservation with an B&B whose owner was the same name as mine. From there I came out with a book and it just kept going and I just kept writing, and now I am the most published author in the world in my field of study in the world. But you notice, I didn’t say the best. In the world–there’s a difference.

Frank: There’s a difference. Well, why did you go about starting your blog?

O’Laughlin: Really I was on the web for several years before I even started the blog. I didn’t really understand exactly…I know it is whatever you want it to be when you get right down to it, but I didn’t quite understand exactly what people were doing and I wasn’t real comfortable with it. And I go, well, I’d have to take a lot of time if I wrote a syndicated column or something along those lines. So I waited and finally, I got the podcast going. The podcast actually came first. I thought, “Well, this is a perfect way to get into it. I’ll put the shownotes from each podcast onto the blog and maybe add some things now and then. So that got me into blogging very comfortably since I had several podcasts going. Actually, we’ve got seven different podcast series going now. All the way from genealogy to song and recitation, and local history and history in Ireland. And it’s really blossomed.

Frank: You said before you’re very well published and can see all of the stuff that you’ve published on your site. How did you make that transition from publishing books to publishing podcasts?

O’Laughlin: Basically it was born out of fun. I had no idea how easy it was to get started. Now, it takes a while, maybe 50 shows or so before you start to understand what sound is and how to adjust it and the different kinds of microphones. But in the beginning I got this new Mac computer, which is an upgrade, and my IT guy that came in and was helping me with it said, “Oh, you’ve got to check out GarageBand.” And I thought, “yeah, yeah, I’ve got so much to worry about.” And thought it was just maybe if I was a kid and I wanted to practice the guitar, that’d be the place the go. I didn’t know that you could do a podcast in five minutes. And I just went right to GarageBand, pressed the button to record, and there my voice was recording. So, it was so easy to start that it got me hooked. And plus it was fun, and who wouldn’t want their own radio show?

Frank: Have you ever done radio shows or anything like that before?

O’Laughlin: No. I had been interviewed a few times and I was active in cultural things on the Irish side. So, I started up a group and the local radio station interviewed me a couple of times, and I think I was on television once. But very small little parts, but I always thought it was great fun.

Frank: After you started, you hit start on GarageBand for the first time, how did you get it to evolve?

O’Laughlin: I will tell you, it still takes me a while to jump into things. But I had recorded in my living room several shows, and it’s not really shows. It was interviews with seven of my friends in a roundtable discussion on genealogy. This is back in 1984, and I had saved those recordings. And I thought, “Hey, I will just take each of those, break them up into seven segments and make those my first seven podcasts.” So really I got over the nervousness of it by the first seven podcasts were really rebroadcasts from 1984 that I had been done at home. So I sort of cut my teeth on that and got familiar with it and then started to try to refine things.

Frank: How’d you go about refining them?

O’Laughlin: Well, first of all, better microphones. And then the little setting on the machine. I didn’t know what those were at first, like the echo and the reverb and the different voices. I hadn’t really experimented with them. And how you keep the sound even and something like compression, which makes sounds that are a little too small come up to a level you can hear them and the ones that are a little loud come down to where you can hear them a little better. So little things like compression settings and the difference between the different kinds of microphones. And some are too sensitive and pick up every noise in the house when I’m recording or in the Cafe here when I’m recording, especially if it is a busy night.

Frank: You mentioned recording in the Cafe.

O’Laughlin: Yes.

Frank: So, it’s a real Cafe? Not a virtual one?

O’Laughlin: It’s a Cafe. Is there a difference? I’d say, at times it is just my place. And then at special times of the year, we open it up and it’s a cafe. And we do serve the food and we do have the performances. And we do record the Irish Song and Recitation Festival, and we are getting ready to have the seventh one of them, and I have been practicing old style Irish song, which I find very few people know about so I feel safe with that.

Frank: What exactly is old style Irish song?

O’Laughlin: Well they call it the sean nós. And it was usually solo and in the Irish language, although it’s loosened up in its interpretation now. And it usually told a story, and shoot, the old fellows might come in from the sea and be singing a song, and that was it. It’s really natural singing, I think, without so much concern for particular notes or phrasing. And each time it’s not the same. And I thought, boy, that sounds like the way I sing anyway. You miss a few notes and it’s not always on the same track. So I thought I’d give it a try. And we started up a little group here in town for sean nós, and we are just having fun with it.

Frank: So, back to Irish Roots Cafe, how did that get started and what all is it?

O’Laughlin: It’s really, that’s a very good question, It’s really presence of everything I’ve ever done on the Internet. And it is just a combination of everything because I’m spread out so far and I am just one person. I have no help other than volunteers that come in and help with the podcast or I interviewed, that type of thing. So it is a way to tie it all together, and it’s a way to put all 60 of the books I’ve written or published up online. And it was also a way to get all seven podcast series going and feeding into each other. So, it really started to tie everything in together. Plus I could have some fun, and I could talk about the things I like, like rare old books. And some little history tidbits now and then, and I’m still…I have a side site, that if you go to my site and you click on “Quick and Easy,” that’s the pages where I can play with myself. I don’t have to give them to a webmaster. And so I do a lot of little strange things there. And then give them to my webmaster and then he puts them on the formal pages.

Frank: And so you have an annual festival with Irish Roots, correct?

O’Laughlin: Yes. And that is basically the Irish Song and Recitation Festival. And we will get folks together and we will sing songs and then we will vote on who wins, and it can be anything at all. You never know what’s going to be walking through the door next.

Frank: On your site, you have your Irish Hedge School, and you talk about carrying the sod.

O’Laughlin: Yes. Well I will tell you. If you go back and read Irish history particularly in the 17th Century, that’s when the Irish culture, the existing culture, was plundered. There was nothing left and even the old Bardic traditions started to disappear. And everything was, you might say, government schools. And the new people that were coming in and taking over Ireland were maybe ruling it in a different way, and they said, “No, no Irishman can actually be a teacher. No Irishman could actually teach Irish.” That type of thing, and you cannot have your own school. And if you have a school house, you will be fined. And so, or maybe they will ship you to the Barbados. You never know what’s going to happen. And so, it was pretty rough times.

So in rebellion, the Irish said, “We’re going to keep our ways and our education, and we’re going to find old cow sheds or we might go and teach out on the side of the lawn on a sunny day next to a hedge row where nobody can see us.” And so the name “hedgerow” came about because of that. And so it became “hedge schools” with “hedge teachers,” and the hedge teachers would travel the country all on their own. They were sort of like migrant teachers, and they would be on the run sometimes. And they would hide, and they would meet with the local people and the local people would have to like them and send their kids to school. They might pay them with butter. Might pay them, if they were real lucky, they might get part of Patty’s pig. But it was a pretty rough way to go really. And you could imagine the conditions, but they actually taught Greek and Latin, things like that in these schools. And some of the folks of the upper classes were amazed at how these peasants that were holding their horses when they went into town could speak Latin and Greek.

Frank: So then how do you incorporate that with your site?

O’Laughlin: Well what we are doing is also teaching and trying to bring up and save the Irish culture and heritage in what little way we can by reviving the old ways, the old songs, the old history. The history podcast brings back the history of Ireland. We have the Irish in America, which does the local history in America and reminds people what role the Irish played in America, what role their ancestors played in America and in settling the country. And there’s things we’ve forgotten. So each one of these podcasts really brings back part of that history and brings it alive just like they did in the old days with the hedge schools, except I think, we have a lot more entertaining time doing it.

Frank: On your site you mention an Irish DNA project.

O’Laughlin: Yeah, that’s really my current issue. That’s were I am focusing right now. I am working on a book on Irish DNA, and I have been interviewing some folks that do Irish DNA for a living, and They’ve done movies on it. It is really fascinating what that’s going to do with what the whole genetics thing (15:28) means to people.

Frank: Can you tell me about it and what all is happening with it?

O’Laughlin: I think we are linked up with Family Tree DNA, and we interview them everyone once in a while with the podcast to tell us about R1B, which is a distinctive Irish marker, or moving up to M222, which is another marker. And so, they tell us what to look for and what has been traced back and examples of let’s say this fellow, the minute he took his DNA, he knew he came from this village in County Clare because that is where this DNA marker first started. So we are having some remarkable success stories with people who cannot find their family heritage, their location in Ireland or really in Europe or anywhere in the world. And that’s really what got us started and it takes the place of…well, if you have reached a dead end in genealogy research, it’s really the only way to go. And let’s say you were adopted and they couldn’t get any records, well they could take your DNA, and you might be able to find out what county or town or area that you came from. And it’s just another part of genealogy resources.

Frank: Did you go through all of this stuff and track your own heritage?

O’Laughlin: Yes. That’s way back to that first story when I talked about O’Laughlin’s castle. I was actually real lucky on my way over. I actually found the O’Laughlin ancestor and the Donoghue ancestor, which was my mother’s side. And that’s a story in itself. But I got very very lucky, and very few people can get that lucky. I actually had a flat tire in kilkan nora (17:06) County Clare, which is the town that eventually I found my ancestors in. I went up and talked with Father Van (17:14), who is the priest there, while my tire was being changed. I’d gone to about 10 parishes before then, and he took me down to the church, opened a safe and handed me the birth register they had kept, and I guess they had sent a copy in to the government when they had collected them. But he says, “Here. Look at it and lock up when you’re done.” Well, I was shocked at that too, but I said OK. It was a bit chilly, but I didn’t care. I kept going through this register page by page until I found it. The exact date that say Peter O’Laughlin had gotten married, and there was the marriage on that date in that parish. And so I nailed it in that case, and it was amazing. The feeling was just incredible. The whole search, to say that I’ve done this. And it was almost just as amazing in County Clare with my mother’s folks. I had to take time. You know you can’t be too pushy when you’re asking people for help. And I found that if you were patient and you went back maybe a second time or a third time, and just casually mention that you were looking for family roots in a certain area or a certain name, you might actually get some pretty intelligent answers, whereas in the beginning they might just think, “Oh, this guy, they don’t know what he is doing. He’s just going to fly by in a car and be gone tomorrow. He has no idea what he’s talking about.” But I have found out that if you ask more than one time, even to the same folks and you’re patient, you’d be surprised. You could have some pretty good luck.

Frank: So, you’ve done your journey for genealogy, and you have all these resources for other folks to work on their journey. Why is having it all available through the web and through the Internet important?

O’Laughlin: Well, I reach the whole world. Or the information reaches the whole world. And I get feedback, and I get corrected if I’m wrong. Somebody says, “No wait, here’s the family history. That’s a little bit off what you’ve got there.” And never in the history of the world could somebody like me be in their house, reach out and get 5 million hits a year from people all over the world–Australia, like I said before, Canada, England, Ireland–regular conversations and regular input. And it’s not a one-way thing. You are sharing back and forth both ways. It could have never have happened. And it is really a way to share knowledge, and it is almost like a quickening. The world is so much smaller now. And here is one of the good things that the smallness of the world has brought about. You can share things and understand things, whereas before you’d never have a chance. I don’t know that I ever would have talked to someone from Australia about Irish roots–or maybe about anything unless I bumped into them on the street.

Frank: Are you anywhere else online other than just on your website?

O’Laughlin: Well my blog propagates pretty well since I am an author on Amazon. I’ve got a, with each of my books, I’ve got a blog. So I have several blogs on Amazon.com. And then I have a separate blog on IrishCentral.com, which is like a gigantic site for all things Irish–Irish news and all things great and small in every subject what so ever. So, that helps reach out to a whole new group of people that I might not be able to contact. Those blogs are great, but still, my best pull is the podcast.

Frank: Where can folks find that?

O’Laughlin: The podcast is at IrishRoots.com. And I’ve got all seven of them there. And we’ve got three different kinds: regular audio, video podcast and then the enhanced podcast, which is a podcast that is audio, but you can put pictures up on the screen and embed links in it. So if I am talking about the McCleary family on the screen, you can have a little link and it will say, “Go here to see the McCleary family.” And you click it and you go while you are listening to the podcast. So that is sort of fun. And I think you have got to have QuickTime or you have got to have iTunes for that to work, but it is just another form of podcasting that is nice to play with.

Frank: And then with your website and with everything else, what is your ultimate goal?

O’Laughlin: Ultimate goal. Well, since we’ve been doing it for forever, I would say it is just to spread the word, to enjoy the Irish culture and heritage, and particularly enjoy the Irish-American heritage on my part. And the Irish-Canadian or the Irish-or whatever country you come from. But to enjoy the good parts of it, and to realize what are some of the good things that bind us all together and that we’ve all experienced in the past that can help us in the future. And it is also always fun to compare one culture to another, and to understand them and the things you have in common and the things that they have differently. And really you get into being an historian after a while because there is no way to avoid it.

Frank: Is there anything else that we can expect in the future from Irish Roots?

O’Laughlin: Oh my gosh. Well we are going to keep up the podcast, and I am going to try to add some links pages. I haven’t had time to do much with links, they change so quickly. And they take up so much time. I prefer to just go with data and things that help directly with research. But we are going to add some links and some more on the Song and Recitation. I’m going to do some more on that. And definitely we are going to have, I am going to do a book on Irish DNA and expand the page to explain more on our site to increase our links on the DNA links. That’s sort of the future of so much of what we’re doing.

Frank: What is your advice to anyone wanting to go seek their ancestors and find out about their genealogy?

O’Laughlin: Well the first thing you have to remember is to start researching at home. If you don’t live in Ireland, you don’t want to start researching in Ireland unless you have some kind of clue. What you want to do is find the place in Ireland that you came from on a piece of paper in the country that you’re living in. So you’ll want to find, Ireland is organized by counties, so you will want to find your county first of all, and then go in for the records. And if you are in America and you want a birth certificate or a marriage certificate or an obituary in a newspaper, you want that to say, “Came from County Clary (23:49) Ireland in 1850 with two sons and his wife.” And there you have your connection and then you can make the jump and look for the folks with the same surname and first names in Irish records. The top thing to remember: start in your country and start with every piece of paper they might have signed and with the computers today and all the massive databases, you can find out fast. You will find out with more information than you want to sort through as apposed to back in the 1980s, sometimes you couldn’t find enough to look at. Now, there’s plenty.

Frank: What’s your advice for folks their own blog or website and want to get interested in podcasting and stuff like that?

O’Laughlin: Well, if you want to get into it, first of all, follow your instincts. Follow what you think is fun, and then develop that into what you want to do in a more real sense. And then that way, it will carry you through. Because there are time when you are going to say, “Well I don’t know anything about microphones and what I want to do is get the word out to people on this or that.” Well you learn a microphone. It might take a while, but you will be much smarter at the end of it and everything you’ve done. You just start one piece at a time, and a blog is real easy to do. It doesn’t cost anything really. There’s sites that you go up for almost nothing, and so expense is no excuse. It just might take a little bit of time to understand it. And podcasts, I’m telling you, you can have a podcast going in five minutes and another five by just pressing a button and sending it off to iTunes, if you are using them. And then it is going to take you some time. It might take you 50 shows before you get a pattern down or you get the sound down, or you start understanding about echoes or microphone sensitivity. But that’s OK. You just go and you have fun and you will grow into what it is you want to be.

Frank: As far as social media is concerned and genealogy, what do you think is the future of genealogy with the impact of social media?

O’Laughlin: Well of course it’s changed things greatly. There’s going to be some megasight, it’s already happening. And I saw this 10 years ago, but as everybody gobbles everybody up with huge databases, there is going to be a few places who have most all of the data, and then the important thing is going to be making that data understandable and accessible. And of course, supplying new input to people. Now, you can always do that with a podcast because it’s current. It’s like a news show. And that will always be valuable to people no matter what and the same thing with the blog. And so, it’s really not a lot of work to do. It is a little more work to do the podcast than the blog because you have to learn about audio, but once you do it, it’s rewarding. Well with my podcasts, my genealogy podcast is first with the number of audience and then my blog is second and then my other podcasts fall in behind that. So it gives you an idea, you can reach a lot of people, and some people will not read and some people will not listen. So if you go both ways, you are hitting both people.

Frank: You’ve helped all these folks find their heritage, do you have a story that you can share with us with one of those journeys with one of those families?

O’Laughlin: Oh I tell you. One of my early trips to Ireland–I regularly took people over to Ireland that were members and helped them have a good time and also help them search their ancestors if they still wanted to do that when they got there. Most people want to just enjoy themselves when they get to Ireland, I’ve found, but a few people are looking seriously. And I tell you, our bus driver that drove us around at, at the end of the first tour he said, “You know what. I didn’t understand you guys. Coming over here, searching through graveyards that nobody cares about and they are just sort of a fixture in the community, it’s just overgrown with weeds and no one cares.” He said, “I couldn’t imagine why anyone would fly across the ocean and come over here, but once I saw the look in Ms. So-and-so’s eyes when they found the name on that gravestone”–you know when the tears come into your eyes. He said, “I understood.” He said, “We don’t know what we’ve got here in Ireland. We’ve been here forever so we don’t have to go hunting. And you do.” So that was a real neat comparison. Of course they don’t have to go looking. They know. That’s where they’re from. And that was in a, I think, Quaker graveyard. It was through this little town and we found an old graveyard, and one of the people had found the name there and that happens all the time with research.

Frank: Thank you so much for chatting with me.

O’Laughlin: And thank you.

What I’m about, through my daughter’s eyes

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I visited Memory Lawn Cemetery in my hometown of Natchitoches, La., with my daughter this past week. And it brought hope to my world.

I’ll admit, 2010 was a challenging year. It began with the unexpected passing of my father and seemed to roll downhill ever since. Not just for my family, but many others here and throughout the world. Listening to the recent reports about how companies are set to rebound on the strength of their foreign investments while leaving most of the American workforce behind made me feel even more guilty and depressed about the world I’ve brought my child into.

It probably doesn’t help that I write this on the anniversary of my dad’s passing. Grinning through moist eyes, I try to remember how many times he told us “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, kids. People will step all over you without a second thought. You gotta protect yourselves first.”

Yeah, Daddy. There are times I can certainly see the point. But every time I try to use that logic to harden my heart and give my life a little clarity, there’s this little well of hope that keeps springing up through the cracks. Put a rock over it, and it seeps around. Try rolling a boulder over it and turns into a gusher, violently attacking and destroying the foreign object as the body responds to a virus. And no matter what you said, I saw it was the same with you.

We resist pain, both for ourselves and the people we love. But in my own life, it’s always been the necessary launchpad for grace I could never imagine and ever greater clarity about why I’m here.

Which leads me back to Memory Lawn.

We stood at the grave of my Great-Aunt Bobbie, still fresh with loose dirt, the flower sprays fading. I was remembering her dead-pan wit that flashed like lightening and sometimes took days to cipher. And her homemade buttered biscuits that were good enough to make grown men cry.

My daughter, who has spent a fair amount of her six years happily cleaning grave markers (or watching her mom repair them), took my hand. “Cemeteries can be sad places, can’t they,” she said. It wasn’t a question.

“Sometimes.” I didn’t want to worry her. “Let’s see if you can find my Mamaw and Papaw’s names.” I watched her skip toward my family’s little collection of memorial plaques, hot pink toy butterfly wings flouncing from the back of her red Christmas dress. “Remember that cemeteries are places where we can remember people too. When we share our stories with other people, they can live on for a very long time.”

She stopped in front of a double-marker embossed with the surname “THOMPSON” and looked up at me. “That’s what you do, isn’t it Daddy … share stories so we remember about people?”

That small statement was the biggest and most unexpected gift I could have received this year. I don’t recall ever telling my child about my work, or why I chose it. But then again, she lives it too.

A lot about the larger issues of the world doesn’t make sense right now and I’m clueless about the specifics of how my own life will look over the course of the new year. But I do know why I exist, and so does my family. And that’s something I will treasure until I return to the place of that memory for the last time.


Note: this was originally published in my Hometown Heritage newspaper column

The Archaeological Box’s Matt Thompson on developing membership websites and refining the use of social media as a support mechanism

[Note: Site has been discontinued. Link is to the legacy version]

Founded in 2009, The Archaeological Box is a media-rich website that incorporates features like Google Maps and podcasts in two languages. It also incorporates a store and professional accounts. In this interview with Matt Thompson, the site’s founder, we’re going to explore the concepts of content management systems, including Drupal, and what goes into supporting the site through social media.

archbox

Guin: How did the site develop and how did you come up with the name? (timestamp #00:01:52.6#)

Thompson: A few of my colleagues and I from school realized that we had a lot of information gathered individually and that it would be more practical if we could share it. So the site started as a small venture for a group of five people. We quickly realized that we weren’t the only ones in this situation and that information was lacking in the field of archaeology. Resources are hard to find and when you do find them, they often aren’t complete. We agreed that if we were going to do this, we’d go big. It grew into the Archaeological Box. We just rode the wave to what it is today. We’re still adding daily. As for the name, I’d like to say there was a well thought-out plan, but our site is bilingual. We found the name in French first. We are a French-speaking team mainly. It has a dual sense as a box with all the information in it. But in French, it can also mean “the firm” or “the enterprise.” So it also meant the “archaeology venture.”

Guin: What was on the site initially? Was it more like a blog? #00:03:37.0#

Thompson: At the very beginning it was just news. Daily, we’d find news articles on archaeology. Anyone who’s familiar with archaeology sites will know how important Google is for survival. Even before we started putting the the site only, we supported a “mini version” so Google would get to know us. Then we found our web designer and started building the components of the site. We started adding photos, blogs and events.

Guin: It’s one of the most professional and refined archaeology sites that I’ve seen. What are some of the other components of the site? You said you have a podcast and are going into other new media adventures … #00:04:58.9#

Thompson: Other than podcasts, we have field school repertories and archaeological site listings. We have an archaeotourism section where people can post travek reviews or look for archaeological travel packages. There’s something for everyone.

Guin: How did the travel packages come about? Does it help support your site?  #00:05:32.5#

Thompson: The travel section serves as the general public portal to the site. The general public accesses the site through the archeotourism portal where they have access to news, events, travel reviews, packages and forums. Our main site is built around a Google Maps search engine. Archaeotourism has similar feature, which includes any hotels that have packages with us for tour groups, car rental deals for tourism. It’s an interesting part of the site that’s being developed more.  #00:07:19.0#

Guin: You mentioned that site was developed professionally, but there are a lot of people who are starting up with pre-made blog sites or ready-made social networks like Ning. What’s the advantage for building your own site from scratch? #00:07:43.0#

Thompson: We are using a content management system called Drupal, which offers a lot of flexibility. That was most important, that we be able to do whatever we wanted to do. As much as our website designer will take care adding things, others I can do myself without much knowledge of the web programming. I can add groups, or use the messaging system or add a customer service window. Those are blocks that are already available via Drupal. It also allows us to custom-develop our site. We did look at Ning and the possibility of developing a Facebook page or creating a cheap version of a social media website. We quickly got to the point that we couldn’t go any further with doing what we wanted. So that’s when we decided to find a web designer and do it right. #00:09:10.2#

Guin: Is Drupal open source? #00:09:15.5#

LOGO-BA(PNG)Thompson: Drupal is open source. A lot of people know it. A lot of people know Joomla. It’s pretty much the same thing. It works with “blocks,” and you’ll see that on our website. And I think that’s a good thing. There’s a lot of information on our site and a lot of first time visitors will be overwhelmed by what they see. As much as we try to cut things out of our homepage so it’s not so heavy, we need to guarantee a certain level of quality at the same time. So having a block-type system that’s very clearly identified, we hope to make it easier for viewers to make sense of what they’re seeing. We started with WordPress in the beginning when we just had news because it’s foolproof. We use two host platforms which allow automatic install of Drupal on the website. We can add things pretty easily. We’ve been adding groups to the site, which have been in prototype states. We set them up and began testing them for functionality, but making the final tweaks to the layouts is where the web designer is so important. So that’s the side-effect of using Drupal: you need to go into code and tweak stuff.

Guin: You’ve got a lot of content on your website. I noticed you have memberships. Why did you decided to follow a membership model? #00:11:38.8#

Thompson: We have two main types of users: personal users and business users. Since the beginning, we decided we wanted to have free personal memberships. There is a cycle that if you don’t have personal members on the site, business members won’t come. But if you don’t have business members, the personal members won’t come. So we decided to have two types of business accounts. A regular business account that is also free and allows basic capabilities for viewing and posting. Then we added a business-plus account. It’s not very expensive and gives these businesses potential to develop a more profile as a viable business portal. You can add a portfolio, create an events manager, add a corporate blog, photo albums, etc. In regard to the personal accounts, we protect users’ information. But a lot of site protect too much information. Business members don’t need us to hide their information, so we tried to create a balance where personal information is locked away and only members can access it. But non-members who only want to come to the site to look at the news, events and field school listings can still have access to a basic level of the site. By creating sign-in option, we were able to serve all these audiences.

Guin: What kind of business customer are you looking for? #00:14:09.6#

Thompson: We have several, which leads me to another complication of building a site: developing categories. Whether it’s for news articles or business members, you need to find a way to include everyone. The hardest thing we faced was deciding how members would be classified on the geography of our Google Map. When we got to the Asian section, we forgot to write “southern and eastern Asia.” Likewise, that was an early difficulty: figuring out what we need to offer as business “types.” At first we thought of everything possible–members from museums, archaeological sites and interpretation centers, archaeological missions, tourism, hospitality, etc. There’s not really a limit for the types of people that we wanted to welcome to the site.

Guin: You mentioned Google Maps. Tell me how you’re using it. #00:16:02.9#

Thompson: When we first started using Google Maps, we wanted a shock value. We wanted people to get to our site and be impressed by something “different.” We think our site does have a shock value, but we also wanted to make sure it was high quality. So if you are impressed by the look of the site, you’ll also be impressed by its content. Google Maps allows us to do both things. It’s nice to look at. It also permitted us to create a search engine based on our site. So you can search for our members on the site, whether they are listed on Google or not. We used a Google Map and overlay our business members with pins that are located on the map by address or by longitude/latitude for archaeological sites because a lot of sites and field schools don’t have addresses. So when you create your account, you click on the map and add your pin where ever you want it to be.

Guin: Do people have the option to include what information they want displayed on the map, or does it just bring up their profile? #00:17:39.6#

Thompson: If you click on a pin on the map, it will open a small window with a member’s profile picture and a short description. If you’re a business-plus member, then you’ll have more information such as a web address. For a regular business member, it will bring up your account name with a link to your profile.

Guin: You’re using other forms of social media outside the site as well. Tell me about those. #00:18:11.5#

Thompson: When we started this thing, we went all across the web. Every social media outlet that could help us, we were on it. We had an account. For folks who are in social media, you quickly realize you can’t do everything. I’ll use our Facebook page as an example. When we first got on Facebook, we posted everything on it. And our membership went up fairly quickly. A hundred new members came from our page every two weeks. But most of those members don’t come to the site because they could get all the information they wanted on Facebook. So we quickly decided to pull back from outside social media. So we kept Twitter and Facebook and we control the information that’s put out there. We use Twitter to post news, so every news article on the ArchaeologicalBox.com is also posted to Twitter. We use Facebook for announcements on the site. Whenever we post a new podcast, we’ll put it on there. New additions or functionality to the site.

Guin: I think it’s important to have your community area and let the social media tools support that. A lot of people think they have to optimized every social media tool with all of their content. Really, the purpose is to use those tools to bring new audiences in. #00:20:23.0#

Thompson: As I mentioned, we have two podcasts. One in English and one in French. Both are news podcasts. We put together a selection of the most important articles. We have a short podcast of about 20 minutes for the English podcast and about 10 minutes for the French podcast. Ironically, the French podcast is recorded in Seattle. The English podcast is recorded in Montreal. In the summer, we have a more relaxed podcast where we go visit sites. #00:21:50.7#

Guin: One of the things that interested me in your site is the “lecture series” area. #00:22:15.5#

Thompson: With “information” as our theme, we realized there was something lacking in the archaeology world. And that was a “free” global lecture series where members from communities that don’t necessarily have structured archaeological organizations or funds to put to that could still welcome renowned archaeologists to speak to them. So we created this series that pairs together lecturers and hosts from around the world for free. There’s no payment. Members will tell us their travel schedule and we’ll match them with hosts that have given us their availability. So we if have a lecturer from Australia who is going to Vancouver to lecture at a university for three months, and there is a host in Vancouver who is looking for someone to lecture about South Pacific archaeology, we can match them.

Guin: I’m sure that you have had a lot of experience in the development of the site. I know that in developing a few sites myself, that building websites can become addictive. A lot of things come up that are unexpected. I’m sure there are archaeological and other heritage organizations looking to start up their own sites now. What advice do you have for those people?

Thompson: We had no idea how much time and resources something like this would take. But we were a good team that had the patience and time to put into this project. So I think anyone who want to build something similar, needs a good support system. Sometimes I’ll get calls at one in the morning: “the site’s down; what do we do?” You need to good support system to be ready for those things.

Guin: Do you use social media personally to engage with friends or other interests? #00:25:46.3#

Thompson: I do have things like a profile on Facebook. But most of my time is spent on developing the ArchaeologicalBox.com. Everything’s available there, right? We can have statuses, blogs, photo albums, so why go anywhere else.

Guin: Are there blogs or bloggers that you follow? #00:26:50.5#

Thompson: I do take the time to follow some of the social media blogs. And in the interest of being a good social media geek, I went to PodCamp (a podcast camp) in Montreal. I met so many people with interesting and smart things to say, so I follow some of their blogs as well.

Guin: That leads to another question: how do you find the news for your site? #00:27:50.5#

Thompson: We control the news a lot. Members can post news articles, which we approve. There is a team of four of us that divide the week per days and go through the web about two hours each day. What’s fun about our way of doing the news is that we don’t use RSS to gather information. You can be sure our news is fresh and not duplicated.

Can you help this heritage project? Bringing “Paisley’s Past” into the 21st Century with community archaeology

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A note from Jeff: Some of the most powerful “heritage experiences” I’ve had resulted from public archaeology projects. Like social media, they are rooted in the concepts of openness, interactivity and action. A lot of individuals and groups in heritage fields just don’t know where to start with a grassroots campaign. There are no “perfect” answers, but the path is made clearer through the shared experience of others and discovering you aren’t alone.

When Claire wrote me about the new community archaeology project being started in Scotland, I thought this would be a good opportunity to feature an in-progress case study about the project.  It’s also a way for you to share your ideas and experiences in launching a community heritage project, including how to communicate it online. Claire bravely answered the call and agreed to blog the project’s progress over the next few months. I hope the Paisley’s Past story–and your feedback–will serve as encouragement for many more community archaeology projects throughout the world. Here’s the first post in the series that outlines the concept …


The Paisley’s Past Project came about after I had spent a number of years complaining about the state that Paisley was being allowed to fall into. I had always wondered why no-one seemed to be willing to do something about it, while doing nothing about it myself.

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Claire Casey in the field.

It wasn’t until the September of 2010, after having a brief email discussion with Scott Manson from Paisley2020 that we made the decision that a community archaeology project would be a brilliant way of getting local people involved in the proposed redevelopment of Paisley’s town centre. To find a project manager, I didn’t have to look too far as the baton was swiftly passed to me and the idea slowly started to become a reality. We are planning that the project will continue for three years on a number of sites throughout Paisley’s town centre.

Paisley, for those of you who may not know the geography of Scotland, lies to the south-west of Glasgow and is the administrative centre of the area of Renfrewshire. The town was home of one of the two Clunic monasteries that were founded in Scotland, of which the town’s abbey is the only part still standing and in use today. The town is also known as the home of the world famous Paisley Pattern and the shawls that it can so often be seen adorning. Other than the Abbey and the town’s industrial past, not much is publicly known about the town’s history and archaeology.

Purpose of the Project

The Paisley’s Past Project is planned to bring local people, students, businesses and organisations together in order to allow for the people of Paisley to play an active role in the investigation and conservation of their own history and heritage. Volunteers will be allowed to take part in surveying, excavation and post-excavation. We will be getting the volunteers involved in working on a number of sites throughout Paisley and will hopefully increase our understanding of the town’s history beyond what we already know about the Paisley Abbey and the town’s industrial past. We will also be giving the volunteers on this project the opportunity to take part in the investigation of the oral history. The volunteers will discover that oral history can add an extra dimension to our understanding of the archaeology and the written histories of the area. All of these will be vital elements to the success of this project.

Volunteers from throughout Paisley will be encouraged to take part in this project, in whatever way that they can, with nothing to stop people of different ages and genders playing their part. People from different backgrounds, whether it is ethnic, social or cultural, will be accepted as volunteers, especially as this project is about inclusivity rather that exclusivity. As part of this, I am planned that the Paisley’s Past Project will play its part in the proposed redevelopment of Paisley’s town centre. We are planning that the Paisley’s Past Project will added to the revitalisation of the town’s museum and art gallery, especially in relation to up-dating the museums displays and widening what these same displays cover.

Even though the Paisley’s Past Project is essentially an archaeology project, I am hoping that the role that the project will play in the wider community will be greater than just a small number of interested people investigating a small number of sites. We are hoping that the work that will be carried out during this project will encourage people to take an interest in what is going on in their area and to take an active role in these same events.

Moving Forward: Ideas Welcome!

Abbey from North West
Paisley Abbey is a former Cluniac monastery, and current Church of Scotland parish kirk, located on the east bank of the White Cart Water in the centre of the town of Paisley, Renfrewshire, in west central Scotland.

At the moment, I am working towards getting as much of the Scottish press interested in this project. This will involve getting newspapers, as well as other news agencies, interested and covering what will be taking place; therefore increasing interest on a wider level. To date, I have set up a Facebook page for the project, which will be one of the main ways that people will be able to keep themselves up-to-date with how the project is developing, as well as what has been taking place. When the ball really starts rolling (no Indiana Jones jokes please), I will be leading public meetings will also take place in order to inform people as to what the aims of the Paisley’s Past Project are, how we will go about achieving them, as well as what we hope that this project will bring to the town.

Community archaeology projects will be great ways of showing that archaeology is not just for the archaeologists, but is for everyone. I am open to ideas and suggestions on how to increase awareness of the project, as well as on other aspects of the project.

Photos courtesy of Claire Casey.

Additional teaser graphic element sourced from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mbowskill/5087208324/

Heritage Scrapbooking: Online resources to save the memories of a lifetime

 

Scrapbooking Teaser

There are two types of gifts I’m always thrilled to get: those that are handmade and those that incorporate family memories. Heritage scrapbooks embrace both of these concepts, resulting in a gift your family will always treasure. It takes just a little planning and mindfulness to make your family moments last a lifetime, and beyond.

Here are a few resources to help you get started with archival materials for your scrapbook:

  • Scrapbook Preservation Society: The SPS mission is to collect, review, organize, and distribute science-based preservation information to the scrapbook community through the publication of preservation guidelines, informational articles, and technical papers, and through the presentation of educational programs. Check out their FAQ for a great overview on archival materials.
  • How to Find Your Roots has a great page on heritage scrapbooking, including resources for paper, discussions on choosing an album size and even a section on scrapbooking with kids.
  • If you are looking for a quick method to start on a heritage scrapbook, check out this kit on the Home Shopping Network’s site.
  • And finally, visit the Heritage Scrap Gallery for beautiful ready-made art to fit your design.

ScrapBooking DayWhen you’ve selected the best tools for the job, then the fun begins. Putting the scrapbook together as a family makes it a lot more fun and takes some of the pressure off of you. Katie Scott of Kiss and Tell Scrapbooking produces regular live video chats and actively blogs about the process of putting together scrapbooks, telling stories. She’s down-to-earth and a crafty scrapbook designer to boot!

The granddaddy list of heritage scrapbooking links can be found over at Cyndi’s List. From gathering supplies to distribution in varying formats, Cyndi has it all!

If you need inspiration for scrapbooking ideas, such as layouts and ways to present photo captions, try the galleries at the Creative Memories website. Additionally, there are several ready-made heritage scrapbook kits at My Perfect Scrapbook and  The Vintage Workshop has some wonderful embellishments.

If you are having trouble getting started with telling your “story,” then the We Are Storytellers site has tons of useful information, though it appears to no longer be updated.

Here’s a downloadable storyboard for helping you sketch out the narrative for your scrapbook:

Teaser photo by Valerie Reneé on Flickr

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The Preservation Technology Podcast: The longest continually produced show on historic preservation

English: Logo of the National Center for Prese...

 

This is where I cut my podcasting teeth, as part of my work at the National Center for Preservation Technology & Training. It’s interesting (and sometimes horrifying) to listen back on those early episodes. We steadily made progress in recording equipment and editing skills. It’s turned out to be one of our  flagship social media efforts!

 

Here’s a brief description of selected episodes, with links to the transcript and audio files. Click here to view a full list of episodes and other posts from my time at NCPTT.

 

Episode 33: In this edition of the podcast, we join NCPTT’s Jeff Guin as he speaks with Andy DeGruchy of LimeWorks U.S.  Andy will talk about the role of lime mortar and built heritage and why this material is still important today.

 

Episode 25: In this edition of the podcast, we join NCPTT’s Kim Martin as she speaks with Barry Stiefel, Professor in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the College of Charleston and Clemson University. Today they will discuss sustainability in preservation.

 

Episode 24: In this edition of the podcast, we join NCPTT’s Jeff Guin as he speaks with Aaron Lubeck, author of the book, Green Restorations. Today, they will discuss his book and how it connects the sustainability movement with historic preservation.

 

Episode 23: In this edition of the podcast, we join NCPTT’s 2010 summer interns as they discuss their summer research.

 

Episode 22: In this edition of the podcast, we join NCPTT’s Jason Church as he speaks with Tony Rajer. He is an Art Conservator with the Nek Chand Foundation and a conservation professor at the University of Wisconsin. Today they will discuss Rajer’s interest in folk art and his work with the Rock Garden in Chandigarh, India.

 

Episode 21: NCPTT’s Debbie Smith speaks with Robert Melnick, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Oregon and author of “Climate Change and Landscape Preservation: A Twenty-first-century Conundrum,” which appeared in a 2010 volume of the APT Bulletin. Today they will discuss topics addressed in the article.

 

Episode 20: In this episode of the Preservation Technology Podcast, Kit Arrington, digital library specialist at the Library of Congress, discusses how the Library of Congress digitizes and shares documents online for longterm public access.

 

Episode 19: In this edition of the podcast, we join NCPTT’s Jason Church as he speaks with Moss Rudley, an exhibit specialist with the masonry division at the Historic Preservation Training Center. They will discuss the role of HTPC in the National Park Service including work they are doing with the historic building work bousillage.

 

Episode 18: In this episode of the Preservation Technology Podcast, Dennis Pogue, associate director at historic Mount Vernon, talks about the challenges of preserving a historic site with more than one million visitors each year. He also talks the archeology of the site and about the balancing act of maintaining historic artifacts in a structure that was built as a residence.

 

Episode 17: In this episode of the Preservation Technology Podcast, we join NCPTT’s Jason Church as he speaks with Vern Mesler, adjunct professor at Lansing Community College. They will discuss the “Preservation of Iron and Steel and Bridges and Other Metal Structures Workshop,” which was funded by a grant from the National Center.

 

Episode 16: In this edition of the Preservation Technology Podcast, NCPTT’s Jeff Guin speaks with Bernard Frischer about 3D digital documentation of historic resources and the project, “Rome Reborn.”

 

Episode 15: NCPTT’s Jeff Guin speaks with Guy Sternberg, a certified arborist and retired landscape architect. Guy spearheaded an Internet-based campaign to save an historic tree in Kewanee, Illinois.

 

Episode 14: In this edition of the Preservation Technology Podcast, we meet Eric Schindelholz, a conservator in private practice who specializes in metals and marine archaeological materials. Eric was the principal investigator for a PTT Grant Project that examined methods to dry waterlogged archaeological wood.

 

Episode 13: In this edition of the Preservation Technology Podcast, we’ll meet Carla Schroer of Cultural Heritage Imaging. The non-profit organization recently used a PTT Grant to hold a workshop on 3D digital rock art documentation and preservation.

 

Episode 12: In this edition of the Preservation Technology Podcast we join NCPTT’s Jessica Cleaver as she speaks with Tracy Nelson, director of the Historic Building Recovery Grant Program, about sustainability and historic preservation.

 

Episode 11: Today we join the historic landscape preservation maintenance curriculum roundtable discussion hosted by NCPTT and the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation. Attendees gathered to discuss and identify common needs and interests around historic landscape maintenance and to provide recommendations for creating a training curriculum.

 

Episode 10: Today The Preservation Technology Podcast joins NCPTT’s Andy Ferrell, as he speaks with Tom Jones, an urban conservator for the West Ward Urban Ecology Project in eastern Pennsylvania. They will discuss the West Ward Ecology Project and something called the Green Design Laboratory.

 

Episode 9: Graeme Earl on born digital and 3-D documentation methods

 

Episode 8: In this episode, Jason Church speaks with Curtis Deselles, an intern with the Materials Research program at NCPTT, discusses the use of eddy currents and eddy current technology in conservation science. Mr. Deselles has built several eddy current analyzers, custom software, and presented on this topic at a non-destructive conference in St. Louis.

 

Episode 7: Today we are joining NCPTT’s Jason Church as he speaks with Claire Dean of Dean Associates of Conservation Services about using lasers to remove graffiti from rock art. Rock art or rock imagery is the common term for paintings and carvings on rock and in North America that is mostly associated with native communities.

 

Episode 6: Today Andy Ferrell speaks with Nancy Finegood, executive director of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. NCPTT recently published online a guide titled “Introducing Preservation Trades to High School Students” which grew out of via work with Detroit’s Randolph’s Career and Technical Center.

 

Episode 5: Today in The Preservation Technology Podcast, NCPTT visits with Ruth Tringham, one of the founders of the University of California Berkley the People in Multimedia Authoring Center for Teaching in Anthropology at Berkley (MACTiA). As a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkley Ruth uses an online virtual environment called Second Life in her teaching.

 

Episode 4: David W. Morgan, Chief of Archeology and Collections at NCPTT, introduces the 19th annual National Park Service Geophysics course taught by Steve De Vore. This video includes a description of the course and commentary by participants. Steve has assembled about 10 different instructors and about 18-20 participants that are providing classroom opportunities at NCPTT and are using Los Adaes as a field-training site.

 

Episode 3: Rapid Documentation of Historic Resources with Barrett Kennedy.

 

Episode 2: Charlie Pepper, director of the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation’s Historic Landscape Preservation Maintenance and Education Program.

 

Episode 1: Conservator Jason Church talks about NCPTT’s cemetery monument conservation initiative and about his experiences growing up that led him to the field of cemetery conservation.

 

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