EngagingPlaces.net is about making places that delight the eye and mind. Ideas, opinions, interviews, best and future practices will be continually presented through regular blog posts. It’s a continuation of HistoricSites.Wordpress.com, but now independent of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Regular readers of HistoricSites.WordPress.com already know that the National Trust for Historic Preservation is undergoing tremendous change. Since the arrival of Stephanie Meeks as the president of the National Trust in July 2010, the organization has been working intensely to rebrand and reform itself in a time of declining support and stretched resources. The process has prompted Stephanie to make changes large and small over the past year, but the most dramatic ones occurred in September 2011. She eliminated four of the six regional offices, shifted the magazine from bi-monthly to quarterly issues, laid off five people at Lyndhurst (including the director), and cut half the positions in the Historic Sites department. She is also focusing the National Trust’s work on national rather than statewide or local issues; pursuing historic preservation in a new way by hiring people outside the field of historic preservation and historic sites; emphasizing earned income (one of the new positions in the Historic Sites department will be a Director of Business Development, so look for this posting); and making the National Trust Historic Sites more self-sufficient and independent. I suspect that much of this will be revealed publicly in the coming months through PreservationNation.org and Preservation magazine, and more subtly through its job listings. They’ve provided me with a generous severance package and great flexibility in my remaining days to assist with my transition, so I’m using this opportunity to start my own consulting business, Engaging Places, LLC. The past few years I’ve received increasing requests for assessments, planning, and strategy implementation but I’ve had to turn them down because my priorities were focused on National Trust Historic Sites. I now have the ability to provide greater assistance to the field as well as devote more time to research, writing, and teaching on the intersection between historic preservation and community engagement, which I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
My ten years at the National Trust have sharpened and intensified my knowledge of historic sites of all kinds—house museums, commercial districts, neighborhoods—and I intend to continue to pursue that interest in various ways, including writing and consulting (and thanks to Jim Vaughan, I’ll be working with him on a project for Indiana Landmarks). I plan to continue to serve on the board of the American Association for State and Local History and as a volunteer with Peerless Rockville Historic Preservation, Ltd. But with the changes occurring at the National Trust, I’m not sure what the future holds for HistoricSites.WordPress.com. Managing that blog was something I particularly enjoyed because it shared best and future practices among those who worked at or with historic sites. It continues to grow and now averages 6,000 views monthly. I didn’t want to see that end, hence this new blog: EngagingPlaces.WordPress.com (and you can also use EngagingPlaces.net; it will automatically redirect you to the right spot). So if this topic interests you, visit regularly or better yet, subscribe and you’ll be conveniently notified of the latest post by email (and no, I won’t sell or give away these email addresses).