Recent Articles on Historic Sites You May Have Missed

Stack of JournalsKnowing that most people working at historic sites don’t have access to an academic library, I thought I’d share a few articles around some major topics that caught my eye.  This is not a thorough review of the last 18 months, just a casual glance backward to highlight some studies that relate to the preservation, management, and interpretation of historic sites and house museums.

More Professors are Combining Local History and Service Learning to Engage Students

Henthorn, Thomas C. “Experiencing the City: Experiential Learning in Urban Environments.” Journal of Urban History 40, no. 3 (2014): 450-461.

Henthorn describes various student experiences to engage them in history, including a course on American urban history that combines an historical study of Flint, Michigan with an off-campus service learning project and a collections internship in automotive heritage at the Sloan Museum.

He concludes by finding that, “experience and place combine to prepare students for active citizenship.  This is arguably the most difficult to instill among students and in the same way one class will not change students understanding of a subject, one experience will not awaken in students a sense of civic responsibility.  At the very least, by linking the classroom with the community, students learn to respond creatively to critical issues confronting them.  But active citizenship requires more than social concern.  The most important characteristic of a citizen is the ability to make informed and critical choices. Making such choices requires the ability to think–knowledge.”

King, P. Nicole.  “Preserving Places, Making Spaces in Baltimore: Seeing the Connections of Research, Teaching, and Service as Justice.”   Journal of Urban History 40, no. 3 (2014): 425-499.

King describes her course at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County that gave her a “renewed sense of the relevance of urban history inside and outside of the academy” and argues for “a new interpretation of service within the academy–one that moves beyond the walls of the classroom and university into the community and uses teaching and research to better understand, analyze, and engage urban communities.”  What is unusual about the course is that it was funded by a $1500 grant, which is used to fund a student project that produces revenue.  Once the seed money is replenished, all profits go to a local nonprofit organization.

Financial Sustainabilty of Historic Sites and Downtowns

Maskey, Vishakha et al.  “Three Ownership Scenario Analyses of a Historic Site Management: Lessons Learned from a Historic Mill.” Journal of Management and Sustainability 3, no. 2 (Jun 2013): 1-9.

This article describes the cost-benefit analysis for of an 1865 grist mill in West Virginia under three scenarios: private, non-profit, and public ownership. The mill continued to operate privately until 2004, when annual attendance had dropped from 600 to 200 visitors. To understand the value of the mill, the authors conducted a survey of residents within a 20-mile radius to assess support and a cash flow analysis under various scenarios. The results suggest that private ownership is not economically feasible under either case. Only public ownership is economically efficient under optimistic assumptions and a 4% discount rate.

Litvin, Stephen and Jenna DiForio. “The “Malling” of Main Street: The Threat of Chain Stores to the Character of a Historic City’s Downtown.” Journal of Travel Research 53, no. 4 (2014): 488-499.

This article looks at King Street, Charleston, South Carolina, the main street of a successful historic tourism city that in recent years has seen a steady transition in tenant mix from one dominated by local merchants, to one today that features such national chain merchants as Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic, Gucci, and many others. A survey of both local residents and tourists attempted to answer if an influx of national brands and loss of local merchants was a concern. Based on the survey responses, “folks have accepted the current reality of a near-even local versus national mix of stores and have declared it a reasonable balance. . . . Perhaps Charleston residents, as well as Charleston tourists, have learned to adapt to and adopt the city’s changing retail mix…at any time find the then current mix acceptable.” The authors posit a new model describing this change, called “A Cycle of Acceptance,” which “suggests that as a community slowly changes, residents progress through stages we have labeled Assess, Adapt, Adopt, and Accept.”

Phillips, Rhonda G. and Jay M. Stein. “An Indicator Framework for Linking Historic Preservation and Community Economic Development.” Social Indicators Research 113 (2013): 1-15.

“Quality of life” is a slippery term but the authors attempt to integrate these values into economic development through a set of “community indicators” that focus on historic resources. They’ve developed 29 indicators that measure such factors as historic fabric, property assessment value trends, presence of a preservation ordinance, neighborhood participation, and business use and type. Each of these indicators is described with examples and can be used as benchmarks and to measure progress.

Does Historic Preservation Help or Hurt Property Values? The Economists Continue to Disagree

Chen, Ke. “The Making of a Historic District and the Economic Impact upon Housing Value: An Empirical Analysis of the Tree Streets Neighborhood in Johnson City, Tennessee.” Modern Economy 4, no. 12 (Dec 2013): 832-838.

“Through decades of a local civic organization’s efforts and government planning initiatives, the community has successfully turned from a university slum into a livable neighborhood. We also find that the benefits are not strictly nostalgic but there is a positive economic impact of historic preservation designation on property values.”

Heintzelman, Martin D. and Jason A. Altieri. “Historic Preservation: Preserving Value?” Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics 46, no.3 (Apr 2013): 543-563.

“The creation of a local historic district, on average, reduces home prices for homes in that district between 11.6 and 15.5%. This indicates that any restriction implied by the creation of a district outweigh any benefits to homeowners within the district.”

Wang, Wen-Yao Grace et al. “The Impact of Historical Designation on Property Values Before and Following Hurricane Ike: The Case of Galveston Texas.” Journal of Real Estate Portfolio Management 19, no. 3 (Sep-Dec 2013): 225-234.

This study examines the effect of historical designation and related code restrictions on property values in residential historic districts in Galveston, Texas, especially when there are more challenges for homeowners who choose to rebuild following a hurricane. “We find increases in property values in historic districts were, in general, comparable to those in non-historical regions during the 2007-2011 period. . . .property values in the historical areas appear more volatile to external shocks, such as storm damages. There is a sharp depreciation in 2008-2009, and faster and stronger recovery in 2010 for the properties in the historic districts.”

Zahirovic-Herbert, Velma and Karen M. Gibler. “Historic District Influence on House Prices and Marketing Duration.” Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics 48, no. 1 (January 2014): 112-131.

“While previous literature has restricted its focus to prices for houses in historic districts, it has overlooked a possible major difference in the search process in such a unique market. Historic designation may not only affect selling price, but may also affect the difficulty or ease of selling the house for that price—that is, marketing duration.” They found that, “historic preservation generally has a positive impact on property values within an historic district and, in particular, that the historic designation is associated with average property value increase of over 5 percent of mean house value. The restricted supply along with the value of prestige, protection of neighborhood character, and assurances that surrounding structures will be maintained and preserved appear to outweigh the costs to the average owner of restrictions on renovation and use.”

Environmental Issues at Historic Sites

Brimblecombe, Caroline and Peter Brimblecomb. “Insect catch in historic properties.” International Pest Control 56, no. 2 (Mar/Apr 2014): 84-85.

Although some have claimed climate change is increasing insect infestations, a study of insects trapped at historic sites managed by English Heritage showed a weak correlation with temperature. “If temperature were to increase across the 21st century, a dramatic increase in catch rate would be expected, but this is unlikely as insect abundance is not a function of temperature alone. Food, habitat, access points, presence of other pests, housekeeping and indoor climate can all have an impact on insect numbers and on infestations within a property.” In other words, global climate change may affect insect infestations at historic sites, but a much bigger factor is indoor climates, infrequent inspection of collections, inadequate staff training, events, and poor housekeeping and maintenance.

Stephenson, V and D. D’Ayala. “A new approach to flood vulnerability assessment for historic buildings in England.”  Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 14, no. 5 (May 2014): 1035-48.

Flooding has increased in frequency and severity in the United Kingdom, prompting this new framework for evaluating risk that’s simple and can widely applied. Their criteria consist of seven factors–age, listed status, use, footprint, number of stories, materials and structure, and condition–and show how it was successfully applied to three different neighborhoods.


2 thoughts on “Recent Articles on Historic Sites You May Have Missed

  1. Karen L Jessup, PhD

    These are provocative and timely, Max. Now, how about a comparable posting with a few articles on best practices in non profit management/governance?

    Thanks, Karen


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