I am thrilled to join the board of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, a group which I hold dear to my heart, and which has been truly transformative in my professional life. As I shared with the board at a recent meeting, when I discovered the VAF in college -- serendipitously through an early iteration of the organization’s website -- it was like finding my people. Studying “old houses” had been a passion of mine since grade school, writing booklets and giving walking tours for my hometown historical society. Discovering that others were interested in buildings that were both old and common was a key revelation. Knowing that there was an academic discipline beyond the awkward fit of my history and art history classes was critical in shaping my career path. Finding the organization, in part, lead me to a PhD in American and New England Studies at Boston University, where I had the honor of studying with VAF stalwarts including Claire Dempsey, Jessica Sewall, and William Moore.
But I really learned how lucky I was to have VAF as my academic home at my first conference in Savannah in 2007. I was a precocious (but thoroughly terrified) first-year graduate student, giving my first real academic paper at Jessica’s suggestion, on the seeds of a topic that would eventually become my dissertation and now my first book. I will never forget the warm, humorous, and encouraging remarks and advice I received from the late Pamela Simpson, whose book on industrially-made architectural ornament had been instrumental at that stage of my research, but whose name I embarrassingly neglected to credit in my remarks. Each subsequent conference, my attendance at some of which was supported by the organization’s ambassadors fellowship, soon became the highlight of my year. The collegiality, conviviality, and passion for the built environment on display each time always raised my spirits, kept me at my work through the rough patches, and gave me an imagined audience of colleagues and friends that I always wanted to make pound.
For all of these reasons, and many more, I very much cherish the opportunity to sit on the VAF board – as well as serving as the organization’s communications chair and webmaster. In doing so I hope to give a little something back to a group that truly has given so much to me.