In a continuing series that explores the diversity of our membership, the following is an interview with a new VAF Board member, and VAF member since 2007, Emilie Johnson
How were you introduced to VAF?
Like so many others, I can date my introduction to VAF to a particular meeting - Savannah. I was a relative late-comer to VAF. I came to graduate school in architectural history department at the University of Virginia out of an art history and art museum background and I had no idea what vernacular architecture was. I studied under Louis Nelson, who introduced me to vernacular architecture and VAF, and had a cohort of peers at UVA who were engaged in thought-provoking ways of looking at and asking questions about buildings. All of these new and interesting people were involved with this organization, and like all good peer pressure, I wanted to be part of it too. After my first meeting, where I realized there was a larger community of people doing this kind of work, I was sold.
How has your experience with VAF shaped your career, methods, views etc.?
About the same time I learned about VAF, I did my first fieldwork – which, as we all know, is just about the most fun you can have. Through articles in Buildings and Landscapes, papers, presentations, and conversations on tours at the conferences, I have found VAF a consistent source of progressive, inclusive scholarship based on insightful questions derived from excellent research that is deeply place, object, and document based. Now that I work at Monticello, a built environment often described in superlatives, I try to model my approach to the place from a VAF-inspired perspective.
What is one of your favorite VAF moments?
It is hard to choose, but a couple of things came immediately to mind. One was the Bubbles disco at the Falmouth conference – hosting papers by day, and other kinds of revelry at night. I also thought about seeing the spiral staircase from Montmorenci in a Mount Vernon out in Fresno, California. VAF is an organization that seeks out, embraces, and celebrates the unusual, the surprising, and sometimes the absurd, which is why I’m so happy to be part of it.