Reflections from RWU Ambassadors

15 Aug 2018 1:45 AM | Christine R Henry

RWU Historic Preservation Program students at Mount Vernon. L to r Chelsea Towers, Sarah Lasky, Olivia Jacinto, Matthew Papineau, Henry Feuss. Photo by Elaine Stiles

Thanks to a generous grant from the VAF Ambassadors Program, five undergraduate and graduate students from the Roger Williams University Historic Preservation Program attended the 2018 Vernacular Architecture Forum conference in Alexandria. This was the students’ first introduction to the VAF and for most of them, their first experience with the buildings and landscapes of the Potomac region. As usual, VAF did not disappoint and a fine time was had by all. Students will be sharing their experiences with the VAF in Alexandria through a photography exhibit in the RWU School of Architecture, Art, and Historic Preservation highlighting conference sites and encounters. Here are students’ reflections on the Potomac meeting in their own words:

I thank the Vernacular Architecture Forum for awarding my classmates and I the generous opportunity to serve as VAF Ambassadors. This irreplaceable experience has inspired me to apply the same energy and focus exhibited by the members of VAF to all that I aspire to encounter in the challenging, exciting, and rewarding field of preservation.

We kicked off the conference with a wonderful journey on the Cherry Blossom to Mount Vernon. As the sternwheeler carried its passengers up the sunset kissed river, our group had the opportunity to mingle with the VAF community, quickly realizing that it is comprised of a most friendly, enthusiastic, bright group of people! The conference was a wonderful opportunity to see not only some of Alexandria’s rich architectural heritage but to meet other passionate preservationists with a wealth of knowledge and experience. For two days we explored the built landscape of Alexandria and Maryland, seeing fine examples of nineteenth estates and churches to a cool apothecary shop in town.

The most rewarding experience was breaking off into groups on the final day for “Paper Sessions,” which provided examples of crucial efforts and projects in the preservation field to not only protect the buildings that is most often associated with the built environment but elements of of our rich industrial and cultural heritage as well. The “Field Notes” session in particular proved to be a moving presentation that explored the descent of our industrial landscape into obsolescence, the interpretation of our industrial spaces, and how inhabitants of non conventional dwellings are threatened by neglect and encroaching development on the water. 

The Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference has introduced a network of great people that encourage and excite young and aspiring students of preservation.

-Olivia Jacinto, BS Historic Preservation

Driving into historic Alexandria, Virginia it was instantly apparent it was going to be a great weekend. The Vernacular Architectural Forum kicked of the event with a boat tour down the coast of the Pontiac River to Mount Vernon. The boat tour was beautiful and the people were even better. Everyone that is a part of the VAF was incredibly friendly and encouraging about my future aspirations in preservation. Meeting people in all areas of preservation was my favorite part. There is so much to do with my degree after school - I just have to figure out what makes me the most excited. The private tour of Mount Vernon was a one in a million opportunity. The bus and walking tours in Virginia and Maryland the following days followed suit. Getting the opportunity to visit private homes is an experience only the VAF can create.

-Chelsea Towers, MS Historic Preservation

The chance to appreciate historic architecture alongside a group of like-minded individuals is not an everyday occurrence. What struck me most about the conference was the overwhelming appreciation every attendee had for both the architecture and the experience. For example, the etiquette surrounding our approach to an historic structure during conference tours spoke of the respect and reverence attendees had for the experience: first admiring a structure for its physical appearance, and then converging on the building in hopes of discovering unique corks and charming finishes.  The tours were an excellent opportunity to learn about materials and methods of historic construction outside of our typical sphere of education surrounding Roger Williams University, and they provided the chance to encounter diverse cultural landscapes that are unique to the Potomac shorelines.

-Sarah Lasky, BS Historic Preservation

The chance that the VAF gave me was incredible and it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I will always remember. I learned so much from this trip from learning about other schools to the technical aspects of the field. What this showed me was that I really did choose the right major and I’m so thankful I will be doing this work in my life. The good this work will do for my community is unbelievable, and this trip gave me the opportunity to see what was possible.

-Matthew Papineau, BS Historic Preservation

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