I first became aware of the Vernacular Architecture Forum when I was a graduate student in the Department of Architectural History at the University of Virginia. Camille Wells, a VAF stalwart, told me about the organization and she really encouraged the graduate students to become members. I joined and attended my first conference in 2001 in Newport, Rhode Island, where I presented my first paper. I remember meeting Pam Simpson, who was really welcoming to new attendees. The commitment and passion of everyone for buildings and landscapes was so evident at the conference and I really felt I had found a great home for my interests. I also felt lucky to receive a student fellowship to attend and I've always appreciated VAF's efforts to make the conferences affordable for students and young professionals. The next conference I attended was in Tuscon in 2005. I've been to every conference since then and I'm looking forward to San Antonio in 2020. My research and professional work primarily focuses on North American buildings and landscapes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, so participating in conferences is very valuable for my own work.
I first became involved with the VAF board through committee work. I was asked to join a few committees around 2006 when I was teaching undergraduates and then I was nominated to the board and first served from 2007-2010. I've helped out with the fellowship, development, papers, finance, and Buchanan Award committees, and through each experience I've learned something new. I'm happy to be back on the VAF board serving as the 1st Vice-President with an energetic group.
In my opinion, the conference format of two days of site visits and tours with one day for paper sessions is ideal. The conferences have been tremendously helpful for me in a number of ways. I really like to learn about and see various types of buildings and landscapes in different areas of North America (or beyond - I went to the conference in Falmouth, Jamaica) and study them with other participants, who often have great insights or specialized knowledge to share. I also enjoy meeting people working in the field and hearing how they address particular conservation problems or deal with site interpretation. The paper sessions are also very informative and it's great to hear about people's research and methodologies. I also benefit from reading the articles in Buildings and Landscapes and the old Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture series. This organization has so much to offer and I really hope I can alert more people to all that VAF does and persuade them to join us.