This post is authored by Elaine Robinson, Senior Architectural Historian with Commonwealth Heritage Group in Dexter, Michigan.
When I entered the world of Cultural Resource Management as an architectural historian, the fifty-year guideline (I refuse to call it a rule) was at about 1945. The guideline is part of the standards used to determine which cultural resources are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Also considered are the four Criteria for Evaluation (association with events, persons, architecture, or likely to yield important information about the past) and the seven aspects of integrity (location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association). Looking back, I realize how convenient that was for historians. For the most part, the industry was still using the end of World War II as the cut-off for survey and documentation. Style guides and architectural books all covered the entire gamut of defined styles (the issue of vernacular forms is an entirely different issue…best saved for another time) that we were required to review. These resource books include names of every tiny feature, from acanthus to water table.
However, as time passes, and the date of construction for resources to be surveyed extends into the late 1960s, the reliable style guides are less likely to cover relevant styles, or even provide names for features that have to be described by the historian. Some of the style guides do offer vague discussions of architectural styles after 1945, but these are often lumped into a single category of “contemporary” or include resources that may not fit into individual State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)’s standards for a time period. And, even if style guides do include information you could use, getting the SHPO to recognize some of the terms can be more challenging than can be addressed in a single post. Consider the “wounded dove” roof form as mentioned in the 2013 A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia McAlester.
Some training sessions on the styles of buildings of the mid-twentieth century do exist, such as the National Preservation Institute seminar “The Recent Past: Strategies for Evaluation.” Unfortunately, this seminar is not offered often and can be cost prohibitive. This can lead to making up terms for architectural features, like my personal one of “fixed hopper” to reference windows in mid-century buildings that are placed at an angle that echoes an open hopper window. Or having to use full paragraphs to describe an individually important feature.
"Fixed Hopper" windows extend across the front of the 1950 Crystal Motors, 5901 Bay Parkway, Brooklyn, New York (photo by Samuel H. Gottscho).
It seems like it is time for another style guide. One that covers architectural features that dominated the twentieth century, from curtain walls to prow roof lines and beyond. As historians who are documenting twentieth-century buildings, please tell us about your experiences, the names you have used for architectural details, or resource materials that would benefit others!
As is discussed in the first blog post, for 20 years (1994-2014) ACRA hosted a listserv, called ACRA-l. ACRA-l served the CRM community well and provided a much-needed mechanism for CRM practitioners, from novices to company principals, to communicate about issues that were important to us. Topics ranged from job posts, to artifact identifications, to information on running a business; the listserv was dynamic and active thru 2013. In 2013, use of the listserv dropped dramatically, while newer platforms and interfaces were taking over our daily lives. The ACRA board decided that it was time to cease supporting the listserv and search for new ways to connect the CRM community.
It is my hope that the ACRAsphere Blog will provide a place for all our voices to be heard, a place to reinvigorate dialog between CRM practitioners of all levels, in all disciplines. Unlike platforms we have tried for the last 5 years, I hope that this system will recapture the value ACRA-l brought to our community using modern interfaces. I hope this blog can connect individuals, provide important updates to our community, create opportunities for random and guided discussions, and embrace the variety of voices with the CRM community.
Posts on this blog will be scheduled and created by a team of volunteers and staff. I hope that dialog related to our posts will occur in the comment section, which is open to everyone. In order to also allow for dialog on other topics important to you, we have created a "General Discussion" blog post. The General Discussion post is open for everyone to comment on, add new dialog, and start new strings. As we develop the blog, we may find other mechanisms to allow for informal discussions, categories of discussions, etc.
Readers can now find relevant news items compiled all in one place! In our CRM Firms in the News series, we feature recent mentions of ACRA member firms and their projects across the country. Was your firm recently featured in a news article or on social media? Send it to us to be included in our next volume of the series!
If you don't live in Washington, D.C., the daily workings of the federal government can feel far away from your everyday life. CRM professionals know better - federal government operations are integral to their conducting their business. Not only is Section 106 the basis for much of the country's CRM work, but policymakers are making decisions every day that could impact firms on everything from taxes to National Register regulations. Even them NOT making decisions is negatively affecting firms across the country!
CRM professionals need ensure they have a place at the table. Given the importance of the federal government in our work, it is necessary to advocate for the industry, educate policymakers about the value of our work, and provide expertise on how to make permitting more efficient without sacrificing preservation values.
ACRA member Vanessa Mirro conducting meetings on Capitol Hill
While many professionals understand the importance of the relationship between the federal government and the CRM industry, they feel apprehension about engaging with those making decisions on their behalf - even when those decision makers are not well-informed on heritage-related issues.
ACRA's latest webinar - Advocacy Skills for All - aims to give you more confidence in engaging with policymakers. You will get the skills to ensure that you are heard by legislators at all levels of government.
In this follow up to our post-election webinar, which is FREE for ACRA members (and only $25 for non-members!), we will train you to advocate effectively for your business and your community. We’ll focus on methods for engaging policymakers, and how to communicate your message effectively to different audiences.
There is no "correct" way to be an advocate - it is just important to participate. Let us show you how you can make a difference for the issues you care about most in the manner you feel most comfortable (and on your own schedule!). Register for Advocacy Skills for All NOW.
SAVE MY SEAT FOR THIS WEBINAR
As the federal government shutdown lingers on, more attention is being paid to the toll it takes on federal CRM projects and the firms that work on them. Last week we featured a great piece from Forbes that explores the impact the shutdown has had on vital cultural resources across the country, and we heard from many of you about how you have been affected by the shutdown.
We heard how everyone from students to firms owners in the CRM industry have lost wages, postponed projects, and even seen cultural sites destroyed. CRM professionals need to let legislators know that the shutdown affects more than just those that are directly on the federal payroll.
Now ACRA has made it easier for you to tell your shutdown story to those that represent you in DC. Simply use the script below to call your Senators to make sure your voice is heard in Washington.
If your Senator is a Republican:
Hello! My name is ___ and I’m calling from (part of state). I’m calling to ask [Senator] reopen the government by passing the clean funding bills that passed in the House on January 3.
The Senate unanimously passed a clean budget that would keep the government open until February, but now Senator McConnell refuses to allow a vote on that same legislation because Democrats have retaken control of the House. The shutdown is personally affecting [me/my business — insert personal story].
Will [Senator] commit to passing the House funding bills that would reopen our government instead holding our government hostage over the border wall?
Do you have a CRM-related question you would like feedback on? Did you find an article you think would be interesting for others to read? Post it here in our Open Discussion post.
From crowd sourcing information to ranting about issues you encounter in the field, this post is the place for you. You can always find it at the bottom of our homepage.
Welcome to the ACRAsphere, the newest source for CRM news across the nation!
The ACRAsphere is a blog that focuses specifically on the news and issues of interest to cultural resource management (CRM) firms across the country. Join us as we share information, stories, and news that affect our industry the most. You will also have the opportunity to hear from and collaborate with the diverse voices of CRM.
Focusing on more than just the technical aspects of CRM, the ACRAsphere will provide you with tips on running your business, engaging with other employees, and expanding the visibility of your firm. From opportunities to engage with legislators to exclusive benefits, you will hear about it here first.
The ACRAsphere is for you if:
Why a blog?
From the publication of CRM-specific newsletters to facilitating discussion on the our now-closed listserv, ACRA has long contributed to communications between cultural resource managers. The Grapevine and its sister newsletter ACRA News were the first publications of their kind intended for private sector CRM companies. Side by side, these two publications were important member benefits that kept firms abreast of the issues that affect them the most.
Additionally, the ACRA listserv provided members and non-members alike the opportunity to discuss pressing topics, collaborate on issues, and connect with each other raise the profile of the CRM industry. Many of you have said that both the content in the newsletters and the discussion provided by the listserv have been greatly missed, and you’ve been heard.
ACRA leadership has worked hard to respond to the needs of CRM practitioners, and their goal in resurrecting the newsletter was to find a medium that combined the aspects of your favorite parts of our historical publications. Thus, the ACRAsphere was born.
Engaging with the ACRAsphere
Subscribe to the ACRAsphere now to make sure you don’t miss a post – subscribers will receive weekly updates of all posts directly into their inbox.
We welcome your comments, thoughts, suggestions, and questions. We will quickly remove any comments that are offensive, profane, disrespectful, or irrelevant. Please remember that this blog is a public forum and refrain from posting private information.
Thank you for reading, commenting, and contributing to ACRAsphere. We are excited to have you here!
The ACRAsphere Blog Team