Keeping history intact is the job of building heritage specialists. They
are also known as historic preservationists or architectural conservators.
They're experts at maintaining a building's historical integrity through restoration,
renovation or conversion.
"Sometimes saving a building is pragmatic, like repairing its roof," explains
Barbara Campagna. She oversees historic preservation at a New York architectural
firm. "Sometimes it's philosophical -- saving a concept."
Craig Sims specializes in historic windows and glass. As a building heritage
specialist, he starts off most projects by peering into the past through "things
like original drawings, documents about the windows when they were constructed
and maintenance records."
Next, he says, "you would have to survey the condition, recording, measuring
and photographing it. After that begins the process of analyzing what happened
and what went wrong and what's the best thing to do about it."
Communication forms an important part of the job. "You have to write a
lot," says Sims. "You have to be able to craft a concise technical argument,
but clearly enough that a layperson can see the argument you have to make."
"I spend a lot of time 'hand-holding' clients, staff and regulatory review
agencies," says Campagna. "I often refer to myself as a 'building doctor.'
My position requires great speaking skills, great diplomatic skills, energy,
enthusiasm, the ability to think very quickly and to make decisions very quickly."
Most building heritage specialists work for public agencies, nonprofit
organizations or private consulting firms, says Thomas Visser. He is a professor
of historic preservation at the University of Vermont and co-chair of the
National Council for Preservation Education.
Public employees, he notes, "enjoy good benefits packages, vacations and
regular working hours." Specialists employed in the nonprofit sector must
be prepared for "a more flexible schedule with evening meetings and attendance
at weekend special events."
The private sector can be even more demanding, as Campagna knows well.
She has been on "60-hour weeks, working on weekends, and traveling" for the
whole of her career. "I travel a lot for projects, as well as to conferences
and seminars," she says.
Specialists working as independent consultants have the "the most freedom,
highest risks and least benefits," Visser remarks. "Some individuals thrive
in this entrepreneurial environment and find it very rewarding, while others
prefer working in situations where there is more predictability."
Sims is one independent who has thrived, even though he had self-employment
thrust upon him. "In the 1980s," he explains, "there were architectural firms
and engineering firms that would often have a group within them that would
do preservation and conservation work. When the economy went into recession,
they disbanded these groups because they tended not to be money-makers. That's
what happened to me."
Now an independent consultant, he typically works as part of a multidisciplinary
team assembled by a contractor. "What tends to happen with the bigger projects
is that teams get thrown together," he says. Specialists in masonry, roofing
and plaster work alongside historians, archeologists, engineers and architects.
Contacts made on one project frequently lay the foundation for future projects.
"Historic preservation is one of the great networking career fields," says
Campagna. "All of my positions have come through people I knew -- people I
went to school with, worked with or met at a conference."
Many people with special needs work in historic preservation, says Sims.
"I have two colleagues who are deaf, for instance." Though on-site mobility
may present a challenge, most drafting and planning is done through computer