11.00 “The Places My Granddad Built”: Using Genealogy as a Pedagogical Segue for Heritage Preservation
While teaching heritage preservation courses for several years I struggled with how to give an equal balance to the research and preservation of buildings and other historic sites vis-à-vis the stories surrounding people and culture—an extension of the paradoxical issue of conducting tangible and intangible heritage preservation simultaneously and in a meaningful way. Recently, I began experimenting with the exercise of having students conduct research into the preservation of their own heritage. The two courses where these exercises have taken place are the entry-level “Introduction to Heritage Preservation” class and the final “Senior Seminar Thesis.” The results have been informative. “The Places My Granddad Built” is the title of one of my student’s papers.
Students within the “Introduction to Heritage Preservation” class generally do not have a background in preservation. The class counts as a general education humanities elective; although it also works as a catchment for many who go on to declare heritage preservation as a major. For them, the exercise (which is a short research paper assignment) introduces to them why and how historic places matter by personalizing them. Through personalization I have found that greater empathy for the historic places of others can be fostered. For advanced students in the “Senior Seminar Thesis,” which serves as a capstone, it is an opportunity to apply everything they have learned from the previous several years of course work and apply it in a way that is both practical and academic. The focus of their thesis research is also not just any place, but a place (thing or cultural practice) that is personally important for them. Through the integration of genealogy/family history with preservation studies as a pedagogical method I shall demonstrate how students can take on a more culturally sensitive and vocationally holistic approach to heritage preservation in a variety of manifestations—from small material objects to expansive cultural landscapes, in addition to intangible practices.