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Building Craftsmanship, Capacity, and Relationships:The Preservation Trades Network

Marshall, Philip Cryan and Robert J. Cagnetta, "Building Craftsmanship, Capacity, and Relationships:The Preservation Trades Network," The Journal of the Association for Preservation Technology, Special Issue: Convergence of Architecture and Craft, Vol. XXXIII, Number 1, 2002, Washington, DC: The Association for Preservation Technology, pp.43-45.

Abstract

The Preservation Trades Network Training and Education Committee is seeking examples nationwide of the mutual respect and understanding among specialists in the preservation community. Through cooperative efforts, the committee is designing and building a lifelong "Career Lattice,"which identifies learning and work opportunities, while breaking down the perception that career advancement is restricted to academic achievements. Given the impetus of educational reform initiatives, the next decade will see dramatic changes in the range and delivery of academic offerings to include vocational or process-oriented skills development. Today, trades training is increasingly augmented with greater technical instruction and general education. Collaboration on preservation projects can explore avenues of cooperation and opportunity among educators, professionals, students, and apprentices. Through field-based training, academic disciplines will better apply their principles to practice in partnership with trades specialist, whose work is strengthened through educational opportunities.

Preservation Trades Network (PTN) Training and Education Committee

The goal of the Preservation Trades Network (PTN) Training and Education Committee is to facilitate the exchange of preservation education and training within the preservation community. This article is a report of work in progress of the PTN Training and Education Committee, placed in the greater context of the committee's goals and PTN's mission.

The committee focuses on a less tangible, process-oriented, and valued resource: the mutual respect and understanding among various niches of the preservation community, our public/private clients, and the communities we (pre)serve. Committee research and initiatives are addressing means by which resources can be combined to produce a vigor among of new and existing programs, where varying "menus and venues" — learning programs and environments — can provide a constructive common ground for the exchange of information so that better understanding and respect may be achieved.

The committee seeks examples of such initiatives nationwide, to serve as models and impetus for others. These initiatives will be posted on the committee's Web site.(1) PTN decided that there was a need for a means by which organizations, educational institutions, and training initiatives could work together and where anyone interested in preservation could have access to opportunities in education and training in a dynamic, interactive, and inviting context.

Building a Career Lattice

The modernist paradigm of career advancement can be likened to ascending the proverbial ladder, one rung at a time, until nearing the top. If one envisions a lattice structure instead, career development — from youth to elderhood — is not seen as rungs up a ladder, but rather as diverse potential pathways in preservation education, training, employment, traditional folk and indigenous practices, mentoring, and volunteerism.

Conventionally, training programs are described as being appropriate for craftspeople, much the same way that educational programs are for preservation specialists.  The concept of a career lattice breaks down the perception that career advancement is restricted to academic achievements. Here, craft training can augment and support academic education by providing skillful means in context.  Using the career lattice concept, the preservation community can develop a new blueprint for education and training that builds on a natural interconnection between work done on the scaffolding, in the laboratory, or at the drafting table.

Preservation Education

Education typically refers to curricula and multidisciplinary academic programs that teach students to engage in lifelong learning. A collegiate environment is assumed to be necessary for developing critical thinking, reasoning, communication, resource management, and professional skills. Yet successful education goes beyond the classroom; it creates the context in which practical application of knowledge and skills continues through life.

To survive or thrive, educational programs for many historic-preservation professions can no longer adhere solely to the classroom-based "chalk-and-talk" course model. In the context of new vocationalism (and reality), education is also realized through on-the-job training, coupled with instructional components.

Given the impetus of educational reform initiatives, the next decade will see dramatic changes in the range and delivery of curricular offerings, in the relationship between educational institutions and their communities, and in the increased need for students to engage directly in relevant field-based, experiential service-learning. At the heart of combined "head-and-hand"efforts — which couple academic education with field-based training — is the broader goal of enhancing the cognitive skills of learners in diverse settings while utilizing their multiple intelligences; traditional education systems seldom fosters this.

Preservation programs should send a strong signal to their academic administrators that field-based programs be considered as "centers of excellence" whose work can serve as a model for university-wide service-learning initiatives. However, if programs continue to evolve "by the book," the increased formalization and specialization of advanced academic preservation degrees will isolate graduates in these professions.

There has always been an emphasis on knowledge and skills within the craft trades, where "academic" knowledge was taught by a master to an apprentice, through the practical application of craft skills.  However, the momentum of trades training from master to apprentice has been broken, requiring the crafts and academia to provide the missing links within the career lattice.

This current emphasis on preservation education at the graduate and midcareer levels neglects the need to provide both exposure to and opportunities in the building trades. The craftsperson represents a diverse, underrepresented population that traditionally enters a career path after high-school. Exposure to trades-based career opportunities must begin early on, with articulation among vocational-technical and highschool programs, apprenticeships, and employment.

Preservation Training

Training typically refers to occupation-specific, on-the-job, field-oriented skills development, augmented by technical course instruction that introduces and reinforces particular technical-trade competencies. Training also refers to technical courses provided to augment prior education and ongoing work experience.

In the trades there is an increasing emphasis on both knowledge and experience as a means to achieve better ability to respond proactively to the changing demands of a project. Yet this emphasis on training and education seeks to demand a "smarter"preservation craftsperson, one who understands, analyzes and seeks solutions within buildings and who has the technical skills necessary to comprehend and execute the traditional crafts in today's business environment.

A career lattice creates access at all levels of education, training, and employment. While most people are introduced to career choices in their teen years, few are enrolled in programs that explore opportunities in the preservation trades, whether as a career path or as a component of a field-based, interdisciplinary curriculum that provides options for graduating students. Secondary-school youth and educators need to consider preservation trades as a career choice and to view preservation-based vocational training as a means for academic, skills, and job advancement.

Traditional trades training occurred when a craftsperson followed a multiyear apprenticeship under several masters and gained a journeyman status, eventually becoming a master. Modern trades offer limited preservation training opportunities, but trade unions, sponsors of federal apprenticeship programs, private sector cooperative programs, vocational-technical institutes, vocational-rehabilitation programs, and other groups offer training programs in other disciplines; these programs may serve as models. Identifying and equating knowledge outside of academia can create access to preservation craftspeople who can pass along the skills, intuition, and experience of the field.  As a result, PTN must at some point address and assess the certification and credentials and of its community members.

The PTN Training and Education Committee is exploring cooperative ventures between educational programs and field-based, job-oriented training programs. One area of interest is how secondary and postsecondary education can develop partnerships with organizations and industry to provide students greater field experience and training.

Today

In building construction, those in the crafts and trades have been denied responsibility and decision-making capacity in the construction process and — to an extent —in constructing their own career paths and life goals. Today, such individuals are not limited to conventional tradespeople but also include skilled artists, artisans, and craftspeople who are capable of utilizing their creative knowledge to develop new design and construction solutions, conservation treatments, or artistic expressions within the context of historic and contemporary architecture.

Meanwhile, contemporary design professions — disengaged from the workers, process, and product of site work — rely increasingly on ironclad, prescriptive specifications and drawings as a means to cope with perceived lack of qualified craftspeople or with the of lack of adequate qualification standards by which to select specialists. Tradespeople are infrequently sought for advice in developing conservation or design solutions, despite their skill and field experience.

Yesterday and Tomorrow

Collaboration on historic-preservation projects can help us explore avenues of cooperation. One of the greatest achievements of preservation work is that conservation of historic objects — their combined design, creation, and life — places a demand on the project team to work together in gaining a greater understanding of how to work together. This collaborative effort strengthens their capacity and respect for each other.

Preservation work is, therefore, not only objectively considered as a product but also actively considered as a process. By looking at the ongoing process and not just the product and by considering the human, rather than the physical, resources, preservation transcends its historical bounds to define the continuum of historic and contemporary works, not the conflict. This subjective, process-oriented paradigm contributes new meaning to Owen Jones's proposition 36, which reads, "The principles discoverable in the works of the past belong to us; not so the results. It is taking the end for the means."2

With reference to these principles, our goal is to identify education and training options within the career lattice through which members of the preservation community may come together to advance the process of learning, in keeping with Jones's proposition. "Building" is not a noun but a verb describing the combined, intentional action of craft and design professionals to work together to preserve society's past.

Notes
1. The PTN Training and Education committee's web presence is at http://www.epreservation.net/partnerships/ptnte.
2. Owen Jones The Grammar of Ornament (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1868), 8.

Authors
Philip Cryan Marshall is co-chair of the Training and Education Committee, Preservation Trades Network and associate professor, Historic Preservation Program, School of Architecture, Art and Historic Preservation, Roger Williams University, Bristol, Rhode Island.
Robert J. Cagnetta is co-chair Training and Education Committee, Preservation Trades Network, president, Heritage Restoration, Inc. in Wakefield, Rhode Island.