Exploring Perspectives on Historic Preservation Concepts and Criteria

Students in professor Greg Donofrio's Introduction to Historic Preservation course (ARCH 4/5671), created video investigations exploring a wide range of perspectives on the criteria and concepts that inform historic preservation decision making.  The assignment asked students to work in small, 2-3 person teams to investigate a preservation topic of interest to them.  Advocacy videos were discouraged.  Rather, students were required to take a neutral position on the topic and to investigate and report on all relevant points of view.

Student Examples:

Dinkytown: Preservation + Transformation


(Created by undergraduate architecture students Shreya Ghoshal, Amanda Stevens, and Jake Torkelson)

Fergus Falls State Hospital


(Created by undergraduate architecture students Lauren Angus, Amanda Anderson, and Cydney Evert)

Illuminated: Shining a Light on Authenticity


(Created by graduate students Katherine Deacon, Vanessa Walton, and Kate Stanger, Heritage Conservation and Preservation Program)

Pillsbury A Mill

(Created by graduate Engineering students Morgan Kuehn and Marah Sobczak (College of Science & Engineering))

Learning Objectives

  • Clear and concise visual and verbal communication
  • Research and synthesis of scholarly literature
  • Understanding of historic preservation issues from multiple, often conflicting, points of view
  • Documentation of sources
  • Team work including increased excitement and collective energy in the class cultivated by working together on projects and the festive atmosphere viewing the videos as a group
  • Compelling and analytical storytelling

Demonstrated Learning Benefits

  • Greater engagement with and enthusiasm for the application of core concepts to case studies
  • Enhanced collaboration
  • Increased excitement and collective energy in the class cultivated by working together on projects and the festive atmosphere viewing the videos as a group
  • Greater attention to concise and compelling communication that emerged through the editing and re-editing of videos. I am confident that students spent far more time editing and refining these videos than most dedicate to writing papers.
  • Ability to invite guests to class--including librarians, professors, and other professional colleagues--to view rough and final cut videos to share with the students their own insights, critiques, and perspectives. This is difficult to do with a more traditional paper assignment.  
  • Students produce an attractive and thoughtful video to add to their portfolio of work samples
     

Subject Knowledge Acquired

Students debated and applied core concepts of historic preservation to the subjects investigated in their videos including historical significance, material integrity, period of significance, and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation.  Several projects explored widespread preservation challenges such as fundraising, advocacy, stabilization as an alternative to demolition, the synergies and tensions between affordable housing and historic preservation, and expanding the scope of traditional preservation practice to include intangible culture and memory.

Soft Skill Set Acquired

Video production-editing skill sets
Video interviewing skill sets
Audio/visual mixed media composition
Voice over (scripting)
Media Literacy (media arts approach: video production)
Project management
Group work

Challenges

  • Fear of the unknown: it is substantially easier to assign a more traditional research paper because most professors have experience writing those assignments, advising students on potential topics, and grading the final results. Developing a video assignment requires new skills and a new way of thinking about coursework and scholarship. My advice: if you are unfamiliar with the technology and processes, then you have to start early to collaborate with colleagues who can help, like university librarians.
  • Trust: I had to believe that my students could learn the technical skills to produce the videos on their own, and with some help from university resources and guides developed by university librarians. Dedicating class time to teaching students to use video production and editing software seemed beyond the scope of my course and potentially undesirable because it could prevent students from using the software they know, or that they desire to learn. My advice: trust that students will figure it out. 
  • Letting go: it was, and still is, difficult for me to let go of the traditional research paper.  Did students learn the same things they might have with a research paper assignment?  Is a video scholarship?  Did the students learn other skills that would not have come from a paper?  I am still debating all of these questions.  My advice: Try it!  My students liked the assignment and so did I.  Evaluating outcomes is an ongoing process.


Project Assignment and Comment Form Documentation

Project assignment description and the storyboard documentation

Rough cut comment form documentation

Campus Support Resources

Media production course outreach support was offered by Media Outreach Librarian, Scott Spicer.  Many of the student groups also benefited from media creation, production computing, and equipment loan support in the SMART Learning Commons.

Media Production Support Guide developed by Scott Spicer.
 

Student Production Support from the SMART Learning Commons

Reserve Production Equipment
Schedule Video Production Project Support