By Margot McIlwain Nishimura
This is Part 3 of a series covering the Keeping History Above Water conference held April 10–13 in Newport, Rhode Island. [Part 1| Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]
| A workshop during the Keeping History Above Water conference in Newport, Rhode Island.| Caroline Goddard/Newport Restoration Foundation
If you were to compose a summary of the Newport Restoration Foundation’s (NRF) Keeping History Above Water conference from seven actual tweets, it might go something like this:
@SenWhitehouse #HistoryAboveWater suggests repealing law of thermal expansion; short of that, we need to act now to minimize causes of slr [sea level rise].
"Our history & state are so tied to water, we can't imagine running away from coast." Stephanie Zurek @unionstudioarch #HistoryAboveWater
Adrienne Burke, @Fernandinabeach: When choices have to be made, making the case for heritage as "critical infrastructure" #HistoryAboveWater
Lisa Craig @HPAnnapolis "Understand the places that matter to your community, not just preservationists" #HistoryAboveWater
"While we sit & wait & calculate, the waters rise." -Queen Quet @GullahGeechee #HistoryAboveWater
"This conference is about NOT reinventing the wheel." -NRF Exec Dir Pieter Roos #HistoryAboveWater #partnerships @GalvHistory @HPAnnapolis
@rowemw - form networks with unusual suspects; kill your inner snob; get to work #HistoryAboveWater @NPTRestoration
originating goal of this conference was to educate the preservation
community about the risks that climate change—specifically sea level
rise—poses to historic structures and neighborhoods. Planning began in
earnest with the first program committee meeting on March 2, 2015, right
on the heels of the February 2–4 Pocantico meeting that resulted in the
Call to Action on Climate Impacts and Cultural Heritage.
The Call to Action gave NRF a ready framework, and with one of the
largest inventories of 18th-century structures in the United States—many
of which sit in a flood zone—we were eager to focus concern on the
historic built environment. We sought to advance solutions for greater
resiliency in this one particular area.
| Attendees listen in during a Keeping History Above Water panel. | Caroline Goddard/Newport Restoration Foundation
Sixteen program committee meetings later, and with the help of NRF staff and board members, partner organizations, and generous sponsors,
we arrived at day one of a conference that had already become, as the
tweets above suggest, about so much more than just the buildings. The
built environment did remain a primary focus of the program and
conversation, and the case study of practical resiliency measures for
NRF’s Christopher Townsend House, built circa 1728 at 74 Bridge Street,
was a popular centerpiece. But when “adaptation” was proposed as the
essential guiding principle at the end of the first full day of plenary
sessions, it was clear that this principle applied to communities,
attitudes, and policies as much as to infrastructure and buildings. It
was also clear that further progress toward protecting costal heritage,
whether tangible or otherwise, would require participation from multiple
fields of study and practice as well as from the private, nonprofit,
and government sectors. Thankfully, all of these were represented at the
conference, and they were all ready to get to work.
Posts in this series have delved into the topics and lessons learned at the conference, and there are also summary posts on the news page of the conference website. So what comes next?
NRF is committed to continuing support for the work begun at Keeping History Above Water first and foremost by keeping the conference website
live and updated with news and events for the multidisciplinary
community concerned with protecting coastal heritage, especially from
the impacts of sea level rise. Photos from the conference, video of all
plenary sessions, and a summary of press coverage (from the Newport Mercury to the Chennai Hindu) will be available soon. We will be adding a bookshelf feature to the resources page,
which already has extensive links to climate change mapping tools,
reports and case studies, and glossaries of terms. To keep this a useful
hub for preservation professionals, policymakers, and community
members, we will need your help—please send information about new work
in the field, either online or in print, to email@example.com.
The 74 Bridge Street Resiliency Case Study project,
which was exhibited onsite during the conference, will soon be
published in both print and PDF forms. And more news on a conference
publication, to be co-edited by Jeremy C. Wells—from the Architecture
and Historic Preservation department at the Roger Williams University
School of Art—and the National Trust’s Shantia Anderheggen, is pending.
This continuing activity will eventually reside with NRF’s new research
center for the study of historic preservation and material culture,
under the auspices of which the conference was organized. NRF will
continue to welcome opportunities to partner with like-minded
individuals and organizations, locally and nationally, on the
development of resources and events that further the knowledge shared
and advances made at Keeping History Above Water.
| 74 Bridge Interactive Exhibit at the Keeping History Above Water conference in Newport, Rhode Island. | Frank Mullin/Newport Restoration Foundation
Of course, if you would still like a blow-by-blow of the action, I
can unhesitatingly recommend scrolling through the full (and extensive!)
Twitter and Instagram feeds using the #HistoryAboveWater
hashtag. To make sure you don’t miss any news of continuing activities
on the conference theme, please follow us @nptrestoration.
McIlwain Nishimura is the deputy director for collections, programming
and public engagement at the Newport Restoration Foundation.
#SeaLevelRise #PreservationGreenLab #Sustainability #ClimateChange