September 4, 2014

Summer with HOPE Crew: Inspiring a New Generation of Preservationists

  • More: HOPE Crew
  • By: National Trust for Historic Preservation

Written by Juliana Glassco, HOPE Crew Intern

HOPE Crew workers and scaffolding at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area included repainting the exterior of the historic Peters building. Credit Mathew Grubel, HOPE Crew craft expert
HOPE Crew work at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area included repainting the exterior of the historic Peters building.

In late August, I traveled with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s HOPE Crew staff to visit the National Park Service’s Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, just in time to congratulate a HOPE Crew made up of Student Conservation Association (SCA) corpsmembers on a job well done as they completed a two-month project in the recreation area.

The crew members, most of them current college students or recent graduates, spent their summer documenting, cleaning, stabilizing, and painting historic structures. They spent most of their time at Camp Ken-Etiwa-Pec (KEP), a former camp constructed by Boy Scouts of America in the 1930s.

I was able to catch up with a few of the tired but happy crew members to talk about what they are taking away from their experience. The corpsmembers learned firsthand that preservation work isn’t always glamorous; they removed a LOT of debris from some of the structures that have been vacant for a few years -- and they had fun doing it!

Highlights included wearing Tyvek protective suits and discovering vintage soda cans and a snapping turtle skeleton. They also documented structures for future preservation projects and repaired exterior damage to camp buildings, observing the varying success levels of past repairs as part of the process.

These experiences have fundamentally impacted the way that they look at buildings. SCA member Kristyne says, “This summer has been an eye-opener for all of the behind-the-scenes work that gets done at parks … I’m taking away technical skills like how to hang a door right and how to use a table saw. It is also nice being able to appreciate the work that others have done, and it has changed the way I see places.

The crew members, some of whom are pursuing careers in parks and cultural resource management, will be bringing these real-world lessons and technical knowledge with them back to school and beyond. According to Aimee, “It is a foundation for other things I’m going to do in my life later. There were a lot of first experiences for me. I learned about what preservation work actually entails -- it is a long process. I can appreciate it more.”

Katie, another corpsmember, sums up the project: “I learned new skills, improved upon old skills, and had a lot of fun!"

When asked what they would change about their experience, they agreed that they just wish it had lasted longer.

“There’s so much still to do!” Aimee says, and she’s right. With over 700 historic structures in need of rehabilitation, there is certainly no shortage of preservation work in the near future.

HOPE Crew work at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area included repainting the exterior of the historic Peters building. Credit Mathew Grubel, HOPE Crew craft expert

Seeing the impact of HOPE Crew firsthand and sharing the contagious enthusiasm of the corpsmembers at Delaware Water Gap was a powerful affirmation of the work that I have been doing this summer as HOPE Crew’s intern at the National Trust.

My focus has been on connecting craft experts and potential HOPE Crew leaders with the program, and strengthening HOPE Crew’s infrastructure as more and more projects are implemented across the country. In the process, I have visited a few HOPE Crew sites, met countless inspiring preservationists, and just scratched the surface of learning about the amazing work of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and its many partner organizations.

I arrived at HOPE Crew with a strong belief in the transformative power of youth corps; my first year out of undergraduate school was spent as a member of Lutheran Volunteer Corps, working with a community-based environmental organization. That experience provided me with a lens that continues to inform my personal and professional priorities as well as how I engage with my community. It led me to develop an understanding of historic preservation that incorporates issues of justice, community, and sustainability.

It didn’t occur to me to identify as a preservationist, however, until right around the time that I decided to go back to school to become one professionally. This is despite the fact that I studied anthropology and history in college and have been a lifetime lover of old places. This disconnect is not unusual, I have discovered, and I am so glad that the National Trust has discovered it as well and is actively working to engage young people in the preservation movement through HOPE Crew and other programs.

HOPE Crew scaffolding at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area included repainting the exterior of the historic Peters building. Credit Mathew Grubel, HOPE Crew craft expert

This background drew me to HOPE Crew, and my time here has only deepened my appreciation for the program. By training a new generation in valuable preservation skills through a hands-on experience, it is fostering mentorship between current and future craft experts and it is making preservation relevant, real, and fun for a diverse group of people.

HOPE Crew is providing them with a preservation lens that will contribute to their future path, regardless of what it may be. I know firsthand how an experience like HOPE Crew can make a difference in a person’s life, and I am proud and grateful that I had the opportunity this summer to contribute to such an important initiative.

Juliana Glassco was the National Trust’s HOPE Crew intern in Summer 2014 and is a student at Willowbank School of Restoration Arts in Ontario, Canada. She enjoys discovering new favorite places and exploring what excites people about preservation.

If you are a craft expert and would be interested in getting involved in future HOPE Crew projects, visit the HOPE Crew website for more details.

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