We asked members of the Preservation50 team who attended the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s PastForward conference in Washington DC from November 3-6 2015 to write a blog about a session that they felt corresponded to the Mission & Goals of P50 or to our Leverage Lessons Learned topics.

The below is a blog by Working Group member Becky Zeller on session Talk Amongst Yourselves: Emerging Professionals in Historic Preservation which took place on November 4, 2015 from 1:00-4:00pm ET.

Many of the sessions at PastForward this year focused on diversifying the preservation movement. “Talk Amongst Yourselves: Emerging Professionals in Historic Preservation” targeted a growing diverse group in preservation: young preservationists. The three-hour working session invited young and young-at-heart preservationists to discuss challenges, issues, and strategies unique to the next generation. Each topic was introduced by the session’s discussion leader, Kaitlin O’Shea. Kaitlin is a preservation planner at VHB in South Burlington, VT, but she is more widely known among young preservationists as the creator of the of the preservation blog, Preservation in Pink. Kaitlin presented three topics for discussion: engaging millennials in historic preservation, technology in historic preservation, and historic preservation careers.

After an introduction on each topic by Kaitlin, small groups broke out for discussion. The liveliest exchanges centered on the role of millennials in historic preservation. The preservation movement is sometimes seen as exclusive – but millennials are working hard to change that image. Discussions ranged from what “millennial” means to the ways young preservationists are challenging the typical preservation narrative across the country.

The second discussion topic, technology, is irrevocably linked to the unique way millennials approach historic preservation. Roundtable discussions highlighted social media campaigns, georeferenced historic photographs, virtual tours of historic places, and other technology-based strategies emerging professionals are employing to protect and preserve historic places. Technology has made historic resources more accessible than ever before. However, the limitations of technology was explored as well. “Likes” on Facebook don’t always translate into real action, and virtual experiences will never truly replace in-person feelings of place.

The final topic, careers in preservation, was a chance for emerging professionals to share advice and strategies for finding a preservation career that fits their interests. Preservation is a diverse field that crosses many different disciplines. Discussions focused on strategies for exploring the many facets of preservation, including internships and networking.

The 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act is a chance for the preservation community to look back on the past fifty years of preservation, but it is also an opportunity to look forward. “Talk Amongst Yourselves” was a rare opportunity to gather emerging preservation professionals from across the county together to discuss the future of preservation. Engaging and developing the next generation of preservationists is one way to ensure that the preservation movement stays strong for the next fifty years. Throughout 2016, Preservation50 will seek to identify, energize, enlist and prepare emerging leaders in the preservation community. For more information, click here.