Jump to content

Historic Preservation -- Lots of Questions!


Recommended Posts

Hello, all!

 

I'm a prospective student of historic preservation with lots of questions for anyone who's been through the process or is/was in the profession. First, I'm curious as to what outside fields people studied before they jumped over to HP. My BA was in Ancient Mediterranean Studies (essentially Classics plus lots of archaeology) and, while I can make a good case as to why I'm pursuing graduate studies in HP rather than Classics, I'm still worried I won't have an edge on other applicants because I'm from such a narrow field.

 

Second: I've noticed that there are well-thought-of programs that offer MSc degrees, some which offer MA's, and some which don't specify. Does it make a difference? I'm interested in a conservation emphasis so it makes sense to me to go after the MSc... but does it really matter after school?

 

Third: I am a resident of Georgia and so the cheapest programs for me are, of course, here in Georgia. Any thoughts on the UGA program? I know it's no Columbia or UPenn or Cornell, but there's a $90k difference due to in-state tuition! As I've seen on other posts, SCAD is absolutely out of the question and GSU doesn't seem impressive in the least.

 

Fourth: Is anyone aware of programs particularly strong in or focused on adaptive reuse, or is that wrapped into most programs?

 

And finally (for now! :P), what have people's experiences with funding been like? I put myself through undergrad and have $40k in debt already. Attending a great program but adding another $50k in debt is not an option. That's not to say that I don't plan on taking out more loans, but I'd like to take out as few as possible.

 

Thanks in advance to everyone!!!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...
  • Replies 67
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

Hi folks,   I'm not applying for a MA/MS in Historic Preservation, but my undergrad degree is in historic preservation/community planning. At one time I had planned on continuing my education, but a

rlmcman, I think taking a general chem course is a great idea and can only help. I don't plan to focus on conservation, so I'm not sure how much more than that you would need. Why not email some of th

Hugely disappointing indeed. Though I don't think it's limited to Columbia. I have friends in a few HP programs in the US and they share my sentiment. By the time you realize what's going on you're a

I've got lots of similar questions!  I'm also considering going for a MSHP/MAHP.  I've got a BA in history with a double minor in German and Art History.  I'm really looking for something more hands on and from what I've experienced thus far of HP, it seems like it might be just the thing for me.

 

Anyway, I'm curious about the answers to questions 1, 2, and 4 above, and I have my own question about people's thoughts on programs.  Namely, any thoughts on UOregon, Rutgers, UMD, Clemson?

 

Thanks, and good luck rlmcman in making all your decisions!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm a first year student at UPenn and am absolutely loving every moment of it. The classes and faculty are fantastic, Philly is a great city to study HP in.

 

I was originally planning on going to UOregon, but I found their program to not have enough actual course offerings to give me the education I wanted. Feel free to message me with questions about UPenn!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

Yay! I was worried I was alone... Cornell, Penn, Clemson and Maryland. And yourself?

 

I keep checking the results survey even though it seems these programs don't usually send responses until the end of February at the EARLIEST. Ahh!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi folks,

 

I'm not applying for a MA/MS in Historic Preservation, but my undergrad degree is in historic preservation/community planning. At one time I had planned on continuing my education, but after ten years in the workforce, I've decided not to pursue further education in historic preservation. If I go on to higher ed, I will most likely pursue a degree in economic/community development or communications.

 

I have found that with my undergrad degree, I could achieve a lot. I spent some time in my state's SHPO, beating out a person with a Phd simply because I had real world experience. I live in South Carolina where historic preservation jobs are few and far in between and it's more about who you know than what your credentials are. I think this is because preservation in South Carolina started with the who's who of society and has gradually gained footing as a field of study. Since I am not able to move, I have decided that the cost of a MA/MS in historic preservation just doesn't equate to what I would get paid. Pay here in this field is dismal. I used to joke that historic preservationists in South Carolina can't afford to live in historic houses! To give you an idea, when I was in the field, I made $33k/year. Now that I'm out working in the government grants field, I make just over $40k/year. In addition, I am currently running my own preservation consulting business. In order to be successful, I have to severely undercut other consultants and my former SHPO job plays into my "bankability" as well. People want to know that their projects are guaranteed and since I have working relationships with those folks who make the decisions, I have found that carries a lot of weight with my potential clients.

 

To the original poster -- UGA has a good program and a good reputation. I think you could go far with it. I'm very money minded as well, and would pay a lot of attention to what kind of debt I was taking on, if I were in your shoes. But since you want to work in conservation, that would play into what program you look into. Conservation is very hands-on and you will definitely benefit from that type of program, even if it is more expensive. A lot of programs are geared to the nuts and bolts

 

So my advice to you all is be careful what debt you take on, especially if you "married" to a particular region of the US in regards to future work. Make sure you will get the money you need to pay back those debts. At best, I highly suggest you be open to moving anywhere to follow the money. In LA, you can make a 100K/year as a city historic preservation planner, but of course, the cost of living there is astronomical.

 

Best of luck to you all.

Link to post
Share on other sites

@eafreder: I applied to UPenn, Columbia, Tulane, UGA, and U of Vermont. My absolute #1 pick is Penn and I'm having a hard time waiting. They have me a hard response deadline (March 14, maybe? I have it written down somewhere) so we still have a ways to go...

@oldhousejunkie: I've heard a lot about experience vs. schooling, especially if you have a bachelors in HP. I don't, though, so unfortunately the masters is crucial to catch me up and, as you said, get the nuts and bolts, hands-on experience with conservation.

Since I haven't taken chem since high school, I'm currently taking a college gen chem course online as a refresher. Does anyone know if I'll need more than this?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

rlmcman, I think taking a general chem course is a great idea and can only help. I don't plan to focus on conservation, so I'm not sure how much more than that you would need. Why not email some of the professors you're interested in and ask them what they think? (Sorry for just seeing this now, it's been a hectic week!)

 

On another note, I seem to be in a position I'd never, ever anticipated... I've been offered acceptances from both Cornell and Penn and I am COMPLETELY stuck on where to go. I've written out pros and cons lists and everything. Every time I think I've made up my mind, I change it.

 

Penn has offered me a research assistantship which is incredible. I haven't heard from Cornell regarding a financial aid package yet, but should within the next week or so. But even if they don't offer me anything, should I rule them out?

 

Does anyone have any insight here that may help me out? Any information on any school?! The open houses next month will be a huge help, I'm sure... but there's no way I'll stop thinking in circles until then!

Link to post
Share on other sites

That's great! Congrats on the acceptances. :) Are you waiting to hear from anyone else or is that it for you?

 

I got into Penn with some aid, too! But even with a 1/4 tuition scholarship and a research assistantship, the cost is really terrifying me. Ugh, money...

 

I think that the open houses are really the make-or-break time for schools. I've been talking extensively with a current student at Penn and when I asked her how she made her decision (hers was between Columbia and Penn, so a little different) she said that it was the open house that really decided things for her, not any other information or opinions. I'm afraid I don't have any insight beyond that since I didn't even apply to Cornell (no conservation). But hopefully I'll see you at the Penn open house in March lol!

 

Penn was the first school to get back to me... It's also my DREAM program, but I'm still eager to hear back from the four others. Commence obsessive site checking... NOW! :P

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you! Well, I applied to two others but these two acceptances have really ended my search (which I am extremely grateful for). I never expected to hear back so early, ESPECIALLY from Penn! Congratulations on your acceptance! I was wondering who the other admit was in the results search!

 

Thanks for the input, I will absolutely see you at the open house :) Just noticed you're in GA, so that'll be a really exciting visit for you especially! I'm so impatient myself I doubt I'll be able to relax until then. I think I'll shoot you a private message, it would be nice to have someone to discuss things with since I think we may be the only two HP students on gradcafe this year.

 

Best of luck in your remaining four choices, but having Penn already under your belt is a really great start!

Link to post
Share on other sites

What about funding in historic preservation?  I know there are many programs that have a few TAs or fellowships, but are any programs known for giving Master's students particularly good funding?

Edited by halliejo
Link to post
Share on other sites

halliejo, unfortunately the information on aid I've found is mixed. For example, nothing in the information Penn publishes says that they offer as much aid as they seem to in actuality (seeing as they've given at least two people merit scholarships AND research assistantships so far). I know that Columbia is the only school I've seen that has a merit-based financial aid application wrapped into the program application and they supposedly give large awards via that, but "large" is relative when the program costs $50k/yr!

Besides those two, I know a few state schools have built-in tuition reductions for out-of-staters and such but I didn't apply to one so I can't remember which they were :( TA positions tend to be for second years or maybe those with a previous, related degree. Outside scholarships are usually for second years or to help defray the cost of research and travel.

Sorry, that was kind of rambling! Hope it helped some...

Link to post
Share on other sites

No problem, thanks for responding.  I'm just trying to gather as much information as possible!  I'm slightly regretting I didn't go ahead and apply for Fall 2014 but hopefully I will instead be able to work another year and save up some, which will probably be a good thing in the long run.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

For all of you considering a degree in preservation, I strongly advise you to consider planning or art/architectural history or museum studies or anthropology unless you plan to pursue building conservation as your academic focus and career. I am about to graduate from the HP program at Columbia University and it has been nothing like what I expected. The students in my year all seem very disengaged, and GSAPP (the department HP is within) does not issue grades which breeds a culture of apathy where the quality of coursework and levels of engagement are concerned. It has been my experience that people don't really care what they do because they will have a degree from Columbia. It hardly seems this is an Ivy League education. There is no academic standard whatsoever (just read most of the theses posted on their website). I could go on and on. If anyone has questions about the program I would be glad to speak about what I think is good and what is bad.

 

I have recently come to the realization that I will have to pursue another degree in order to fulfill my academic goals. A number of my classmates feel similarly. What's most unfortunate is that I have come to dislike the field somewhat because of my experience. I know that HP degrees are professional degrees, but I do not believe this should limit the amount of scholarship or academic rigour of such programs. Bottom line: HP programs seem to have very little scholarship at the heart of them. There is NOTHING that preservation programs offer that you can't get in other fields in a much more academic and challenging setting (except for conservation). You can focus on preservation from any other field and I think you would get a lot more out of your education (which you will be paying so much for) in doing so. 

 

I want to share because I feel crushed by the money I spent and I am saddened by the number of my classmates that feel like they wasted two years and $100k. I just wish I had known then what I know now!

Edited by ladygirltomboy
Link to post
Share on other sites

ladygirltomboy, I'm so sorry it wasn't what you wanted or needed :( I'm glad you posted, because you're the first person I've seen on gradcafe with such negative views of not only Columbia but HP in general! I am pursuing conservation, but I'm still taken aback by what you've said. It's hugely disappointing that an Ivy League school would have such a sub-par program!

 

I am curious, though, what your specialization/focus is and what type of degree you plan on pursuing to "complete" your education.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hugely disappointing indeed. Though I don't think it's limited to Columbia. I have friends in a few HP programs in the US and they share my sentiment. By the time you realize what's going on you're a year in and finishing feels like the only option. It seems like (at least from my experience and what I have been told by others) that HP is a lot about feeling, a lot about blaming big bad developers, and not a lot of scholarship to equip a person to engage with the public or other scholars. Again, I can't speak for conservation, but it does seem those people get more for their money no matter where they go.

 

I actually had planned to study conservation at Columbia, but the foundational courses were so disorganized (especially part two, offered second semester) that I decided it wasn't for me. I have enjoyed some of the conservation courses I have taken, but there is a lot of bashing of other professionals in the field, and way too much time spent talking about the same things over and over. I am currently taking a course where we spend more time talking about people that take bad paint samples than learning to take good paint samples (or paint samples at all--I'm still waiting for the conservation elements of the course and we are half into the semester). However, the person that runs the conservation specialization at Columbia, George Wheeler, is an absolutely fantastic guy. He is one of only three full-time faculty in the department, and is kind, extremely intelligent, and accommodating. I can't say as much for some/most of the other faculty, unfortunately. Also, most of the faculty have only ever completed the Columbia HP program in the 70s or 80s. It's very insular.

 

After my experience in the intro conservation courses I decided to pursue the history/theory specialization. Prior to entering the program I thought I might want to pursue a PhD, but I realized I would not be able to acquire the knowledge or skills necessary to be admitted anywhere with just the MSHP (no seminar classes, no historiography, proseminars, etc., all necessary or doctoral work). Since I realized I would need another master's, I decided to take classes in history and art history so I could get real grades on my transcript (rather than GSAPP's P/F), and so I could position myself for the next closest field of study. My ability to take electives in other departments is really the only redeeming quality of the HP program. When I began taking architectural history courses through the Art History Department, I realized how much the academic structure of my program and engagement of my peers differed from the Art History Department. It was like day and night! The latter was precisely what I expected from graduate school. The readings and assignments were interesting and challenging (and not all written before 1970), the students came to class prepared and contributed in each lecture, the professors had prepared lectures with the most up to date material, field trips were centred around contemporary issues/exhibitions/etc., and I was learning some amazing theory that I was able to apply to my research and studies in HP. All of these professors in AH held office hours and were happy to talk about anything. At one point I met with a professor in in art history about a paper, and after finding out what program I'm in, asked if I needed instruction for using the library's search function or Jstor. That's when I realized that HP is not taken seriously by people that I consider real scholars at Columbia. It was actually extremely embarrassing to realize that other departments view us that way. But, there is a culture that created that, and that's what I am hoping to share with others.

 

Additionally, I was/am amazed at how often preservation came/comes up in my art and architectural history courses (and the museum and anthropology courses). These courses have been so stimulating. I honestly don't think I could have made it to the end without them, and each semester I have had to take my one required HP course I have dreaded going to it. It always felt like taking ten steps back.

 

I forgot to mention that the HP program only offers two arch history courses: American Arch I and II. They are taught by people that care most about neo-classicism and post-modernism. Basically a whole semester on each topic. I love architectural history more than anything and I could not stand these classes. They are called American Arch, but it's really NY arch. Just something to keep in mind.

 

 

So anyway, I guess I will be doing post-bacc or another master's in art/architectural history to try and bridge into a PhD. I really love school and when I began grad school I was ready for a challenge. The only challenge I have faced is trying to complete a thesis while taking three other classes (this is a requirement), which allows me to neither throw myself into the thesis research or my coursework. That was the final point that I realized the program is based on half-assing it. I was even been told by my advisor that I am not prioritizing correctly when I complained that I have to sacrifice either coursework or thesis from week to week trying to get things done. So now I'm writing what feels like I book report rather than a thesis I can be proud of. That is partly my own fault though, because I took three art/architectural history courses this semester rather than preservation courses. If I had taken preservation courses I would have had 30 instead of 3-500 pages of reading each week. It is entirely possible to write a thesis while taking only preservation courses. I do suggest you have a look at some of the theses from previous years. In some cases the writing is quite appalling. Many of them are not even formatted following a style guide. It sounds silly, but it shows how disinterested the department is in academic standards.

 

If you come to NY for the Columbia open house next month I'd be glad to chat with you more. Also feel free to ask me about anything else!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a friend at Clemson that equally feels the program is structured in a way that students are forced to cram so much in that they cannot give much attention to one particular thing. From what she has told me they get a lot of exposure to different subjects, but very little depth to anything. She has also voiced concern about lazy, disengaged students. A couple of people in my program at Columbia did their undergrad there in preservation and they don't seem to have any more knowledge of the field than people that come into the program from art history, chemistry, etc. That could just be those individuals though. I just sent her a message about program specifics so I will update about Clemson when I hear back from her.

 

I also know people that went to SAIC, Pratt, and SCAD. I have never heard a good thing about any of those programs and know three people at Pratt that transferred to other schools or into the Urban Planning Program there. Their director was really terrible and was fired a few years ago so that program is restructuring. I know someone that works there and they said it's getting better but it still has a long way to go. One of the big issues with these programs is they are usually housed in architecture depts. which means they are the last to get money and attention. The arch and urban planning programs ALWAYS come first, and I think that really shows up in the curriculum, career opportunities, and any other thing you would associate with academics. Preservation is seen as a pseudo-field even within it's own school. The other departments at Columbia do not take it seriously (and at Pratt).

 

I know that Cornell is very planning focused, though I don't actually know anyone that's gone there. I can say this: the preservation planning professor at Columbia told some dual degree students in my program that Columbia is pretty terrible for planning and that Cornell is the place to go if that's the interest. She actually suggested tthey get the HP degree at Columbia and go elsewhere for planning. I have taken planning classes at Columbia and they are pretty bad. A lot of looking at pictures of "case studies" and hardly any applicable theory or skills. 

 

I've heard really good things about Penn, but I'd heard really good things about Columbia before I started so I don't know if that means much. I do think that based just on the theses posted on UPenn's website there is a much higher academic standard. Most of their faculty also have PhDs which I think is really important. Their educational backgrounds also seem varied (unlike Columbia HP profs who all went through HP at Columbia) which I think brings necessary diversity to the curriculum. At Columbia my profs are only 1.5 months more qualified than I am at this point! There is one new professor at Columbia that was in the UPenn program and he is really on top of it (if that says anything). I have only heard people praise their conservation program (and a number of people that are at Columbia that went to the UPenn open house commented on how it seemed "too serious" and "too competitive" which is likely a good thing for anyone looking for an academic experience). UPenn's classes look far superior to Columbia's as well. We have very limited elective courses, and many of them centre around emotion and advocacy. I remember a course last semester where we spent an entire two hours talking about how people "felt" about trips they took in their childhood to historic sites. No tie in to any scholarly material about memory or place or anything like that, just how fun it was to go to Colonial Williamsburg, the Alamo, etc. It was really disturbing to spend two hours in what felt like group therapy. And that happens more often than I'd like in the preservation classes. There's a much better way to incorporate personal experience into academia, yet Columbia fails time and again to achieve that. I cannot overstate how much this program relies on feelings and emotions rather than critical theory or scholarship.

 

I would also suggest for those interested in conservation NYU's IFA. They focus on art conservation but it is much more rigorous and it is a very well-respected institution, especially if you are interested in archaeological sites. I know a number of people in that program and their level of knowledge about building/materials conservation exceeds mine and I am in a program specializing in that.

Edited by ladygirltomboy
Link to post
Share on other sites

Just heard back from Clemson friend. I asked her if she would pay for her program again and she said it has been a huge waste of time and money.  She has a lot of complaints but right now her biggest concern is that she has no support from her faculty or thesis committee where research is concerned. That has apparently been an ongoing problem throughout the entire process.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just heard back from Clemson friend. I asked her if she would pay for her program again and she said it has been a huge waste of time and money.  She has a lot of complaints but right now her biggest concern is that she has no support from her faculty or thesis committee where research is concerned. That has apparently been an ongoing problem throughout the entire process.

 

Update: she also said that the program is so bad and the amount of money spent so much that she is at the point now where she wants to give up. She said it is the worst choice she has ever made in her life, and she said that pretty much everything I have said above applies to her program at Clemson.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I really, really appreciate your insight! A lot of what you're saying seems to line up with what I've heard. I spoke with a professor at a school who told me Pratt's program is in limbo at the moment as well. I ruled out Clemson a while ago so it's comforting that your friend's experiences back up my reasoning.

 

Because I'm pretty sure I'd like to go the planning route, I'm stuck between Cornell and Penn's programs at the moment. Tricky decision. I am a little concerned that Philly's program could be "Philly-centric" (in the way that Columbia's sounds like a study of NYC), but I've read about Penn professors taking trips to Ecuador and Europe.

 

I'm sorry that you're having such a lousy experience at a program that promised you otherwise :( That's very disheartening and I would be just as upset. I wish you luck in your architectural history program at your next institution!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just saw your question about adaptive reuse. That was one of my primary interests along with conservation. Basically if you want to follow that path you have to have studied architecture. At Columbia there is one adaptive reuse survey class. I went to two lectures and it was so bad I dropped it. I learned more about adaptive reuse reading articles on Atlantic Cities or in other architecture or urban design publications. 

 

There is an adaptive reuse studio at Columbia but you have to have a bachelor's in architecture to take that path. A friend at Pratt that's an architect applied there because of their supposed adaptive reuse focus, but he spent two years without access to any courses focused on that because they were for architecture students only. Seems to be the same thing at Columbia and other schools. You basically need to be a dual MArch and MSHP to get into that field.

 

Hello, all!

 

I'm a prospective student of historic preservation with lots of questions for anyone who's been through the process or is/was in the profession. First, I'm curious as to what outside fields people studied before they jumped over to HP. My BA was in Ancient Mediterranean Studies (essentially Classics plus lots of archaeology) and, while I can make a good case as to why I'm pursuing graduate studies in HP rather than Classics, I'm still worried I won't have an edge on other applicants because I'm from such a narrow field.

 

Second: I've noticed that there are well-thought-of programs that offer MSc degrees, some which offer MA's, and some which don't specify. Does it make a difference? I'm interested in a conservation emphasis so it makes sense to me to go after the MSc... but does it really matter after school?

 

Third: I am a resident of Georgia and so the cheapest programs for me are, of course, here in Georgia. Any thoughts on the UGA program? I know it's no Columbia or UPenn or Cornell, but there's a $90k difference due to in-state tuition! As I've seen on other posts, SCAD is absolutely out of the question and GSU doesn't seem impressive in the least.

 

Fourth: Is anyone aware of programs particularly strong in or focused on adaptive reuse, or is that wrapped into most programs?

 

And finally (for now! :P), what have people's experiences with funding been like? I put myself through undergrad and have $40k in debt already. Attending a great program but adding another $50k in debt is not an option. That's not to say that I don't plan on taking out more loans, but I'd like to take out as few as possible.

 

Thanks in advance to everyone!!!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all of your input, ladygirltomboy. It's answered a lot of questions that I had thought I wouldn't get answered! I wish you the best in your future education and career :)

 

As for me, I'm already leaning towards UPenn's conservation focus... The OH isn't too far away, so we'll see!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just going to gatecrash this thread - has anyone here applied for Hist Pres at Pratt??

Or know anyone who has already been through the program there? 

Seems like there are mixed opinions &  if anyone else has any other info/opinions it would be a huge help to me!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now



×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.