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Background for historic preservation?

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Hi all! I am tentatively considering going back to school for historical preservation (particularly preservation planning). I have a BA in History from a Seven Sister college (with an emphasis on political art history/nationalism) and a JD.

I went to law school because I was interested in the law surrounding cultural institutions and the protection of art/artists and cultural heritage. I've interned at museums, auction houses, private banks, and pro bono arts organizations. I also have a background in tax and trusts & estates. I took two bar exams over the summer and, for the past six months, I've been practicing business/intellectual property law in Philly (where I would like to stay).

I am not at all devoted to the idea of being a practicing lawyer forever, but I suppose my biggest fear is that my current set of credentials is not enough to demonstrate a true commitment or background in preservation. I have been looking at Penn's HP program and am in love with the course offerings.... I just don't know if I'm the kind of person that this field is looking for? 

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I would have to say that, yes, you are absolutely the kind of person that this field is looking for. Preservationists come from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. In fact, I am starting my Master's program in Historic Preservation in the fall and I am considering applying for law school afterward in order to practice preservation law. That being said, I do not think that you have to complete a Master's in the field in order to demonstrate your commitment. But if you are interested in doing so, go for it!

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I don't know about the US, but planning programs here at least do position themselves as being interested in people of every background imaginable, and in my experience that's pretty true in terms of my classmates. A legal background sounds like a huge plus to me - exactly the kind of multiple experience and accreditation planners often tend to need. Again, I really don't know the US dynamics, but it doesn't sound at all like you're at any disadvantage.

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On 2/3/2017 at 3:00 PM, Dostoprimechatel'nosti said:

I would have to say that, yes, you are absolutely the kind of person that this field is looking for. Preservationists come from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. In fact, I am starting my Master's program in Historic Preservation in the fall and I am considering applying for law school afterward in order to practice preservation law. That being said, I do not think that you have to complete a Master's in the field in order to demonstrate your commitment. But if you are interested in doing so, go for it!

Thanks for your feedback!! I'm torn because I would love to get the Master's to get a comprehensive overview and understanding of the field, but I also would love to save the money by finding a way to go directly into HP law. 

My biggest concern with not doing the Master's is that, if I work at a law firm, I get the impression that I would be far more likely to have to work for whatever client comes through the door (who may or may not actually want to *preserve* the space; the people who can pay lawyers at these firms are often the kinds of companies seeking to bypass preservation efforts). I guess I just want to be sure I'm on the "right" side of the effort haha

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I just graduated from Penn's HP program in May. I loved it. There were a few folks with similar backgrounds/interests to you in our cohort. One planned to attend law school after getting his M.S. - so an inverse pattern to yours. He applied to law schools in our second year and has matriculated at one for this fall. There was additionally a Penn law student who did a certificate in historic preservation as part of his law coursework, so he took certain required courses to gain a general understanding of the field (research/documentation, architectural history, preservation theory) to supplement his law degree. He has a job at a land use law firm currently. Another Penn law student took preservation law as an elective course and is now on the board of the Young Friends of the Preservation Alliance.

Considering you have a law degree, have passed the bar and have worked in museums and art organizations, I don't know if shelling out upwards of 50k per year for two years is worth it given your experience. (To be fair, a lot of folks get aid from Penn and I ended up with a ~50% scholarship, but it depends on the person and your background). A certificate program may be more useful for you -- so you understand the basics of what a preservation professional can do (Section 106, Tax Credits, NEPA, 4(f), etc.) without having to do a full blown courseload. But, I also understand that there are benefits to a full-time master's program.

I would also suggest getting in touch with the Young Friends of the Preservation Alliance to see how you can get involved with some of their work.

Feel free to message me directly - I also live in Philly! Would be glad to meet for covfefe or a drink sometime!

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On 7/6/2017 at 10:08 AM, preservenerd2017 said:

I just graduated from Penn's HP program in May. I loved it. There were a few folks with similar backgrounds/interests to you in our cohort. One planned to attend law school after getting his M.S. - so an inverse pattern to yours. He applied to law schools in our second year and has matriculated at one for this fall. There was additionally a Penn law student who did a certificate in historic preservation as part of his law coursework, so he took certain required courses to gain a general understanding of the field (research/documentation, architectural history, preservation theory) to supplement his law degree. He has a job at a land use law firm currently. Another Penn law student took preservation law as an elective course and is now on the board of the Young Friends of the Preservation Alliance.

Considering you have a law degree, have passed the bar and have worked in museums and art organizations, I don't know if shelling out upwards of 50k per year for two years is worth it given your experience. (To be fair, a lot of folks get aid from Penn and I ended up with a ~50% scholarship, but it depends on the person and your background). A certificate program may be more useful for you -- so you understand the basics of what a preservation professional can do (Section 106, Tax Credits, NEPA, 4(f), etc.) without having to do a full blown courseload. But, I also understand that there are benefits to a full-time master's program.

I would also suggest getting in touch with the Young Friends of the Preservation Alliance to see how you can get involved with some of their work.

Feel free to message me directly - I also live in Philly! Would be glad to meet for covfefe or a drink sometime!

Thanks so much for your detailed response!! (I definitely I know one of Penn Law students you mentioned, too.) I hadn't thought of looking into certificates and I am actively looking to get involved with the YFPA, so thanks for making those suggestions. I'm currently in the middle of trying to sort through several related-but-different interests of mine to see is the most realistic and well-suited pivot for my career. I would love to hear more about your experience, so I'll follow up with a direct message :)

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