Morgan State University (MSU) students are participating in a program this summer that aims to bring young African American students working toward architecture degrees into historic preservation and related career paths.
“Touching History: Preservation in Practice” is a program developed jointly by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the National Park Service (NPS), and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s (NTHP) HOPE Crew designed to raise awareness about the importance of historic preservation and conservation while, at the same time, engaging a new generation of preservation professionals and complete urgent preservation work at America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) campuses.
“Touching History gives students the opportunity to grow as a person, grow as a professional, and connect to their shared history and heritage,” said Robert G. Stanton, ACHP expert member and former National Park Service director. “The historic preservation and conservation fields need young people like these six Morgan State students. This internship could lead them in a new direction for their careers and is giving them an understanding of the importance of telling the whole story of the American experience.”
Six MSU students, Tyriq Charleus; Devin Funderburk; Danasha Kelly; Terry Mayo Jr.; Stephanie Walker; and Zahaira Williams are working on a preservation and conservation project through this partnership with a HOPE (Hands-On Preservation Experience) Crew team. HOPE Crew is a nationwide initiative connecting hundreds of young people to preservation trades while breathing new life into historic structures across the country. In Baltimore, the team is working on two principal projects: window restoration at Morgan State University’s Memorial Chapel and masonry work at the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture.
“Investing in our future preservation leaders is one of the most important things the National Park Service can do to further its mission,” said National Park Service acting deputy director for operations David Vela. “We are dedicated to providing access to real-world experiences for our nation’s youth and young professionals, so that together we can preserve our shared historic and cultural resources.”
Prior to their work at MSU, the students worked at the National Park Service’s Western Center for Historic Preservation, located in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Students spent time at the Bar BC Dude Ranch, established in 1912 as a dude ranch using a style called “Dude Ranch Vernacular” and completed the “Guiding Principles for Historic Preservation,” a course on field-based historic preservation, documentation, hands-on treatment, and heritage asset maintenance planning.
“Beyond addressing critical maintenance and preservation needs at HBCU buildings, we want this HOPE Crew project to make a difference in the lives of future preservation leaders,” said Brent Leggs, executive director of the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. “We’re excited to continue broadening the preservation movement with this partnership that allows African American college students to see first-hand what happens when theory meets practice in preservation trades.”
During their final week, the students will join Stanton on field trips to historic places in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area. They also will travel to St. Mary’s College in Maryland to work with former ACHP expert member and professor of anthropology Julia King, who worked with St. Mary’s College to uncover evidence of enslaved people’s quarters on the proposed site for the school’s athletic stadium.
The Touching History: Preservation in Practice program is funded by the NPS, the NTHP,- which receives additional financial support from the Fund II Foundation,-and in-kind support from the ACHP.
“Supporting initiatives that preserve African American history and culture along with creating opportunities for young people of color in diverse STEM-related fields are important parts of our mission as a Foundation,” said Linda Wilson, executive director, Fund II Foundation. “This work will enrich communities for many years to come.”
As a final task, the students will create a portfolio that will point out the importance of preserving and restoring the historic buildings that are a part of the MSU campus. MSU has 20 structures eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2016, the NTHP designated MSU one of its National Treasures and is partnering with the school to develop a preservation plan.
“There’s no better way to prepare our students for successful careers than to give them hands-on training,” said U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. “This program is a great opportunity for Morgan State students to test their skills, while also providing a crucial service to the University. In the Senate, I will continue working to support programs like this, which give students valuable work experience and promote opportunity at our Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”