Monday, October 10, 2011

Kitchen and Johannesen

One thing that is certain, Ohio is home to many preservation leaders, and two examples of stellar resources are Judith Kitchen, director of technical services at the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, and the late, Eric Johannesen, architectural historian and preservationist.

In my position as a member of the Ohio Historic Service Corps, I have had the fortune of working with many Ohio Historic Inventories completed by Johannesen, when he was serving as a State Officer at Western Reverse Historical Society (before the Regan Era state cuts shut down satellite offices spread across the state). Johannesen is also the author of many books covering architectural history in the Western Reserve region.

Additionally, in my studies, I have been introduced to Judith Kitchen's many publications, which are all straight forward prose that encourage understanding and better preservation practices.

While at the Ohio Historical Society last week for training, I picked up a copy of Johannesen's Ohio College Architecture Before 1870 and Kitchen's Characteristics of Effective Local Historic Preservation Legislation... for less then ten dollars!

Not only does the Ohio Historical Society preserve significant archaeological and historic sites, but they also are responsible for outstanding publications put together by staff and liaisons.

These two publications are pocket sized references necessary for any one's preservation library.

Johannesen paints a picture of the livelihood and expansiveness found in Ohio's early colleges. His writing is a great example of how to connect history with the built environment. He provides not only architectural descriptions, but he places them within their historic context. It is a great example for those learning to write about historic context and the built environment, and it is also a great refresher to those who feel they are already are writing well. Establishing historic context is not simply writing about historical events may have happened during the period the building was constructed, but it is about finding those events through the built material. Tertiary information is a great way to support a building's broader context, but it is all too often used as a weak example of site specific significance.

Kitchen's primer is a go-to-guide for those writing and coming to understand preservation law. It makes a bold point that local ordinances are the most comprehensive measure for community level preservation. Thumbing through this read may also provide a reader with definitions of preservation jargon, and it may also help shape the reader's understanding of preservation as it clearly spells out what can be done at this level. All too often interested community members come to preservation hoping that it can save their building, and then after the building is gone, their interest also wanes. Hopefully,  preservationists will start using local ordinances as a starting place for outreach. First explaining what can happen in a community helps shape future actions. This resource is also a great read to help community members under stand what an ordinance does, as it explains how it was composed in the first place.

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