One of the many aspects of working for the National Park Service (NPS) is the great contacts we create while working in our fields of expertise. Networking, as it is called by many; building alliances and getting to understand how each other works. As professionals in the Midwest Regional Office, we often build our daily duties around our networks. Most of our job description focuses on National Historic Landmarks (NHLs). Technical assistance, reviewing documents, writing documents, providing guidance on historic preservation, searching for possible funding… these are all some of the things that keep us busy. To be successful, we need networks!
The Midwest Regional Office of the NPS differs greatly from other regional offices around the country in that our workload has been broken down by state. Each historian, architectural historian, landscape architect, and architect on the NHL team is knowledgeable with the properties located in their geographic area and have developed some strong relationships with the NHL stewards. It is through these bonds that we are able to provide valuable experience and guidance.
We want the NHL stewards to be successful in the preservation of their site. One of the tools that we provide upon request is a list of potential grant sources. This list is generated from a database of corporations, foundation and organizations that offer assistance (financial, in-kind, etc.). Searches for grant sources include topics other than “brick and mortar” type preservation assistance, such as landscape repair; recreation; museum collections; technology; and education, to name a few.
Owning and/or managing an NHL is an honor to many. These exemplary properties sometimes need a little boost for more public attention. Nine years ago, the NPS began a photo contest of NHLs across the country to showcase our many varied properties that created our nation’s vast history. This contest is open to all NHL properties in the nation. All photographs submitted are voted upon by NPS employees. One national winner is selected to be featured in a yearly calendar. The top two from each region are also included in the calendar. The Midwest Regional Office purchases about 600 calendars to mail out each year to NHL stewards.
Most of the staff members from this office actively submit articles to different state and local publications. Much like the creation of the "Exceptional Places" newsletter, it is important to us that problems are made aware, if not resolved, and good deeds are recognized. Many times it is the simple act of acknowledgement that makes such a difference.
Every three to five years we host a conference or workshop to bring NHL stewards together. For example, one conference was held at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota. If you are interested in a topic for a workshop or have a great location you would like to recommend for a conference, please contact us. We look forward to making our networks stronger.
Originally published in "Exceptional Places" Vol. 4, 2009, a newsletter of the Division of Cultural Resources, Midwest Region. Written by Rebecca Kumar.