Joining Forces to Talk Historic Preservation at FORUM 2014 in Philadelphia

Over the next five days, Next City will be publishing coverage from FORUM 2014, a historic preservation conference happening now in Philadelphia. The coming liveblogs will be in step with our continued coverage of historic preservation, as we examine how the field is growing, changing and reaching out to embrace new practices.

What sets FORUM 2014 apart from other symposiums of its kind is that it’s a collaboration between two state agencies and a national organization. For the first time ever, Preservation Pennsylvania, the state Department of Transportation and the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions are joining forces for a conference they hope will help ignite new dialogue among professionals working in preservation, development and planning.

Cory Kegerise, community preservation coordinator at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, came up with the idea to bring the different organizations together for this year’s conference.

“One of the goals here was to try to encourage cross-pollination amongst the different constituencies,” he said. “We wanted people who were working in the field for a living — maybe they’re consultants to industrial clients or developers — to have a chance to learn and experience how these issues play out for the average residents and the local governments, and vice versa.”

With this in mind, the list of sessions can read like a connect-the-dots between disciplines that all fall under preservation’s umbrella. Archeology, indigenous cultural landscapes, heritage corridors and advocacy will all be discussed, for example.

“It seems like there’s a tendency in the preservation world in particular to feel like you’re the only one who’s dealing with something,” Kegerise said. “Hopefully the mix of topics and speakers on this agenda will show you that that’s not necessarily the case.”

FORUM is expecting some 800 conventioneers. That’s roughly double the registrants that Preservation Pennsylvania and PennDOT’s Statewide Conference on Heritage/Byways to the Past received last year. While FORUM should see a strong local showing, speakers and attendees will be arriving from across the country. The organizers are thrilled.

The conference is hosting the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation as they hold their summer business meetings, which began yesterday. Today marks the conference’s official kickoff, and 25 events are on the docket.

Kegerise is looking forward to seeing the varying audiences mingle. “I work for the [state] historic preservation office, but I don’t exist unless there is a community of people out there who think this is important,” he says.

Stay tuned through Monday for dispatches and analysis here on the site and on social media, where you can follow the conversation through the hashtag #PhillyFORUM.

Cassie Owens is a regular contributor to Next City. Her writing has also appeared at CNN.com, Philadelphia City Paper and other publications.

Tags: historic preservationforum 2014