January 4, 2017
Welcome to Preservation Maryland’s PreserveCast. I’m your host, Nick Redding. I’m very excited to welcome you to our very first episode…that’s how history is made with Preservation Maryland’s very first podcast. PreserveCast will be a weekly podcast where I have a conversation with an individual that works within the broader field of historic preservation. Our goal here is to interview a great variety of individuals from across the state of Maryland and beyond about their involvement with historic preservation and how it’s accomplished. One topic we plan to cover extensively is the inner section of technology and historic preservation. But perhaps you’ve downloaded this podcast and aren’t sure what historic preservation is. Or perhaps you’ve never even heard of Preservation Maryland. And I want you to know more about what we do. So for this first episode, I sat down with one of our producers, Benjamin Israel, who interviewed me to help answer these questions for our listeners. Listen in!
[Nicholas Redding] PreserveCast will be a weekly podcast where I have a conversation with an individual that works within the broader field of historic preservation. Our goal here is to interview a great variety of individuals from across the state of Maryland and beyond about their involvement with historic preservation and how it’s accomplished. One topic we plan to cover extensively is the inner section of technology and historic preservation. But perhaps you’ve downloaded this podcast and aren’t sure what historic preservation is. Or perhaps you’ve never even heard of Preservation Maryland. And I want you to know more about what we do. So for this first episode, I sat down with one of our producers, Benjamin Israel, who interviewed me to help answer these questions for our listeners. Here’s that interview:
From Preservation Maryland Studios in the historic podcast district of Baltimore, this is Preservecast.
[NR] Hi. This is Nick Redding, executive director of Preservation Maryland. And you’re listening to the first episode of PreserveCast, a podcast produced by Preservation Maryland focusing on the intersection of technology and historic preservation and how technology is changing the way that preservationists work in this country in the 21st century. I’m joined today by one of our producers of Preserved cast, Benjamin Israel. How are you doing, Ben?
[Benjamin Israel] I’m good. How are you, Nick?
[NR] Good. And Ben is here today so that he can actually turn the tables, so to speak, and interview me a little bit. So we have an opportunity to talk to you, the listener, about how this podcast is going to work, the goal of the podcast, and who we hope to have on the show over the next year. It’s an opportunity for us to sort of tell you about all of our hopes, dreams, visions, goals and also to tell you a little bit about the organization that’s producing it, Preservation Maryland which has been in existence since 1931.
[BI] That is correct. So, Nick, you are a professional in the field. How did you get involved with historic preservation? What’s your…?
[NR] My path to preservation?
Nick’s Path to Preservation
[NR] My path to preservation, I think like a lot of folks, started on my great-grandmother’s knee, her telling me stories about our Civil War ancestor. Sort of a funny story in the sense that it was always suggested to me that our Civil War ancestor was – you’re going to notice I’m digressing here but that is also going to be a hallmark of the podcast, I would imagine. It’s just way my brain works.
But we were always told that this ancestor, George Trobridge, was a perfect Civil War hero in every way. All I had to go off of was an obituary. The obituary said that he enlisted under his mother’s maiden name because he was too young to enlist. So he had to come up with a different name to enlist. So as a child, that was a great story. Of course, my great-grandmother would tell it in that she remembered this guy and she was on his knee and now I’m on her knee. It made history really come to life. That really is the genesis of it.
The reason I give you all that background is, fast-forward a little bit until I was in college, I went and did research at the National Archives and pulled his file. I finally found him. It took a while. I say finally hard to find him because he had enlisted under three different names, was a bounty jumper, had kept taking a bounty – sort of an enlistment bonus – and then running away after he would get. He ended up in prison and there was an investigation into him. I wrote a little story about him and the title that I used came from one of the investigations. They said there was probably no more dangerous or criminal in northern Ohio than this man so not a perfect soldier.
He wasn’t exactly the hero that my dear great-grandmother had made him out to be. Nonetheless, I think in a sense that kind of gives you the full arc of a preservationist’s journey – sort of realizing the truth and the reality behind things. But sort of the journey and finding those things is part of the fun. So that story, that history, is what got me involved in it. I made trips early on to a lot of historic sites, and ended up coming down to the mid-Atlantic to study history and historic preservation, and then landed a job right out of college with the Civil War Trust – which is a battlefield preservation group based out of Washington DC. I worked there for a while and I managed a historic site that was designed by Benjamin Latrobe. Then after that, I moved on and have joined the team here at Preservation Maryland. I’ve been here for about two and a half years.
Our Host: Nick Redding
[BI] What is your role here? What kind of responsibilities do you have?
[NR] So I am the chief cook and bottle washer of Preservation Maryland. I am the Executive Director, which means I do everything from hiring staff, setting sort of the tactics and how we’re going to get our work done, identifying the priorities and helping set up at events – so everything from in between. I also do a lot of advocacy work here at Preservation Maryland. I’m a registered lobbyist in the state of Maryland which sounds like a bad thing but, in reality, it just means that I’m registered with the state and I spend in Annapolis working on issues that matter.
[NR] Yeah, so the idea about PreserveCast is we thought that preservation needs to be reaching individuals at every different way that we possibly can. So we already do a lot of social media. We do print media. We have a great website. We’ve tried to embrace as much technology and as many different forms of media as we possibly can. Podcasts are sort of the next frontier for organizations. I mean, there’s been a lot of people. A lot of comedians, obviously, use podcasts. They’re pretty popular. Radio programs simulcast the podcasts a lot of times. But for non-profits, they’re sort of the next step. A lot of non-profits have not embraced this technology yet so we thought that preservation needs to have a voice in every medium. So it made sense for us to try and embrace this as well.
So really, it’s an opportunity to talk about preservation to a different audience and sort of go a little bit more in-depth. I mean, when you’re writing something – say in our newsletter, which is provided as a membership benefit if you’d like to join Preservation Maryland quarterly. But when you get that, you’re only getting sort of a snippet version of the story. We don’t have pages and pages and pages to do an in-depth New Yorker-style article on something. And so the podcast gives us 25, 30, 35 minutes to go a little bit more in depth. To talk sort of not just about the story, but the person behind the story, and how did we get there, and the challenges associated with it. It’s just sort of a more in-dept way to talk about these issues that are weighty, and they really do matter.
What’s the Podcast All About?
[BI] And so who are some of the people that you’re hoping to speak to?
[NR] So we got funding, I should say, for the program – you were probably going to bring that up – but we got funding for it from the National Park Service. And the grant funding that we received is to focus the podcast on the intersection of technology and preservation. So that really has guided our direction, as far as who we’ll be bringing on to talk with us. And it really is an interesting area and there’s a lot of different ways that you can go when it comes to technology, particularly nowadays. There’s just so much rapidly changing.
So, you know, we’re going to have everyone on from underwater archaeologists to someone who operates a company that does really high-quality professional drone work when it comes to historic resources and documenting historic and architectural and archaeological, even, resources with drones. So really sort of talking to the practitioners, and the people who are involved in the field, or maybe just involved in, in the case of this person who runs the drone company – they probably wouldn’t consider themselves first and foremost a preservationist, but the tool that they’re using is aiding historic preservation today so it’s to go in-depth and look at how exactly is technology, is it changing it for the better?
I think we’re going to have some future looking podcasts, as well. The big question is how will driverless cars impact historic districts? We don’t really know right now. There could some really positive things and there could be some terrible things that come out of that. But I think it’s important to start that dialogue and have an opportunity to talk about that. So we’re going to be interviewing those kind of folks from many different disciplines.
Am I a Preservationist?
[BI] And something that I’d like to circle back to real quick, that you mentioned, you might have people on who don’t necessarily see themselves as preservationists first. This podcast seems like a really good way to make people think of themselves as preservationists, even if that’s not the first word that they might use to describe themselves.
[NR] Right, and I think that, in a sense, what you’re suggesting is something that Preservation Maryland prides itself on. Even though we have preservation in our title, my job is not to – my job is partly, of course, to engage the people and sort of to preach to the choir – the people who get it and have considered themselves preservationists for decades. But it’s also to try and reach the people that perhaps don’t consider themselves the preservationists but are trying to save important places in their community or trying to preserve the memory of people who lived in their state.
That’s the kind of work that we see ourselves in. Our job is to convince people that, “Hey, what you’re doing actually is historic preservation.” You may not call it that, but that’s what you’re doing and preservation matters to you. So yeah, if we can change a few minds by having them listen to these interviews and hear about what’s going on in the field or preservation, then all the better.
[BI] Mm-hmm. And so, what are you most looking forward to in regards to PreserveCast?
[NR] I think really, from just an organization perspective and even just a personal perspective, I love the idea that we’re going to be able to bring our story to potentially a much wider, broader, more diverse audience. You know, the power of the podcast is that you can reach people when they have time. You can reach them when, a lot of times they’re in the car. They’re commuting. They are sort of looking for some content. Looking for some interesting stories. And so if we can inject a little bit of historic preservation into that, and tell our story to that bigger audience, that’s pretty exciting.
And I think it’s important to explore the intersection of technology and preservation, because it is changing so rapidly, and it really is impacting the way that we do our work, and the way that important historic places are protected and preserved. But just the idea of being able to tell our story to a bigger audience. I mean, what non-profit wouldn’t want the opportunity to talk to thousands of potentially new supporters and maybe if you’re listening, potentially a new donor.
[BI] Mm-hmm. And even old supporters, too.
[NR] And old supporters. Of course we want to continue to – I wouldn’t call them old though, Ben. I would say prior supporters, and I don’t think you should characterize them that way.
There are obviously young preservationists as well.
[BI] Absolutely. Well, we’re two of them, sitting and looking at each other right now, right?
[NR] Right. And as Ben and I sit here, we’re both, I would say, we can still call ourselves young, right?
[BI] Well, I can call myself young.
[NR] Okay, I understand what that meant.
What does Preservation Maryland do?
[BI] So what is preservation Maryland about?
[NR] As I mentioned, we’re an 85-year-old organization. We were formed back in 1931, and the organization, which is headquartered in Baltimore but has a statewide focus and interest, is principally focused on saving, what we call, sort of the best of Maryland. Those places that are iconic that matter, and also sort of the everyday, the mundane places that together make up the story of Maryland, whether that be workers’ housing, or whether that be an old dockyard. Collectively, those places tell the story of Maryland. So if there’s a place left that has a story to tell, and the community finds value in it and thinks it matters, then we’re going to find a way to try and help them to protect it.
We do that in three sort of big ways. We do advocacy work. We do outreach and education. And we do some funding.
And so our advocacy work could be everything from sort of proactive advocacy, like legislation, to reactive. Someone comes up with a bad idea, an example of that was basically Starbucks bought a property in Baltimore County earlier this year, and so that they wanted to knock over an iconic historic diner. And we said, “Hey, you know what? It’s a bad idea.” That sort of reactive advocacy.
On the outreach and education side, we run a statewide conference we do a lot of training throughout the year. We also have a big program called Six-to-Fix where we identify six endangered, threatened historic sites every year and work with local groups to try and help turn the tide on those and help protect those historic places.
And we have a website obviously that has a wealth of resources on it and has kind of been growing over the past few years at PreservationMaryland.org.
And then on the funding side, we run a grant program, and we are about to be launching – launching – relaunching, I should say because we had one before – a revolving fund, sort of a lending program for threatened historic properties to try and help them with rehab costs. So we really are all across the board and now we can add to that portfolio. We also run a podcast, PreserveCast.
[BI] So everybody’s who’s going to come on to this podcast is going to be asked this question.
[NR] All right.
What’s Your Favorite Building in Maryland?
[BI] And so I’m going to ask it of you. What’s your favorite historic building in Maryland?
[NR] So when it comes to historic buildings I think I would consider myself a view shed or a sight line junkie in a sense that I love getting a good view from a building. If I can get up on the top of a building and get really a nice bird’s eye view of a historic area that’s always fun.
So I would say the Maryland State House comes to mind as a wonderful place, particularly if you can get up on top of that, which is behind the scenes access but have a pretty stunning view of Annapolis and then of course, in the Maryland State House also, you have the Old Senate chamber which was just recently restored.
[BI] So a place not just Maryland history, but national–
[NR] I would say international significance. You think about the role that America has played as a democratically elected republic, I mean, and that’s a story that– it starts in a lot of different places, but I think that we certainly can look to Annapolis during that time period and remember that act of Washington and sort of the standard that he set for the rest of his countrymen.
[BI] I hope that everyone else’s answers will be as exciting as yours [laughter].
[NR] Yes, let’s hope so.
[BI] So one more question–
[BI] –at the top of the show, you were talking about your ancestor that fought in the Civil War. Do you think that you would have behaved similarly?
[NR] To my bounty-jumping, law-breaking ancestor?
[BI] Exactly, yes.
[NR] No. I would say, not just because that’s good politics to say no, that I would not break Federal law or Marshall law – in this case. I would say no because of the dire consequences if I were captured. Because as you may or may not know, if you jumped the bounty and run away from the army, you’re away without leave – AWOL. In the Civil War, they wouldn’t have called it AWOL, they would have called it being a deserter. If you were captured being a deserter, the penalty for that is death.
[BI] Good idea, then.
[NR] Yeah, and particularly if we’re talking about the same dollars involved and it was today. I don’t think that’s a good – $25 bucks for a bounty, I don’t think I’d be willing to risk death for 25. Maybe a little bit more, we’ll see.
[BI] All right, thank you, Nick.
[NR] So this has been Nick Redding and Ben Israel on PreserveCast. If you enjoyed this episode, stay tuned because we have an entire year’s worth of content. We’re going to be rolling out a new episode every week. You’ll be able to download those directly on iTunes, or from our website at PreservationMaryland.org. Talk to you soon.
This podcast was developed under a grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, a unit of the National Park Service. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Milestones Heritage Area and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the National Park Service or the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.
This week’s episode was produced and engineered by Ben and Stephen Israel. Our executive producer is Aaron Marcavitch. Our theme music is performed by the band Pretty Gritty. You can learn more about them at their website: PrettyGrittyMusic.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter @PG_PrettyGritty.
To learn about Preservation Maryland or this week’s guests, visit: PreservationMaryland.org. While there, you can check out our blog and learn about what’s current in historic preservation. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and Twitter @PreservationMD. And of course, a very special thank you to our listeners. Keep preserving!