What is Historic Preservation?
Historic Preservation focuses on the research, maintenance, conservation, advocacy, and interpretation of historic sites, structures, and objects — often expressed as heritage studies or cultural resource management. Historic Preservation provides opportunities for students to gain a deeper and richer understanding of American’s cultural and ethnic diversity and the ramifications of technological innovation and social change on American society’s quality of life.
The Department of Historic Preservation at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) was established in 1984, making it the first undergraduate program in the country. Today with 118 declared majors (fall 2019) it remains one of the larger programs in the nation. Affiliated with the Department is the UMW Center for Historic Preservation which was founded in 1980 to enhance preservation research and outreach at the University.
Today, as in years past, the department emphasizes the holistic and interdisciplinary nature of Historic Preservation, a somewhat unique approach when compared to other preservation undergraduate and graduate programs. This approach is clearly expressed in the department’s curriculum (required 36 credits) which exposes students to the theoretical, philosophical, and ethical issues within the discipline through a variety of disciplinary lenses, each discipline taught by one of the six dedicated preservation faculty. These disciplines include museum studies, urban planning, archaeology, architectural conservation, architectural history, and recently business. The ability to offer such focus and dedicated expertise within a preservation department is unique within preservation programs. Additionally, students are exposed to both soft and hard skills, including research and analytical skills, associated with these disciplines through required departmental courses. While lecture is a delivery mechanism of all courses, many if not most courses comprise a substantial fieldwork and laboratory component.
- Historic Preservation is multi-disciplinary.
- Deals primarily with the tangible environment deemed to be significant historically. This includes structures, landscapes, and objects. Intangibles, such as stories, often help establish significance.
Why study Historic Preservation?
The Department of Historic Preservation at the University of Mary Washington emphasizes field experience and provides majors the unique opportunity to utilize the Fredericksburg area as a learning laboratory. While engaged in exploration of the areas cultural resources, majors also learn a series of practical skill-sets such as photographic documentation, measured drawing, and archival research to be used in conjunction with their broader UMW liberal arts education. After graduation the discipline of Historic Preservation offers the major a clear pathway to employment by providing them with a unique combination of philosophical and practical skill-sets, particularly in the area of cultural resource management (CRM). For more information about careers in historic preservation see
- Unique learning experiences.
- Clear pathway to employment.
The Historic Preservation department at UMW is a small department with a strong emphasis on quality. Because of the highly-competitive nature of the discipline, students need to be prepared to produce professional quality work upon graduation. Accomplishing this requires that students not only participate in their classes through readings, discussions and projects, but also take advantage of the myriad of other extra-curricular opportunities offered by both the department and Center for Historic Preservation.
- Reading and classroom participation is a must.
- Take advantage of extra-curricular activities offered.
Funding and Scholarships:
Financial assistance is available to majors in Historic Preservation in the form of scholarships and student aide positions. Presently the Department offers 16 scholarships totaling over $40,000. While all the scholarships offer financial aid, some of the scholarships also provide internship opportunities, particularly the Lt. General Albert J. Bowley Scholarship and the Annie Fleming Smith Scholarship which allow students to work with the George Washington Foundation at Kenmore and Ferry Farm as well as the James Monroe Museum.
Field School (Archaeology):
Since the 1980s the Department of Historic Preservation has offered a five-week, 3-credit summer field school experience in archaeology. The field school allows students to gain proficiency in archaeological excavation, recording, and field interpretation, and includes instruction in archaeological method and theory. Such experience is often a requirement should students continue their archaeological education at the Masters or Doctorate level.
Study Abroad (Paris, France):
Developed in 2011, the HISP 470 course, Historic Preservation Abroad, is run by Dr. Andi Smith The course aims to educate students about the architectural and planning history of Paris as well as the preservation practices that seek to sustain its cultural resources. Students are expected to compare and contrast their observations with material learned in coursework at UMW.