Prospective Majors


Department students stand in front of a variety of projects including (from left to right), Frank Lloyd Wrights Pope-Leighey house, excavations at Sherwood Forest, and a traveling museum exhibit for James Monroe Museum.


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 make meaningful connections between the material remnants of the past and the culture that created them, in a process that provides a deep and rich understanding of American history.

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 approx. 125 declared majors 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 practical, 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 archaeology, architectural history, architectural conservation, museum studies, and urban planning. The ability to offer such focus and dedicated expertise within a preservation department is unique within preservation programs. Additionally, students develop hard 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.
    • Historic Preservation 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.


Students demonstrate skills learned in field and classroom settings. Daniel Messplay (left image) returns to Mary Washington to talk to students about his career in planning. Two students in the Museum Lab course help install an exhibit (center image). Excavations taking place at the summer archaeology field school (right image).


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 the exploration of the area’s cultural resources, majors also learn a series of practical skillsets 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 direct pathway to employment by providing them with a unique combination of philosophical and practical skillsets, particularly in the area of cultural resource management (CRM).


    • Unique learning experiences.
    • Direct pathway to employment.


Students are encouraged to participate in a variety of classroom and extra-curricular actives ranging from guest lectures (left), field documentation (center), and workshops at nearby historic sites (right).


Department Expectations:

The Historic Preservation department at UMW is a small program 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 complete course assignments such as 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 over 20 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 James Monroe Museum and, respectively, the George Washington Foundation at Kenmore and Ferry Farm.


Further Opportunities:

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.



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