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  • 08 Apr 2020 12:01 PM | Christine R Henry

    Welcome to the Spring Issue of VAN.  Feel free to use this link if you just want to scroll through all the stories directly on the website, or take a look below for highlights of the issue with links directly to each story.  

    For the most current news, VAF President Claire Dempsey has provided an informative update on changes to the San Antonio conference and meeting for this year and plans for 2020 as well.  Speaking of the future, don’t miss the update from VAF Treasurer Claudia Brown.  If you are interested in getting more involved with VAF, please see the call for a new co-editor for Buildings & Landscapes along with profiles of the current editors, Lydia Mattice Brandt and Carl Lounsbury.  Don’t forget to check out the member news section, calls for papers, and updates on the New England Chapter meeting.

    In publications news, the Spring Bibliography is packed as usual with useful resources that contribute to vernacular studies and keep your eyes on your inbox for a special post-virtual conference issue of the newsletter in mid-May that will highlight our award winners and provide a ballot for voting in the annual meeting.

    Christine Henry, Newsletter Editor

  • 08 Apr 2020 12:00 PM | Christine R Henry

    As you can all imagine, VAF’s Board of Directors and committee members have been busy rethinking our familiar activities as we all adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic.  You should have received emails that marked our progress with some difficult decisions.  Work continues and not all our plans are quite settled, but we will use this issue of VAN to bring you up to date where we can.  VAN editor Christine Henry is planning a supplementary issue for mid-May, when we will announce our award and prize winners, present an annual report and electronic ballot, and share any additional news we have.

    We plan to go forward with one component of our usual meeting, the paper and poster sessions scheduled for Saturday, 9 May, as a virtual conference.  Brent Fortenberry and his colleagues at Texas A & M University (TAMU) volunteered to host and to provide technical assistance.  Most of our presenters and session chairs have agreed to participate in our experiment, and we have adjusted the sessions accordingly. Like so many others who are shifting to remote work and learning, we will use Zoom, which you will need to download in advance and perhaps practice a little too.  We have adapted the planned schedule of papers to generally accommodate continental US time zones; all listed times are Central Daylight Time. We are planning three blocks of papers, with sessions beginning at 10 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.  The poster session, where presenters will be available to answer questions, will take place between 12 noon and 1pm. More information is posted on our website, including a link for registration. http://www.vafweb.org/2020-Virtual-Conference.

    We are planning to reschedule the San Antonio conference for May 19th to 21st in 2021. Michelle Jones, our conference coordinator, has had a very different set of tasks to wrangle, but our transitions to the new schedule have been moving smoothly.  So far, we have been able to rearrange this with few costs to us, and we are enormously appreciative of the generosity shown us by these local businesses.  We are thrilled that we will all be able to see this region next year and to learn from the hard work undertaken there in field work and research for our tours.  The plenary planned for this year, “Migration History and the Contemporary Political Landscape” will go forward next year, and there will be a new call for papers and posters.

    The Plymouth conference, originally planned for May of 2021, will be postponed to May 18 to 21, 2022.

    Our treasurer Claudia Brown has been refunding conference registration fees, which most of you should have received already, and juggling an array of other registration issues. We hope you have all remembered to cancel your hotel reservation and are doing what you can to negotiate with your airline.

    We have been in touch with the Access Award and Simpson Award recipients and the student Ambassadors from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and the University of Virginia and hope to see many of them next year.  We will announce the winners of the Advocacy, Bishir, Buchanan, and Cummings awards in the VAN May supplement and post that information on the VAF website after our virtual conference May 9. The winners have been invited to join us in San Antonio in 2021 for a super-sized award ceremony.

    Our Bylaws, as amended in 2015, contemplated the need for electronic decision-making (section VII G), so both our Board Meeting and our Annual Meeting will take place electronically.  The Board Meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday, 6 May will go forward on that date, again using Zoom. We will conduct such business as we can and will likely plan a second meeting in the months ahead to handle tasks that might require a postponement. We will need to postpone and re-format our Annual Meeting scheduled for Saturday evening, 9 May, while we focus on these other activities.  Instead of a traditional annual meeting, we will keep the membership informed with an annual report summarizing Board activities in the supplementary issue of VAN in mid-May. That issue will also include a ballot for the election of officers and directors for the Board so the members can vote electronically

    I want to thank some of the folks who have been working especially hard as we moved through our decision making:  First to Brent Fortenberry and his San Antonio conference colleagues Ken Hafertepe, Clifton Ellis, and Evan Thompson for being so patient and generous about rethinking their conference.  We all look forward to seeing it next year. Brent and TAMU deserve additional thanks for arranging our Virtual Conference as well, an extraordinary gift in these times. To Ritchie Garrison and the Plymouth team we owe similar gratitude. The Executive Committee, Christine O’Malley, Kim Hoagland, Bill Littman, and Claudia Brown, have all been thoughtful and good humored, as their duties became more challenging in a rapidly changing situation.  Andrew Dolkart, Phil Gruen, Sally McMurry, and Zachary Violette have all taken on an array of new tasks and we are appreciative of their willingness to jump in. I have been moved by everyone’s help and for the good thoughts we have received from members and friends.

    We hope you will join us for the Virtual Conference on May 9 and look forward to carrying on the business portions of our meeting in new and experimental ways.

    Claire W Dempsey

  • 08 Apr 2020 10:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    by Claudia R. Brown, VAF Treasurer

    In these uncertain times, the Vernacular Architecture Forum is fortunate to have the continued support of a remarkably generous donor. Since 2011, this benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has bestowed $100,000 annually to the VAF. In the midst of postponing our 2020 conference last month, a check in the amount of $100,000 arrived in my mailbox, bringing our anonymous benefactor’s support of the VAF to $1 million. The timing of this gift could not have been better as we did not know then if we were going to lose tens of thousands of dollars in deposits for buses, venues, and vendors reserved for the 2020 conference or if the deposits could be held for the postponement of the San Antonio conference to 2021. (As of this writing, almost all of these businesses have agreed to accommodate us and we expect a positive response from the others.)

    Our anonymous benefactor’s generosity enabled the VAF to establish an endowment that has remained healthy over many years. Even today, as the stock market has plummeted, our endowment has held up very well due to wise investments and today is down only about 8% form its peak in February, performing very favorably in light of the declines of the Dow and S&P 500. The latest gift will support the creation of an emergency fund as a bulwark against future crises and the balance appropriately and conservatively invested.

    We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our anonymous donor, whoever he or she may be for helping VAF continue our work today and plan for a bright future. 

  • 08 Apr 2020 10:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    The Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) solicits letters of interest from scholars seeking to serve its peer-reviewed journal Buildings & Landscapes. The journal currently has openings for 1) an editor and 2) a book review editor (or editors). Both are unpaid positions.

    Published twice a year by University of Minnesota Press, Buildings & Landscapes is the leading source for scholarly work on the vernacular architecture of North America or areas that broaden the context of North American architecture and cultural landscapes. The journal’s contributors include historians and architectural historians, preservationists and architects, geographers, anthropologists and folklorists, and others. All share an interest in documenting, analyzing, and interpreting vernacular forms and approach the built environment as windows into human life and culture, basing their scholarship on both fieldwork and archival research.

    1. Call for an editor

    The two coeditors of Buildings & Landscapes work together as equals to oversee all editorial matters regarding the journal: soliciting, selecting, vetting, and editing articles from authors; communicating with the University of Minnesota Press about the editing and production of the journal (2 issues per year); and working closely with the book review editor(s) and image editor. Editors have 4-year terms and one is replaced every 2 years so that no two editors change at once. The next co-editor will replace Carl Lounsbury (College of William and Mary) and join Lydia Mattice Brandt (University of South Carolina). 

    1. Call for a book review editor(s)

    The book review editor(s) of Buildings & Landscapes select books, exhibits, or sites to review that will be of broad interest to the journal’s audience and complement the content of the journal. They choose appropriate reviewers, provide them with books (in the case of book reviews), and communicate with them throughout revisions. They coordinate with the coeditors to ensure that all deadlines with the University of Minnesota Press are met. Editors have 2-year terms, with the option of renewing for an additional term. 

    To be considered for a position by the selection committee, to suggest a colleague, or to ask questions, interested parties should send letters of interest and CVs to VAF President Claire Dempsey to <dempseyc@bu.edu> by May 1st. Applicants should be mid-career or senior scholars with proven publication records and excellent communication skills. Those with knowledge of the VAF or who have previously published in Buildings & Landscapes or Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture are especially encouraged to apply. All editors will begin their terms in summer 2020 by shadowing the current editors. 

    To learn more about the journal, see the publications tab on this website.

  • 08 Apr 2020 7:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    The Board of the New England Chapter of the Vernacular Architecture Forum has decided to reschedule the 4 April 2020 VAF-NE Chapter Annual Meeting that was to be held at Old Sturbridge Village.  We reached this decision owing to a concern for the safety and well-being of our members and attendees and the recommendation by health authorities to postpone events and gatherings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

    The new date for the Annual Meeting will be 7 November 2020 at Old Sturbridge Village so mark your calendars!

    We will refund the registration fees and food order monies to anyone who would like them but of course are hoping you’ll just ask them to be held as registration for the newly scheduled meeting. 

    For further inquiries, please email vafnewengland@gmail.com

  • 08 Apr 2020 5:30 AM | Christine R Henry

    The Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians is now accepting paper abstracts for the 2020 Annual Conference, to be held in Natchez, Mississippi, September 30 to October 3, 2020, and co-hosted by Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez National Historical Park, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Please submit abstracts to papers@sesah.org by May 1, 2020.

    Conference Venue:

    The conference will be held at the Natchez Convention Center and the conference hotel will be the Natchez Grand Hotel. More details to follow regarding hotel registration.

    Paper and Session Proposal Submissions:

    We encourage submissions from architectural, landscape, preservation, and urban historians; independent scholars; architects; architectural theorists; museum curators; and other scholars in related fields. Submissions from graduate students in these fields are also welcome.

    Participants need not work in, reside in, or focus their research within the Southeast or the twelve-state SESAH region. However, all accepted presenters and session chairs must join SESAH and register for the conference by the early registration deadline. Accepted presenters must also submit the complete text of their papers to their session chair by September 1, 2020. SESAH reserves the right to drop presenters who do not fulfill submission requirements. Paper presentations are 20 minutes maximum (approximately 2,300 to 2,500 words).

    Papers on any architectural history topic and session theme are welcome. In addition, we invite submissions addressing the following themes:

      • Native American Landscapes of the South
      • African American Landscapes of the South
      • Women Designers of the South
      • Historic Preservation as Economic Development
      • Heritage Tourism and the Modern South
      • Rural Landscapes in the South

    Submission Guidelines:

    Abstracts (in MS Word format) of no more than 300 words must include the applicant’s name, professional affiliation, contact information, title of the proposed paper, and 5 keywords; a CV must be attached or included (in Word or PDF format). Proposals for sessions must include the title of the session; names, affiliations, contact information, and CVs for participants; and abstracts (as Word docs) of each paper. Please email documents to papers@sesah.org by May 1, 2020.

  • 08 Apr 2020 5:29 AM | Christine R Henry

    The journal Change Over Time: An International Journal of Conservation and the Built Environment, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, invites submissions for 10.2 Integrity 

    10.2 Integrity | Guest Editor: Jukka Jokilehto 

    The concept of “integrity” is central to the organizing principles and values of heritage conservation and is frequently evoked in international charters, conventions, and official recommendations. Generally speaking, integrity refers to the wholeness or intactness of a tangible object, place, or property and is a measure by which UNESCO determines the Outstanding Universal Value of a site.1 As a guiding principle of conservation practice, the concept of integrity has evolved from 19th century ideas of the artist’s intent, which located integrity in a moment in time (Viollet le Duc), to 21st century framings of integrity as an emergent condition as proposed by the 2005 Faro Framework Convention which suggests that integrity is neither fixed nor static but is understood through a process of interpreting, respecting, and negotiating complex, and at times, contentious values. 

    The elaboration of integrity has developed in tandem with the expanding scope of heritage from individual monuments to more complex assemblages that defy singular synchronic definitions of form and significance. Heritage today includes urban, cultural, and vernacular landscapes that necessitate an understanding of the inextricable relationship between the built environment, cultural context, and intangible values and thus requires both a more nuanced and versatile assessment of integrity. While UNESCO and ICOMOS offer general guidance on assessing integrity, it is clear that integrity is a relational concept. As a result, despite its primacy of place within conservation discourse and practice, the precise definition of the term remains somewhat elusive. 

    This issue of Change Over Time examines the core concept of “integrity” amidst evolving understandings of heritage and heritage conservation practice. It raises questions such as: How should integrity be assessed and interpreted for complex assemblages subject to multiple competing forces, as seen in cases of forced-migration, development, conflict, and climate change? What is an operating definition of integrity for archaeological sites whose conditions have dramatically changed due to damage incurred by the violent conflicts of terrorism or war, like the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria? How does integrity apply to cultural landscapes, such as coastal settlements, that are vulnerable to rising tides and extreme weather events, which not only threaten to alter the physical landscape, but may also disrupt traditional practices reliant upon delicate ecosystems? And how can the concept of integrity be understood and applied to historic urban areas such as Cairo, Delhi, and Shanghai that are experiencing rapid growth and development and attendant demographic change? 

    We welcome contributions from a range of contexts that both challenge operational concepts of integrity and demonstrate practical, actual, and inclusive approaches. Submissions may include, but are not limited to, case studies, theoretical explorations, and evaluations of current practices or policy programs. 

    Abstracts of 200-300 words are due 5 June 2020. Authors will be notified of provisional paper acceptance by early July 2017. Final manuscript submissions will be due 3 January 2021. 


    Articles are generally restricted to 7,500 or fewer words (the approximate equivalent to thirty pages of double-spaced, twelve-point type) and may include up to ten images. See Author Guidelines for full details at cotjournal.com, or email Managing Editor, Kecia Fong at cot@design.upenn.edu for further information. 

    1 UNESCO’s criteria for selection do not define integrity, though it is noted that “the protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations.” UNESCO. “The Criteria for Selection,” accessed February 14, 2020, https://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/ 

    ICOMOS defines integrity as a measure of the overall coherence and the wholeness and intactness of the property and its attributes. “Glossary,” International Council on Monuments and Sites, accessed January 22, 2020, https://www.icomos.org/en/2016-11-10-13-53-13/icomos-and-the-world-heritage-convention-4#integrity. 

    While ICOMOS and UNESCO stress the wholeness of a property, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) states that integrity is “the ability of the property to convey significance through physical features and context.” 

  • 08 Apr 2020 3:01 AM | Christine R Henry

    Lydia enjoying documenting a building in Charlottesville, VAEvangelists Louis Nelson and Dell Upton brought me into the VAF fold while I was a graduate student in architectural history at the University of Virginia in the mid-2000s. As an undergraduate art history major, I’d had trouble seeing past the famous monuments and stuffy questions of the canon. But VAF’s membership, publications, and conferences (my first was FresYES in 2008) helped me to realize that there really was a professional application for the nosy door-opening and almost-trespassing I’d been doing for most of my life.

    Over the years, the VAF has become a central anchor for my professional and personal relationships. Since 2011, I have been the sole architectural historian at the University of South Carolina. The VAF (as well as the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, for which I serve as vice president) has given me a space to create a “chosen” professional family, but also provided a reliable bank of outstanding scholarship, advice, and encouragement via its publications and annual meetings. This network has helped me to articulate and maximize how my various “lives” – as an academic, preservationist, and community history advocate – are intertwined.

    I joined the VAF board in 2019 as a coeditor of Buildings & Landscapes. While I find discovering the errant typo immensely satisfying, it has more importantly deepened my relationship with the organization and the methodologies and ideas that connect its members. It also creates a privileged platform from which to see the field: I am inspired by the range of questions we ask, places we consider, and people we refuse to overlook. This has helped me to see my own work – usually on intersections of memory and popular visual culture – differently and encouraged me to embrace cultural landscapes more holistically.

  • 08 Apr 2020 3:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    Carl Lounsbury recording Ghequiere House, King Street, Alexandria December 16, 2016I have been active in the VAF since its beginning in the late 1970s when I was still a graduate student. I have remained an active member because it has nourished my intellectual development by exposing me to some of the best scholars and research in the field and has made me less provincial-minded than I would have been otherwise. Early on, we sometimes saw ourselves as young iconoclasts who were eager to throw hand-made bricks through the glass walled boundaries of academic architectural history. Well maybe, but we certainly felt that we were uncovering a new world down every farm lane we traveled doing survey work for state historic preservation offices.  Even as the VAF was in its infancy, there was the FFFB—colloquially known as the Friends of Friendless Farm Buildings, an informal gathering of surveyors from Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina who met periodically in Richmond, Williamsburg, and Annapolis to find out what lay in someone’s patch of the woods on the other side of the river and keen to establish what kind of buildings, materials, structural joints, and molding profiles we had in common and develop a set of drafting conventions. I became swept up in this group of prospectors that included Cary Carson, Bernie Herman, Ed Chappell, Willie Graham, Dell Upton, Orlando Ridout, perhaps a stray archaeologist or two, and others who shared this passion for discovery. The VAF allowed us to find that there were other like-minded folk beyond the Chesapeake.

    I’ve attended every annual VAF conference since the first proto-conference at George Washington University in 1979 and over the past forty years have seen hundreds if not thousands of buildings in places that provide a nice contrast with the those in the Chesapeake where I have spent my career with my colleagues at Colonial Williamsburg. The highlight of those early years for me was the special tour that Abbott Cummings arranged for a number of us after the 1981 conference in Sturbridge. He showed us a number of those early framed houses that he had written about in his book published two years earlier. His boundless enthusiasm in explaining the structural details of these timber-framed buildings sparkled and made it one of the most delightful days in the field for all of us.

    In the early years of the VAF, I was a member of the board when Abbott was the president and was involved in organizing the conference in Winston-Salem in 1982 and again for the Williamsburg in 2002 after a proposed site fell through at the last moment. I had the privilege to serve as the VAF president in the mid-1990s before there were cellphones, email, and a generous endowment to cover conference overruns and slip-ups. I’ve helped do the fieldwork for a number of others, including the Valley of Virginia in 1988, Charleston in 1994, Annapolis in 1998, Newport in 2001, Savannah in 2007, Durham in 2016, and Alexandria in 2018.  At the heart of all the conferences have been the field tours, which over the years has allowed me to examine how and explore the reasons why regionalism (that all-embracing theme in American architecture) has manifest itself across the country. They have taken me to places that I would never have thought of going to such as St. Pierre and Miquelon, Butte, Fresno, Lawrence, Duluth, and points in between.

    My involvement in the VAF has been repaid many times over by the friendships that I have made over the past forty years. These turned a budding professional organization into something more personal. I now have colleagues whom I can call on for advice or a spare bedroom when traveling. I have also watched with pride as many of them have become leading experts in preservation technology, influential teachers, and museum directors who have rewritten the history of our field of study.

    I have taught seminar courses, surveys, and field schools at William and Mary for many years. During that time, I have enjoyed my interactions with students. If there is anything that we can pass on to those who follow is the fact that buildings tell many different kinds of stories about the past. I see that emerging out of the new scholarship presented each year in conference papers and the field guides. People are looking at buildings in ways that we didn’t even think of when I was starting out in the 1970s. That’s so rewarding—learning from my students and those younger scholars who have become VAF members over the past couple of decades. I think it was one of the reasons I accepted the job three years ago to become one of the co-editors of Buildings & Landscapes. I believed that I needed to be more fully engaged with this new scholarship. It has been rewarding and I catch glimpses of the same enthusiasm that motivated me in those early days to travel northward out of North Carolina to meet up with the FFFB, another group of young researchers eager to share their discoveries.

  • 08 Apr 2020 1:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    Member Michael Allen recently published "'The Projects': Lost Public Housing Towers of the Midwest," a chapter in the collection, Midwest Architecture Journeys (edited by Zach Mortice; Belt Publishing, 2019).

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