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  • 25 Oct 2020 10:06 AM | Christine R Henry

    VAF is thrilled to announce the launch of a new field school program dedicated to documenting threatened African American cultural landscapes. In partnership with the University of Virginia, VAF has received support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to document and interpret African American buildings and landscapes, training a new generation of students in conducting the fieldwork necessary for documenting suppressed architectural histories, while involving the relevant communities in the process.

    The Mellon grant will fund three different field schools launched in three consecutive summers; the schools will differ in location and type of architectural content, but all will contribute to the goal of examining architectural relevance to social history.  Louis Nelson, the PI for the grant, and Claire Dempsey, president of VAF, will head an advisory committee currently composed of Niya Bates, Jim Buckley, Kim Hoagland, and Carl Lounsbury, and intended to be expanded.  The committee will review proposals from potential field-school leadership teams comprised of scholars familiar with a range of field documentation strategies, expertise in African American history and culture, and local community partnership.

    Drawing from VAF’s traditional strength in documentation and expanding to engage best practices of mutuality in community partnership, the students will learn traditional and new fieldwork strategies, from making measured drawings and taking photographs to using the latest digital-capture and visualization techniques. They also will learn ethical guidelines and community engagement methods for working with residents in collecting oral histories.

    The program assumes that each field school will run for two field seasons and have a third season to complete a research report and the public presentation/dissemination of the work. The committee will begin taking applications in the late summer of 2021 with the expected launch of the first program in the summer of 2022.

    “Standing at the heart of this proposal is the assumption that architectural historians have an important opportunity and responsibility to engage the contested histories of race in America,” Nelson argued in the application to Mellon. “This series of summer programs will provide an important catalyst for the fields of historic preservation, and for social justice scholars who endeavor to uncover suppressed and erased histories of marginalized people, as we train the next generation of scholars and practitioners in the fieldwork techniques that characterize Vernacular Architecture Forum’s close study of the built environment.”

    This winter, the VAF website will upload a page with more detailed information about this initiative, including how to develop a proposal to direct a field school.

  • 25 Oct 2020 10:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    One of the important tasks that VAF accomplishes at its annual meeting is voting on board members.  This year the annual meeting, like our papers session, was held virtually.  Thanks to the tireless work of many, VAF also held our elections electronically, and below is the slate of new board members:

    Executive Committee

    Second Vice President: Kim Hoagland, Michigan Technological University (2022)

    Secretary Secretary: Paula Mohr, Independent Historian  (2025)

    President-elect: James Buckley, University of Oregon

    New board members to serve 2020-2023

    Vyta Baselice, Graduate Student, George Washington University

    P.J. Carlino, The New School/Parsons

    Daniel De Sousa, Heritage Documentation Programs, National Park Service

    Philip Herrington, James Madison University

    Heather Barrett, Maryland Historical Trust has also been elected to fulfill the remainder of Jobie Hill's vacated spot on the board through 2021

    Congratulations to the new board!

  • 25 Oct 2020 9:55 AM | Christine R Henry

    The Vernacular Architecture Forum invites paper and poster proposals for its 42nd Annual Conference, Vernacular Landscapes of San Antonio and Central Texas, May 19 to May 22, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. The paper and poster sessions will be on Saturday, May 22. Papers may address topics relating to vernacular and everyday buildings, sites, or cultural landscapes worldwide and how people use these sites. Submissions on all relevant topics are welcome. We encourage papers focusing on vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes of Texas, as well as issues of displacement, migration, acculturation of immigrants and natives, revival architecture, and peoples in slavery and freedom in borderlands. 

    Students and young professionals may apply for the Pamela H. Simpson Presenter’s Fellowships offering support of up to $500 for presenting papers at VAF’s annual conference. 


    Papers should be analytical rather than descriptive, and no more than twenty minutes in length. Proposals for complete sessions are welcome.  Proposals should clearly state the argument of the paper and explain the methodology and content in fewer than 400 words. Make sure to indicate if your proposal is being submitted as part of a complete session.  Please include the paper title, author’s name, email address, and a one-page c.v.  You may include up to two images with your submission. Note that presenters must deliver their papers in person and be VAF members at the time of the conference. Speakers are expected to attend the entire conference. Speakers must register by March 1, 2021, or their paper will be withdrawn. Please do not submit a proposal if you are not committed to attending the conference and delivering your paper on Saturday, May 22, 2021.

    If your 2020 paper proposal for San Antonio was accepted and you did not participate in the virtual event after the conference postponement, you must resubmit if you wish to give a paper in 2021.


    The proposals and c.v. should be emailed as a PDF attachment to the papers committee. All proposals received will be acknowledged. If you do not receive an acknowledgement of receipt of your paper within one week of its submission, please contact Papers Committee chair Sally McMurry.



    VAF’s Pamela H. Simpson Presenter’s Fellowships offer a limited amount of financial assistance to students and young professionals presenting papers at VAF’s annual conference. Awards are intended to offset travel and registration costs for students, and to attract developing scholars to the organization. Any person presenting a paper who is currently enrolled in a degree-granting program, or who received a degree in 2020 is eligible to apply. Awards cannot exceed $500. Previous awardees are ineligible, even if their status has changed. Recipients are expected to participate fully in the conference, including tours and workshops.

    To apply, submit with your proposal a one-page attachment with "Simpson Presenter’s Fellowship" at the top and the following information: 1) name, 2) institution or former institution, 3) degree program, 4) date of degree (received or anticipated), 5) mailing address, 6) permanent email address, 7) telephone number, and 8) paper title.


    VAF 2021 San Antonio also will host the annual poster session to showcase recently completed research and works-in-progress. Students and emerging scholars are particularly encouraged to submit. The poster proposal may address any topic relating to vernacular and everyday buildings, sites, or cultural landscapes worldwide as described in the first paragraph of this document.

    Proposals should include a title, proposal (no more than 200 words), and a one-page c.v. Accepted presenters will be expected to follow general guidelines regarding poster dimensions but must design, print, and present their posters at the conference.  If your 2020 poster proposal for San Antonio was accepted and you did not participate in the virtual event after the conference postponement, you must resubmit if you wish to present a poster in 2021. If you have any questions about the posters session, please contact Posters Committee chair Phil Gruen.


    The proposals and c.v. should be emailed as a PDF attachment to the posters committee. All proposals received will be acknowledged.  If you do not receive an acknowledgement of receipt of your poster within one week of its submission, please contact Posters Committee chair Phil Gruen.

    COVID-19: We recognize that COVID-19 makes all plans uncertain. We hope that the pandemic will have subsided by next May, but if it has not we will be in touch with presenters regarding alternate conference plans. 

    GENERAL INFORMATION: For general information about the San Antonio conference, please visit the VAF website or contact Michelle Weaver Jones, VAF Conference Planner.

  • 25 Oct 2020 9:50 AM | Christine R Henry

    The Abbott Lowell Cummings Award, named after the founding president of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, is awarded annually to the book that has made the most significant contribution to the study of vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes. In judging the nominated works, the jurors look for a publication that:

    • is based on primary research;
    • emphasizes fieldwork that takes seriously the materiality of architecture and landscapes, and draws on particular elements of environments as evidence;
    • breaks new ground in interpretation or methodology; and
    • contributes generally to the intellectual vitality of vernacular studies in North America.

    Entries may come from any discipline concerned with vernacular architecture studies. Books published from January 2019 through December 2020 are eligible for consideration. Edited collections of previously published materials are not eligible.

    In the past five years, the following books have received the Cummings Award:

    • Border Land, Border Water: A History of Construction on the U.S.-Mexico Divide, by C.J. Alvarez (University of Texas Press)
    • Spaces in Translation: Japanese Gardens in the West, by Christian Tagsold (Penn Press)
    • California Mission Landscapes: Race, Memory, and the Politics of Heritage, by Elizabeth Kryder-Reid (University of Minnesota Press)
    • Architecture and Empire in Jamaica, by Louis Nelson (Yale University Press)
    • Building Zion: The Material World of the Mormon Settlement, by Thomas Carter (University of Minnesota Press)

    Please send your nominations to cummingsaward@vafweb.org by December 15, 2020. 


    More information is available at: http://www.vafweb.org/Cummings-Award

  • 25 Oct 2020 9:40 AM | Christine R Henry

    VAF member Ken Short at Doughoregan Manor in Howard County, MD.Funds for field schools, fieldwork related to scholarly research, and field-based continuing education are still available in 2020 through the Orlando Ridout V Fieldwork Fellowship. Although the Ridout Fellowship is well utilized by field school directors and students attending various programs, there are several other funding opportunities with this award. Because so many field schools had to cancel sessions this year due to the COVID pandemic, we wanted to highlight the other categories in which this fellowship can be immensely helpful to both students and professionals. Students may also apply to assist with research and fieldwork for the preparation of a thesis or dissertation, and practicing professionals and scholars may apply for continuing education as related to fieldwork or for actual fieldwork that compliments archival research.

    Funding categories include: 

    1)    Field school directors (VAF members) may apply for grants of up to $1,000 to support their programs and/or provide financial aid to participants;

    2)    Students participating in field schools or other training opportunities may apply for stipends of up to $500 to attend such programs (prior VAF membership not required);

    3)    VAF members may apply for grants up to $500 to support continuing education and professional training activities;

    4)    VAF members may apply for grants of up to $1,000 for support of fieldwork activities related to the pursuit of academic degrees;

    5)    VAF members may apply for grants of up to $1,000 to support fieldwork activities not related to fulfillment of academic degree requirements.

    Please take advantage of this opportunity! For more information, see: https://www.vernaculararchitectureforum.org/Ridout-Fellowship

  • 25 Oct 2020 9:30 AM | Christine R Henry

    The Vernacular Architecture Forum seeks nominations for the 2021 VAF Advocacy Award. The application deadline is January 4, 2021.

    The VAF Advocacy Award recognizes exemplary efforts and achievements on behalf of the vernacular built heritage. The award honors individuals and groups for exceptional contributions toward the interpretation, appreciation, and protection of vernacular buildings and cultural landscapes and recognizes outstanding initiative, commitment, and action to promote and protect vernacular resources. The award may be made in recognition of a specific effort or a long-term record. Awardee will be given two full registrations to the VAF conference and a certificate of excellence.


    Any public or private entity or individual in North America may be nominated.


    Nominations should include the following:

    1. A summary paragraph of the nominee’s advocacy effort or highlights of the nominee’s long-term advocacy work.

    2. A 1000-word narrative that explains how the nominee’s work has contributed to the appreciation and protection of vernacular buildings and/or cultural landscapes. This narrative should include information about the vernacular resources and their history that were the object of the nominee’s advocacy efforts, emphasizing the public outreach—such as curricula, print media, websites, social media, and public speaking—that is the basis for the nomination.

    3. A description of people and organization partners that contributed to the advocacy effort.

    4. For advocacy over a career, a timeline or chronology noting the highlights of the nominee’s advocacy.

    5. Images of the vernacular resources that were the focus of the advocacy effort and

    events that contributed to the effort and links to websites or other relevant digital outreach developed for the nominated project.


    Please submit nomination materials electronically in a single zip file OR as a link to a single downloadable file on a cloud drive to advocacy@vafweb.org. Should the file size exceed 50MB, please communicate with us at the same address.  If you must send a paper or hard copy of your nomination and its supporting documentation, please email us so that we may make alternate arrangements.

    Hard copies should be sent to:

    Carter L. Hudgins

    70 Bull Street

    Charleston, SC 29401

    The application deadline for 2021 VAF Advocacy Award is January 4, 2021.

  • 25 Oct 2020 9:30 AM | Christine R Henry

    After a fruitful search, Buildings & Landscapes: The Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum is pleased to announce two new members of its editorial team: Rachel Leibowitz and Michael J. Chiarappa. Michael will replace Carl Lounsbury beginning next spring as the journal's co-editor, to serve with Lydia Mattice Brandt. Rachel will step in for our current book review editors, Andrew Johnston and Jessica Ellen Sewell, next spring. Thank you to Lydia Mattice Brandt, Claire Dempsey, Cynthia Falk, and Brian Goldstein for serving on the editorial search committee.

    Michael J. Chiarappa received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and is Professor of History at Quinnipiac University. He is co-author of Fish for All: An Oral History of Multiple Claims and Divided Sentiment on Lake Michigan (2003), co-editor of Nature’s Entrepot: Philadelphia’s Urban Sphere and its Environmental Thresholds (2012) and the author of articles focusing on vernacular architecture and landscapes, and marine environmental history. A graduate of the Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies, he has worked with museums and government agencies on maritime-related programming, including the Bayshore Center at Bivalve, the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Park Service. A former board member of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, he serves on the editorial board of Buildings & Landscapes.

    Rachel Leibowitz is an assistant professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and a co-director of its Center for Cultural Landscape Preservation. Her current research projects examine the popularity of “the Japanese style” in midcentury residential design, the development of Chicago’s water filtration plants, and “the Lincoln elm” planted at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois. Before relocating to Syracuse in 2018, Rachel served for five years as the Division Head of the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer. She has taught courses in the history of architecture and landscape architecture at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She currently serves on the board of the Preservation Association of Central New York and is a past board member of both the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation and the Vernacular Architecture Forum.

  • 25 Oct 2020 9:05 AM | Christine R Henry

    The VAF-NE Chapter Annual Meeting, scheduled for Saturday, 7 November 2020 will be held virtually as a Zoom meeting.  The Annual Meeting Conference will run from 9:20 am to about 1:50 pm Eastern Standard Time.

    The program of presentations, as originally planned for April 2020, remains the same, but the length of the day is shorter as there will be no extended lunch break but rather just one short break mid-day.  This will allow for a shorter day while maintaining the same content.  The papers will be pre-recorded, but each speaker will be introduced live before each presentation.  A live question-and-answer session will follow each presentation. 

    You can find the list of presentations at VAF-NE Conference Schedule.

    To sign up for the program, please go to the VAF website events page.

    The registration fee is $10.00.  Registration is open to all, but non-members will need to make a free account here first.  For those who registered for the conference last spring we will contact you separately.


    We look forward to an exciting day and hope that you can join us.

  • 25 Oct 2020 9:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    by Alison Stone, Utah-VAF Legacy Project Coordinator

    Goshen House Drawing Team

    Wednesday, July 8, members of the Utah-VAF Legacy Project met to document a building on a ranch in Goshen, Utah.  We came with masks, gloves, gel and wipes in homage to the new normal of measured drawing during a pandemic.  The building was already known to some members of the group because it is a wonderful example of a Utah pioneer adobe home and unique in its Italianate style.  The impetus for us assembling at the property was the owner of the ranch, Anna-Marie, who is very attached to the building and has dreams of stabilizing or even restoring it.

    When we arrived at the ranch, we were disheartened to see the state of deterioration the building was in. Seeing the house through our eyes,Front Facade with Anti-Horse Fencing Anna-Marie, spoke about how she regretted not starting the process earlier.  Her family has owned the ranch for 85 years and the building has always been there so she, like many owners in the same situation, didn’t feel the urgency to get started on saving it. The house is surrounded by a horse corral and over the years the horses have licked the corner adobe bricks for the minerals in the clay. More fences were built to keep them away which made access for our documentation purposes challenging. In recent years, the deterioration has progressed exponentially: an entire façade of the building has collapsed leaving a pile of adobe bricks, the interior staircase is now completely exposed and the landing from the top of the stairs is lying on the ground. 

    Far Right Corner Indented Where Horses Licked the Adobe BricksAccording to Cory Jensen, Utah National Register Coordinator, there are no records of the history of this building. Everyone is depending on the owner to fill in its story.  Anna-Marie has started reaching out to local families she believes were connected with the ranch before her family.  She was kind enough to forward emails to me from the Trotter family.  Mr. Trotter wrote about a four room house built by his great grandfather, the Mormon Bishop of Goshen, William Price for his second wife, Mary Ann Gardner.  As a bride, Mary Ann didn’t like living in the same house with the first wife so the Bishop built her a house in 1881.[1] However, Mr. Trotter’s email is vague as to location and describes the house being on 5 acres or half a city block.  Anna-Marie’s house is outside the current town of Goshen.

    Fallen Exterior Wall

    An alternative story of the building comes from Anna-Marie’s family; that it was used as a stagecoach station for overnight guests. The current floor plan of the building would support this: first floor with a foyer and one large room and a back closet for storage, second floor with a hall and three small bedrooms.  There were two types of stations which served stagecoaches: swing and home.  The former was for quick stops to stretch your legs and the later served food and housed people overnight. My cursory search of stagecoach routes from Salt Lake City show them going directly to California in a westerly route and not towards Goshen (southwest).  However, the Mormon Trail to California was built in the 1840s to go from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles via Southern Utah and Las Vegas. My guess is that there could have been stagecoaches using this route in the later 1800s. Modern day I-15 closely follows the path of the old trail.

    Pile of Fallen Bricks and Upstairs Landing

    Our day of measured drawing highlights some of the challenges facing historic preservation agencies and families who own historic sites. So many questions about places evade answers through lack of any obvious records or existing research and having the time to conduct that research.  Owners also face the issues of time and money; whether to do their own research and the reality of how waiting can increase the costs of restoration or even stabilization. In this case, Anna-Marie is determined to do both.  Tree Limbs Resting on HouseRealizing she let time get away from her, she has marshaled her extensive family to clear away tree limbs from the house, remove the detritus and move all the fallen bricks into a shed. She hopes to find grants to bring the building back to the way it was in the 1800s.  I sincerely hope she achieves her goal and the group who spent the day there are very happy to have a record of this unique and charming building.

    [1] Trotter, Louise Price, History of Mary Ann Gardner Price, by her Daughter, p. 3.

  • 25 Oct 2020 5:30 AM | Christine R Henry

    Landscapes of Slavery, Landscapes of Freedom:

    The African diaspora and the American built environment

    Harvard Graduate School of Design

    November 5-7, 2021

    Histories of the Atlantic world have focused both on the adaptation of ideas from the Old Continent to the new and on the material and cultural exchanges occurring throughout the centuries. To complement this scholarship, studies have been conducted on the slave trade between West Africa, mainland North America and the Caribbean, which formed the base of plantation economy and helped build the fortunes of many landowners in the colonial and antebellum period of the republic. Recent scholarship has acknowledged the violence of the archive of white records of slavery that have silenced the voices of the enslaved, and this work has sought to recover the experiences and vantage points of slavery’s victims.

    This forum will address a more specific set of questions that have to do not only with the unique contribution the forced labor of the African diaspora and Afro-descendants brought to the plantation economy, but also with the potential exchange of knowledge about gardening and cultivation practices across the Atlantic, both from West Africa and between the Caribbean and mainland North America. On occasion the cultivation of specific staple crops such as rice depended upon the expertise of the enslaved. More generally, many of those forced to labor on their masters’ plantations simultaneously worked on small plots of land within their quarters, enabling them to exercise limited agency with regard to the extent and type of crop cultivation for their own use and consumption. When slavery legally ended, the exploitation of black labor continued, although over time black land-ownership increased and perhaps involved different approaches to land use than was common among white small-holders. Reconstructing these histories and those of the environments Africans built and cultivated for others and for themselves is challenging, as there is only a limited archival record that contains few enslaved voices.

    This conference seeks to engage with the work of archaeologists, ethnobotanists, cultural geographers, anthropologists, and of experts in African American Studies and oral history in order to form a more complete picture of the African contribution to the shaping of the North American landscape.

    Proposals for unpublished papers are welcome from scholars in any field. Topics might include (but are not limited to) such subjects as:

    • the relationship between place-making and slave labor in North America and its cultural, social and economic underpinnings.

    • the adaptation of imported African horticultural and agricultural knowledge in the Caribbean and North America.

    • the exchange of knowledge related to agricultural and gardening practices between the Caribbean and the North American mainland.

    • Atlantic World foodways.

    • crop cultivation and food growing practices on plantation sites indebted to forced labor.

    • the ways in which slavery and forced labor made intensive cultivation and production possible.

    • the place-making of former slaves in both rural and urban environments.

    Abstracts of no more than 500 words are to be headed with the applicant’s name, title of the paper, professional affiliation, and contact information. A two-page CV should also be included in the submission. Please send proposals by March 15, 2021 to: Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University. Email: rfabiani@gsd.harvard.edu 

    Authors of accepted proposals will be required to submit the complete text of their papers by June 15, and carry out potential revisions by August 30, 2021, after which the symposium chair will circulate them among the speakers. Publication of the essays presented at the conference is anticipated.

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