The intent of the Award for Local Advocacy, a new award in 2019, is to recognize a local organization for its promotion of Historic Preservation in the place/region of the annual meeting. The VAF seeks to encourage citizen-based advocacy by recognizing exemplary efforts and achievements on behalf of our vernacular built heritage. The VAF Award for Local Advocacy honors individuals and groups for exceptional contributions toward the appreciation and protection of vernacular buildings and landscapes. The award recognizes outstanding initiative, commitment, and action to promote and protect vernacular resources local to the area of the annual conference.
The 2023 recipients of the VAF Local Advocacy Award
Peggy M. Baker and James W. Baker
The 2023 Local Advocacy Award goes to Peggy M. Baker and James W. Baker. These two individuals have had distinct, yet complementary careers directly related to the appreciation, interpretation, and preservation of place-based history in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Their extensive study of 17th century material life in Plymouth has undergirded public history projects that have had an enduring impact on the Town of Plymouth and Plymouth County, including nuanced yet accessible publications, transformative work at local museums, and tireless service on preservation organizations. Most recently, their research has been integral to the 2023 VAF Field Guide for the annual meeting in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Peggy M. Baker, Peg, joined the staff of Pilgrim Hall Museum in 1991 as Curator of Manuscripts & Books. In 1995, she became the Executive Director, retiring with emerita status in 2010. Her most significant project was a $4 million capital campaign that expanded and upgraded the Hall by improving accessibility, introducing climate control, and reinstalling the permanent exhibition. Peg served several terms on Plymouth’s Historic District Commission. She is an elected member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Since 2010, Peg has been a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants “Silver Books” genealogical research team, documenting the descendants of Pilgrim Thomas Rogers through the 6th generation. Two books on the Rogers family have been published, with a third currently in editing. Peg has also written more than forty-five articles on Pilgrim and Plymouth-related topics, many published in the Mayflower Quarterly. She was recognized in 2008 with the Pennsylvania Society of Mayflower Descendant’s Katharine F. Little Distinguished Mayflower Scholarship Award and in 2011 with an Honorary Life Membership in the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants.
James W. Baker, Jim, began his Plymouth-based career as the librarian for Plimoth Plantation, now the Plimoth Patuxet Museums, in 1975. He served as the Director of Research from 1978-1989, aiding in the development of the Plantation’s first-person interpretative programs and the Wampanoag Homesite. In 1989 he was named Director of Museum Operations, before becoming Webmaster/Senior Historian for the Plantation from 1994-2001. Between 2003 and 2009, he was the Curator of the Alden House Historic Site in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Jim served on Plymouth’s Historic District Commission from 2006-2022. He is an elected member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts.
Many of Jim’s published contributions have focused on the Pilgrims and New England History in the 17th century, most recently Made in America: The Pilgrim Story and How it Grew (2022) and Mayflower Meetinghouse: A History and Guide (2023). His scholarly books are written with a general audience in mind, and much of his work has found its way to broader audiences by being shared online.
The 2019 Local Advocacy Award
Hidden City, Philadelphia
The mission of Hidden City is to inspire a sense of wonder, exploration and discovery in city and regional residents from all backgrounds; to lead them to a new and more vital relationship with Philadelphia, to understand its history, present, and future; and to connect people across diverse neighborhoods as part of a community of engaged people to solve problems related to the built environment.
Hidden City’s vision is to bring to life Philadelphia’s dormant and hidden places as locations of increased cultural, educational, commercial, and civic activity, and contribute substantially to the development of community and the health of its neighborhoods.
The organization strives to advance creative placemaking in Philadelphia through an array of programs, including a diverse array of tours and events, and publishes the Hidden City Daily, a five-day-a-week online magazine which covers all aspects of Philadelphia’s built environment, from architecture and planning, to preservation, development and design. Today, it is dedicated to enhancing the enjoyment of the city and inspiring people to explore its history and imagine new futures for the urban landscape.
When it comes to preservation advocacy, Hidden City's effectiveness springs from two sources. One is enthusiasm. Through articles and tours, the group has done more to foster public appreciation of Philadelphia's cultural landscape than any other organization, period. The other is shame. In a city awash in World Heritage boosterism and a general willingness to drown history in marketing, Hidden City's annual "Lost Buildings" series reminds us of an ugly reality: we are living through a mindless, multi-year demolition spree that politicians and public officials have shown no interest in concluding or even containing.
To receive the award tonight for Hidden City we welcome its founders: Nathaniel Popkin and Peter Woodall.