November 11, 2019

Spencer Leads Gallery Talk at The Branch in Richmond, Nov. 9

Michael Spencer, associate professor and director for the Center for Historic Preservation

Michael Spencer, associate professor and director for the Center for Historic Preservation

Michael Spencer, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Historic Preservation, will lead a Gallery Talk at The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design in Richmond on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. Titled “Charles Robinson’s Higher Calling,” the talk will focus on Charles M. Robinson’s designs for institutions of higher education in Virginia. Tickets are $20 for Branch non-members and $10 for members. https://branchmuseum.org/

McMillan Discussed Experimental Archaeology on Town Talk

Lauren McMillan

Assistant Professor Lauren McMillan

Lauren McMillan, assistant professor of historic preservation, was a guest on the Town Talk radio show on October 22nd. McMillan discussed the Reconstructive and Experimental Archaeology Conference, that is being hosted at UMW on October 25th.

https://www.newstalk1230.net/episode/town-talk-oct-22-2/

https://exarc.net/meetings/rearc

Spencer Presents Lecture for Washington Heritage Museums’ Speaker Series

Michael Spencer, associate professor and director for the Center for Historic Preservation

Michael Spencer, associate professor and director for the Center for Historic Preservation

Michael Spencer, associate professor and chair of the Department of Historic Preservation, was the October speaker for Washington Heritage Museums’ speaker series. Spencer, who is the board chair of the Washington Heritage Museums, presented a free, public lecture entitled “Dendrochronology: Using Tree Rings to Date the Mary Washington House,” on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 3. Read more. 

Beate Jensen: Rooting for Retirement

Beate Jensen, cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, who retires this month after 20 years on the job. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen, cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, who retires this month after 20 years on the job. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen ’99 has gardened in just about every climate. Born and raised in Norway, she married a Marine stationed in Scotland and scattered seeds far and wide as they moved from Hawaii to Spain and everywhere in between. But it wasn’t until she came to Fredericksburg in 1996 that she began planting roots.

“I went to the library one day and copied down addresses for every college in Virginia. I requested course catalogs and read each one with care,” Jensen said. “Mary Washington’s historic preservation program caught my eye, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Jensen’s commitment to research landed her the job of cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio (GMHS) at Belmont, a position she’s retiring from this month after 20 years. She’s done everything, from controlling pests in the garden to pestering contractors to follow her guidelines. She and her staff keep the Stafford County estate looking just as it did when American Impressionist painter Gari Melchers and wife Corinne lived there in the early 1900s – but for 21st-century visitors to enjoy.

Along the way, Jensen earned a master’s degree in library science, spurring her to record the building and landscape features into Belmont’s collections management system. Aided by the Garden Club of Virginia and other grants and gifts, her work to restore the Melchers’ home and grounds has earned accolades, including Stafford County Historical Commission’s annual Historic Preservation Award.

“Fulfilling Corinne Melchers’ wish for Belmont to serve as a memorial to her husband and a park for local residents has been a labor of love,” Jensen said. “And I cannot stress enough that this has been a team effort – my staff is the most dedicated group of professionals you can find.”

 

Beate Jensen, with her standard poodle, Tommi, at Belmont. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen, with her standard poodle, Tommi, at Belmont. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Q: What’s your favorite GMHS project?
A: The conclusion of each garden restoration project, no matter how large or small, is always satisfying. But I’m particularly proud of saving the Fannie Roots House [a historic cottage that was home to the civil rights activist by the same name]. I was recognized by Stafford County in 2011 for this project, but I’ve always felt the award should have gone to David Ludeker, [Belmont building and grounds assistant], as his skills and hard work prevented this building from being torn down. It’s a treasure – an outstanding example of post-Civil War vernacular architecture that rarely survives today.

Q: Do you have any favorite plants that the Melchers also enjoyed?
A: It’s been fun researching and bringing back old root stock roses that they grew in their garden.

Q: What’s your advice for novice gardeners?
A: Don’t create too many flower beds. Keep things simple by planting a variety of evergreen and flowering shrubs. Use mulch and clean up the garden in the fall to save yourself time and energy in the spring.

Q: What are your retirement plans?
A: My husband, Ken, who I met here in Virginia, and I are moving to Vermont, near my daughter’s farm. We’ll be just a few minutes from the mountains where I’ll get to hike with my dogs and go fishing.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: If it doesn’t feel good, you aren’t doing it right.

Spencer Gives Behind-the-Scenes Tour at Rising Sun Tavern

Michael Spencer, associate professor and director for the Center for Historic Preservation

Michael Spencer, associate professor and director for the Center for Historic Preservation

The Free Lance-Star ran an article this week about a behind-the-scenes tour Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Historic Preservation Michael Spencer gave at the Rising Sun Tavern, along with the help of UMW students. Sponsored by the Washington Heritage Museums, the tour gave visitors access to areas that are normally roped off or barricaded, and even gave them the opportunity to climb or crawl into spaces that aren’t seen by the general public. “A lot of concealed spaces tell us so much about a building,” Spencer said. “We always want to go into the basements because people don’t change basements. They change kitchens.”

Read more. 

Questers 1944 Visits UMW Historic Preservation Department

The local Questers 1944 chapter presented a generous donation to the Department of Historic Preservation. Professors Andréa Livi Smith and Christine Henry accepted the donation on behalf of the department.

The local Questers 1944 chapter presented a generous donation to the Department of Historic Preservation. Professors Andréa Livi Smith and Christine Henry accepted the donation on behalf of the department.

The Questers 1944 local chapter visited UMW on Wednesday, June 12 to make a donation to the Department of Historic Preservation. Questers members were given a tour of the HISP facilities and current projects before taking a trolley tour of downtown Fredericksburg.

Since 2010, Questers have supported UMW’s Historic Preservation Department and provided funds for equipment needed for preservation. Thanks to the group’s generous donations, the department has purchased mat cutters for museum exhibits, measuring poles, digital cameras and tents for use on archaeological digs to protect students from the elements.

The local Questers 1944 chapter visited UMW's Department of Historic Preservation this week. Here, two members of the group examine a Civil War ordnance that was found by UMW HISP students at Sherwood Forest plantation.

The local Questers 1944 chapter visited UMW’s Department of Historic Preservation this week. Here, two members of the group examine a Civil War ordnance that was found by UMW HISP students at Sherwood Forest plantation.

According to the group’s website, “With a strong desire to see that the best of American heritage is preserved for future generations, Questers seek to educate by research and study of antiques and to donate funds to the preservation and restoration of artifacts, existing memorials, historic buildings, landmarks and educational purposes.” To learn more about the Questers, visit https://www.questers1944.org.

The HISP Department thanks the Questers for their continued generous donations!

Morton Publishes Letter to the Editor on Hugo Black House

Brown Morton, professor emeritus in the Department of Historic Preservation

Brown Morton, professor emeritus in the Department of Historic Preservation

Brown Morton, professor emeritus of the Department of Historic Preservation, wrote a letter to the editor of the Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia on the preservation of the Hugo Black House in Old Town Alexandria. “In 1949, I moved with my family to Old Town Alexandria and knew most of its residents from my days delivering the Alexandria Gazette as a youngster,” Morton said. “As I recall, that is how I came to know Justice Hugo Black who lived at a historic home with an unusually large garden at 619 South Lee St.” Read more. 

Michael Spencer: Courageous Conversations

Michael Spencer, associate professor and director for the Center for Historic Preservation

Michael Spencer, associate professor and director for the Center for Historic Preservation

If you step into Michael Spencer’s office in Combs, you’ll pass through a massive antique wooden doorframe. His mentor, Professor Emeritus Gary Stanton, salvaged it from Nottingham, an 18th-century plantation home that was recently destroyed.

Questions about what pieces of history should be saved and salvaged are what led Spencer ’03 to study at Mary Washington, one of only four institutions in the country with a bachelor’s degree in historic preservation. Now, as associate professor and department chair, Spencer and his fellow professors are opening doors to new conversations in the classroom about what is worthy of conservation and preservation in the 21st century.

“We’re moving beyond focusing on the history of a singular ethnic and gender group and broadening the spectrum in terms of what we should be looking at from a preservation standpoint,” said Spencer, who said the department frequently works with local African-American groups and Native American tribes to help address oversights of the past. “Now we are asking, ‘What story do we want to tell as a country?’”

The voices of preservationists like Spencer are becoming increasingly valuable as America – and our own historic city – navigates the debate over artifacts, relics and monuments from our nation’s past. From Confederate monuments in Charlottesville to the slave auction block in Fredericksburg, we have monumental decisions to make about what stays and what goes, and more importantly, why? It’s these questions that motivated Spencer to take part in Courageous Conversations, a new series of videos featuring UMW faculty exploring topics of diversity and inclusion.

 

 

Q: What drew you to the field of historic preservation in the first place?
A: I’ve always been interested in historic buildings, and most history programs are not building-centric. I found Mary Washington with my dad’s help – and the rest is history.

Q: How has the historic preservation department changed since you were a student?
A: We were doing ink on mylar drawings and had only just acquired AutoCAD, a computer-assisted drafting program. You had to sign up to use it on the computer in Trinkle’s basement. We still teach hard-line drawings, but now use new technologies such as 3-D modeling and virtual reality.

Q: Has preserving history always been a controversial topic, as it has been in the last few years, or is this a new phenomenon?
A: There will always be debates because every object and site is unique, so each brings different perspectives. It often becomes controversial when you talk about how to preserve things. As preservationists, we have seven aspects of integrity to help us decide if an object or site is significant, and location is one of them. If you move the block to the Fredericksburg Area Museum and have to pay to see it, is that conveying history in the way we want, or do we want it to be accessible to everyone? But there are also personal stories and conversations – feeling is another aspect of integrity we consider – and it might warrant a change in our preservation approach. As a department, we’ve participated in the discussions in Fredericksburg, but the community must delve into the actual preservation issues at hand, and we hope to be a part of that.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Confederate monuments at the center of the national controversy, particularly those in your hometown of Charlottesville?
A: Many of the monuments were put up at the 50th or 100th anniversary of the Civil War in honor of the Southern myth and “lost cause” and embody many of the racist beliefs of the time. Lee and Jackson didn’t have direct ties to Charlottesville. But some of the older memorials list names of the local dead and it’s harder to advocate for their removal. There are differences in how you approach and evaluate these monuments. But if you dig deep enough, you can always find out intent. Newspapers are always publishing editorials, and when you read them, you can really see what people wear on their sleeves.

Associate Professor Michael Spencer, who is chair of the Department of Historic Preservation, discovered the original door to the Mary Washington House using infrared thermography.

Associate Professor Michael Spencer, who is chair of the Department of Historic Preservation, discovered the original door to the Mary Washington House using infrared thermography.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your profession?
A: Seeing students with whom I’ve made a connection excel at UMW and beyond. I also find the “discovery” aspect of my job particularly rewarding. My wife was driving me around at 4 a.m., during one of the coldest days of the year, and we stopped at the Mary Washington House. I used infrared thermography tools, which show the way heat is transmitted through objects, and it led us to discover Mary Washington’s original front door.

Q: What is the most challenging?
A: Continually advocating for why historic preservation matters, here at UMW when it comes to securing resources, and within the community.

Q: What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
A: While I’m big on technology, I just got my first iPhone. Frankly, I hate using it, except when I’m taking pictures of my daughter.

McMillan Publishes Book Chapter

Lauren McMillan

Assistant Professor Lauren McMillan

Lauren McMillan, assistant professor in the department of Historic Preservation, published a co-authored book chapter, “Reanalyzing, Reinterpreting, and Rediscovering the Appamattucks Community” in the edited volume New Life for Archaeological Collections.

About the book:

“New Life for Archaeological Collections explores solutions to what archaeologists are calling the “curation crisis,” that is, too much stuff with too little research, analysis, and public interpretation. This volume demonstrates how archaeologists are taking both large and small steps toward not only solving the dilemma of storage but recognizing the value of these collections through inventorying and cataloging, curation, rehousing, artifact conservation, volunteer and student efforts, and public exhibits.”

Read more.

 

McMillan and Students Present Research

Lauren McMillan

Assistant Professor Lauren McMillan, Department of Historic Preservation

Lauren McMillan, assistant professor in the Department of Historic Preservation, and five students presented at the Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference on March 22 and 23. McMillan presented a paper entitled: “Native Pipe Making and Use in the Rappahannock River Valley.”

Student papers included:

  • Shannon Bremer, “A Soldier’s Words: Literacy and Writing at Sherwood Forest Plantation (44ST615) during the Civil War.”
  • Delaney Resweber, “Stratford Hall: An Analysis of Yard Space at the West Field and Oval Site.”
  • Olivia Larson, “Debitage Analysis and Interpretation of a Prehistoric Site in Burlington County, New Jersey.”
  • Elizabeth O’Meara, “Personal Adornment in the 17th Century at Nomini Plantation (44WM12).”
  • Ethan Knick, “Facing a Mystery: Exploring the Presence of a Lone Native American Anthropomorphic Effigy from a 17th-Century Virginia Plantation.”