November 11, 2019

UWM professor to give talk on Virginia architect (The Free Lance-Star)

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/

Release of Draft Campus Environment Report and Dates for Upcoming Campus Forums

To the UMW campus community:

Greetings. As many of you may know, President Troy Paino created the Campus Environment Presidential Ad Hoc Committee (CE) in September of 2017 and appointed me as chair. The committee was established at the request of the UMW Board of Visitors and from a recommendation by the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. The impetus behind the creation of this committee was to ensure that UMW was conveying itself visually to students, faculty, staff, and visitors in a manner coinciding with our commitment to a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming environment. With this in mind, the CE Committee was charged with the following;

“…conducting an audit of the public displays of history and culture in the campus common areas, including academic and administration buildings and residence halls, and to make recommendations where appropriate. The committee’s goal is to recognize and preserve the school’s history while also updating and contextualizing displays to reflect the changes in our student body and to create a fully welcoming environment for all students, faculty, and staff. The committee is also charged with making sure that the physical environments on our campuses more generally reflect our commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

During the past two years, the 10-member Committee – made up of students, faculty, alumni, and staff members – has identified and assessed 2,070 public displays at all three UMW campuses. This assessment included examining how each display represented ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender, as well as broader subject classifications associated with content. Once compiled, this data was analyzed in conjunction with the campus history of UMW. We engaged in a two-phase process: quantitative and qualitative, and we have combined the findings into one 71-page draft report.

This work has been important, revealing, and sometimes painful. We are striving to be proactive in examining our past with an eye toward current values and what will best serve the institution in the future. Our process has been deliberative, diligent, and detailed. Our draft findings are based on scholarly research, and our report includes protocols, methodology, and a glossary.

Before presenting our findings to President Paino and the Board of Visitors at its November 2019 meeting, we seek input from all members of the campus community. To that end, we will hold two open campus forums:

Monday, October, 28, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., HCC Digital Auditorium 

Wednesday, October 30, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., HCC Digital Auditorium

Please plan to attend one of both forums. Your feedback is critical. It will help us develop a more complete picture of what is needed to ensure a diverse, inclusive, and ultimately welcoming campus for all. The Committee’s summarized recommendations below are a first step towards this objective. Please be sure and read more detailed descriptions of each recommendation in the “Recommendations” section of the attached draft  document.

If you are unable to attend a forum, a comment form is available at https://www.umw.edu/diversity/campus-environment-feedback/.

1 Year Recommendations (2019-2020):

  1. Publish the Campus Environment Presidential Ad Hoc Committee report and disseminate to the entire campus community.
  2. Hold discussions with Residence Life to create a “tool kit” for displays used in lobbies of residence halls.
  3. Work with university stakeholders to audit temporary, periodic, and or non-historical communications and displays (transitional, underutilized, promotional, digital and third party) and develop guidelines to ensure they reflect the University’s values and commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  4. Develop a series of helpful guidelines and resources to assist various departments.
  5. Identify ownership and location of transitional and underutilized displays.
  6. Audit internal promotional literature during regular replacement schedules.
  7. Audit digital displays during regular updating schedules.
  8. Audit third party display materials during regular updating schedules.
  9. Locate and remove any inaccurate or outdated histories associated with the institution on UMW-sponsored web pages.

1-5 Year Recommendations (2019-2024):

  1. Create a standing committee to assist in the development of temporary and permanent displays on the University of Mary Washington’s three campuses.
  2. The committee recommends that the historic Schnellock murals in Monroe and George Washington Halls are contextualized through interpretative signage as well as an on-line presence which describes in detail the murals content and context.

a. The condition of the murals in Monroe Hall depicting the Virginia founding fathers should be evaluated. Reversible concealment should be explored as an option.

  • Conserve the deteriorating murals for future interpretation.
  • When last assessed the cost of restoring the murals was prohibitive and therefore it is not recommended that resources be spent on this process at present time.
  • Provide the opportunity for new and inclusive murals focused on UMW as it exists today.
  1. Concealment of representations such as Robert E. Lee in George Washington Hall.
  2. The creation of protocols to assess and address existing building names on campus is necessary and should work in conjunction with the Named Gift Policy (G.2.2) already in place.
  3. Reinstitute the full names associated with campus buildings.
  4. Brief building namesake biographies should be written and made readily available online for UMW community members to read. Such information should also seek to contextualize the history.
  5. Disseminate accurate campus histories that focus on untold aspects of the institution’s history.
  6. Gradually update more permanent photographic displays relating to the University of Mary Washington’s history with the addition of more recent photographs conveying the composition of the current student body.
  7. Audit, assess, and research those University of Mary Washington properties not part of this study including Belmont (Gari Melchers Studio), Brompton, and the James Monroe Museum.
  8. Create and fund a focused on-line image and document repository for University of Mary Washington information regarding diversity and inclusion that can be used for display creation.
  9. Trinkle Hall should be renamed as the values the name embodies run contrary to the University’s ASPIRE document and the University’s mission as a whole.

Recommendations Implemented on an “as needed basis”:

  1. Consideration must be given to ethnic diversity, gender, and sexual diversity when naming options become available to address the lack of diversity in building name selection on UMW campuses.
  2. Strong consideration must be given to naming buildings after people of under-represented groups with strong connections to the UMW community.
  3. Installation of new murals and artwork throughout campus representing UMW today and reflecting the UMW communities ASPIRE values.

In closing, I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to the volunteer members of the CE Committee:

  •       Jazmin Andrews ’19, Student, Theatre
  •       Dr. Erin Devlin, Assistant Professor, History and American Studies
  •       Dr. Steve Hanna, Professor, Geography
  •       Elizabeth “Gracie” Hardy ’19, Student, Historic Preservation
  •       Dr. Venitta McCall, Professor, College of Education
  •       Dr. Cedric Rucker ’81, Associate Vice President & Dean of Student Life
  •       Mark Thaden ’02, Executive Director of Alumni Relations
  •       Dr. Laura Wilson, Assistant Professor and Director of Safe Zone, Psychological Science
  •       Susan Worrell, Special Assistant to the President for University Events

Sincerely,

Michael Spencer ’03, Associate Professor, Historic Preservation

Committee Chair

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. 

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!

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.

UMW Receives Preservation Award for Amphitheatre Renovation

The recent restoration of the University of Mary Washington’s century-old amphitheatre has been recognized by the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. (HFFI). The nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting historic downtown Fredericksburg honored UMW with the E. Boyd Graves Preservation Award of Excellence. HFFI recognized John Wiltenmuth, associate vice president for Facilities Services; Rob Johnston, assistant director […]

Rotary Club: North Stafford group hosts historic preservationist (The Free Lance-Star)

Fredericksburg Firm Establishes Historic Preservation Scholarship

University of Mary Washington alumna Kerri S. Barile has carved a career and built a business out of her passion for, and education in, historic preservation. As co-founder and president of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, she now is giving back to her alma mater while blazing a trail for UMW students to follow in her […]