Historic House Call: Interpreting Historic Landscapes
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When: Thursday, November 2, 2017
3:00 PM
Where: United States
Presenter: Sean Sawyer and Jessica Stavros
Contact: Bethany Hawkins

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Over the past decade there has been much hand-wringing about the decline and fall of the historic house museum and much attention paid to strategies for resuscitating or abandoning them. All the while, a key resource for expanding the meaning of historic sites, deepening the visitor experience, and enhancing sustainability lay right outside the door: the historic landscape. This session will examine the variety of ways in which sites across the country are approaching the interpretation of diverse historic landscapes, from large estates to small urban sites, in order to expand a site’s significance and stimulate engagement for contemporary audiences. The panelists will present case studies and focus on extracting lessons from the front lines of historic landscape interpretation.  Issues examined will include: shifting organizational culture and public perception to understand the significance and value of historic landscapes; the development of site-wide interpretation to include historic landscapes as integral, rather than supplementary; the inclusion of viewsheds within the interpretation of historic landscapes; the logistics of landscape tours, including pricing, guide training, interpretive technologies, accessibility, and weather concerns; and tactics for community engagement through the historic landscape.

What are your primary objectives for this session? As a result of this session, what will participants know, learn, or understand? :
At the conclusion of the session, participants will: 1) look at their site's landscapes with fresh eyes and be inspired to promote and support their research and interpretation; 2) appreciate historic landscapes as integral, rather than supplementary, to historic structures and collections; 3) understand the concept of viewsheds as integral to historic landscapes; 4) learn about addressing the logistics of landscape tours, including pricing, guide training, interpretive technologies, accessibility, and weather concerns; and 5) appreciate historic landscapes as offering potent opportunities for community engagement.

About the Speaker:

Sean Sawyer, Washburn & Susan Oberwager President, The Olana Partnership

Hudson, NY
A native of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Sean received his Ph.D. in architectural history from Columbia University in 1999. Sean joined The Olana Partnership as President in May 2015.  Prior to this, he was the Executive Director of The Royal Oak Foundation, the American partner of the National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Sean began his career as Executive Director of the Wyckoff House & Association, focused on the operation of the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. He currently serves on the Historic House Committee of the American Association for State and Local History and the Board of Directors of The American Friends of Attingham. Since his appointment as President of The Olana Partnership in May 2015, Sean has led the development of historic landscape restoration and interpretation at Olana State Historic Site.  As Executive Director of the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, Sean oversaw the restoration of the historic landscape and the development of innovative community engagement projects that engaged the historic farm landscape.

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The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) is a national association that provides leadership and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful to all people.

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