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Preservation Month 2023

Preservation, Trish Smith

I recently found a photo from the day my graduate school cohort first visited Drayton Hall. In this 2009 photograph, I’m seated on the portico with my classmates listening to Richard “Moby” Marks and Carter C. Hudgins discuss ongoing preservation projects. Today, it’s amazing to me to look at this photo and know that Drayton Hall’s future Director of Preservation is on that bench with no idea that the projects being discussed would soon be her own. The other students pictured are now preservation architects, project managers, and world-class architectural conservators who joyfully returned to Drayton Hall last month for a reunion, and of course, to talk shop.

Each year, scores of emerging preservation professionals come to Drayton Hall to tour the site, conduct research, and to work on projects alongside our staff. In the last two years, students from the Clemson Graduate Program in Historic Preservation and the American College of the Building Arts have participated in a grant-funded project to study non-destructive techniques for evaluating plaster ceilings. We traveled to ACBA’s campus where we made a mockup of a traditional plaster-on-lath ceiling to use as a control in our experiments, and then the Clemson students deployed several non-destructive techniques on the “control” ceiling and Drayton Hall’s historic plaster ceilings. One of these students is now on the preservation staff at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and another occasionally returns to Drayton Hall in her new role with a preservation engineering firm. And they are just a representative sample among hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who consider their early experiences at Drayton Hall to be formative ones in their preservation careers.

Fostering these experiences is so central to our mission that it’s codified in our strategic plan and supported by the Wood Family Fellowship and other paid internship opportunities. We know that our various paths to preservation all started somewhere, and for many, Drayton Hall is an important waypoint along that path. Perhaps you, too, had a moving experience here that keeps you engaged with us. Whatever the reason, we are grateful that you help us provide hands-on educational opportunities for the next generation of preservationists who will almost certainly have a role in the continued stewardship of Drayton Hall.