Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ramblings of a frazzled student...

My main task over the next two months will be to write a proposal for my master's thesis. My internship is winding down, and I've been offered a part-time job with a gift shop and house museum that is run by the foundation I am interning with. That, combined with two weddings (one that I'm going to and one that I'm in), makes for a fun and relaxing summer. So why am I worried? Two months is plenty of time, but I have found that when I am not in school, I have a difficult time focusing on school-related things.

I can read for hours, hang out at a friend's place, or go to a movie and have a blast, but I have this constant niggling tightness in my stomach thinking about the coming year and how hard it will be. I am not worried because I know that I am a good researcher and writer. I find that I feel this nervousness before I begin every paper I write, and I can say with certainty that my thesis will be the biggest paper I will have written to this date. So, it is understandable to be nervous starting out. I suppose it is mostly the unknown that puts me ill at ease. I have an idea for my thesis, but I still haven't fleshed it out which makes it this abstract idea that's been floating around in my head for several months. However, I am thankful for my calm, easygoing attitude that comes from God because I would surely be a bundle of exposed nerves without Him.

While I love all of my classmates dearly, some of them let their nerves get the better of them and have mini freak-outs around due dates for papers and projects. I am usually able to keep things in perspective, but their nervous energy sometimes rubs off on me. It's like when you've studied all night for a test, then when you come into class on test day and everybody is quizzing each other and doing a last minute scramble through their notes. That may work for some of you, but it definitely does not work for me. When I was in grade school, I had to sit and listen to it, but thankfully now that I'm in graduate school, I can leave the room till time for the test to start. I see no point in making yourself sick over something five minutes before you're to be tested on it. My theory is you'll do as well as you've prepared yourself to do, and after that, you have no control over the situation. I think many people lose sight of that and needlessly worry over things they cannot control.

So, when they freak out, I try to calm them and help them put things in perspective. If that doesn't work, I get the heck away from them so I won't get sucked into their black hole of nervousness and worry.

As a cathartic experience for myself, I think I'll tell you about my thesis idea if you'll indulge me:

Historic preservation is such an interesting and diverse field. By preserving old buildings, we are preserving our history and culture. Winston Churchill said "We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us." In addition to preserving our culture, historic preservation is also complimentary with sustainability and adaptive reuse of buildings.

Many of the historic preservation pioneers are dying out, and I wonder if newer generations will have the same love and reverence for historic buildings as those who came before them. The city where I live used to have families who had been living in their historic homes for generations. They had blood ties to these buildings that indoctrinated them to preserve their history. However, the dynamics of the city are changing, and more and more downtown homeowners are from other places. Unless they are sensitive to the needs of historic buildings, their loose connection will make them less likely to preserve what is historically significant and their children will not grow up with a respect and knowledge of historic buildings.

How can we expect children today to appreciate history and all of its buildings and structures if we do not educate them on the subject? They won't grow up to understand all of the financial, environmental, and social benefits of restoring downtown areas and adaptively reusing a building rather than tearing it down for new construction. If young people are not adequately informed on this, then it will be very hard for cities to have continued support for their historic structures.

I would like to find a way to get children and young adults excited about historic preservation. I could create educational activities and/or lesson plans for young people to participate in at museums and historic sites as well as in the classroom. I would also research how other historic cities address this issue. The Preservation Resource Center in New Orleans, LA is a good example of an organization that has been successful engaging student interest in preservation.

OK, so that is just a start, but I think it is an issue that is relevant and important for the preservation of our historic structures. Thanks for listening to my ramblings!

1 comment:

  1. That sounds so cool. I'd love to read updates as you flesh out your thesis. Good luck :)