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Historic Preservation - Overview


Programs in historic preservation prepare people to restore and maintain old buildings and their surroundings. Students learn about historic construction methods and designs. They study ways to restore and preserve original features of different structures and sites.

Have you ever revisited a place from your past and felt disappointed or even cheated by the changes you found? Maybe you went back to elementary school to see old teachers and found that new ones had been hired. Or you returned to a favorite childhood park and found that the creaky tire swing and polished metal slide you loved were replaced by a plastic play set.

Why does this kind of experience disappoint us? Why do we keep scrapbooks and hold onto items that on the surface seem to be "old news"? After all, we often race to get the newest model of computer, car, or kitchen appliance. And we would readily ditch a perfectly good pair of jeans to get a new pair in the latest style.

Well, we're not just nostalgic or mushy. The fact is, our histories are records of who we are and how we became who we are. And it's easy to lose sight or even abandon our histories when there aren't ways to remind ourselves of them. The field of historic preservation aims to create such reminders for us. The people in this field especially work to preserve the history found in old buildings and sites such as gardens and local parks.

In this program of study, you learn the technical aspects of restoring something old. In order to do this, you also study different aspects of historical design and architecture. Beyond the physical nuts and bolts of preservation and restoration, you also learn about history: the history of art, architecture, or a particular city or state, to name a few examples. This gives you a larger understanding of why it's important to preserve a particular place.

As you might imagine, studying historic preservation gives you an opportunity to overlap with other fields, such as architecture, construction technology, museum studies, and park management. It also prepares you for careers in a wide range of preservation capacities. You could work as a restoration technologist for a historic preservation commission. You could plan and oversee a preservation project with an architectural firm. You could even advocate this field through community outreach and education.

About 30 schools offer programs historic preservation, often as part of architecture or environmental design departments. Most of these programs are for a master's degree and typically take five to seven years of full-time study after high school. This includes four to five years of undergraduate study.

A handful of schools offer bachelor's degree programs, and a few schools offer doctoral degree programs, which take about nine to ten years of full-time study. You can also earn either an undergraduate or a graduate certificate, which takes about a year of full-time study. However, you cannot earn a certificate on its own; it must be together with another program of study such as architecture or regional planning.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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