Keepin’ it Real with Battlefield Preservation

Recently I was talking with a colleague about how often landscape preservation is frequently an afterthought within our field.  He shared an anecdote about an interview he had given to a graduate student of historic preservation who was undergoing thesis research.  During this interview the student mentioned how the preservation of a historic landscape, specifically a battlefield, differed from “real” preservation, meaning that of the built environment.

When did we start thinking that landscape preservation was not “real” preservation?

Reflecting on my initial decision to pursue a Master’s degree in historic preservation four years ago, I admit that it was not the notion of saving battlefields that inspired me.  The destruction of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast demonstrated how the identity of a place is tied to the built environment, which was my motivation.

Until about a year into the University of Maryland Historic Preservation program, landscape remained an ancillary thought.  It was during my second year that I was afforded the opportunity to work with the Federal government program which specializes in the preservation of American battlefields.  I later transitioned into working for the nation’s leading Civil War battlefield preservation nonprofit organization, the Civil War Trust, where I met another pool of people who are equally as passionate about the cause as their Federal government counterparts.

The people I have had the pleasure working with, both in the government and nonprofit sectors – a mix of historians, archeologists, planners, and preservationists – believe battlefield preservation is real preservation.  In addition to the preservation of historic landscapes separate from architecture, they should be considered as context for the architecture with which they are associated.  Landscape is inherently related to site situation, which is integral to the context of the built environment.  The built environment would not be the same without its associated landscape and it should be a part of the preservation plan for any given structure.

Rienzi’s Knoll at Cedar Creek Battlefield in the Northern Shenandoah Valley dates to ca. 1864. Photo courtesy of Lucinda Philumalee.

To up-and-coming professionals and students in the field, I challenge you to think of historic preservation in a holistic sense.  Discount what has previously thought of as real preservation.  This will allow you to open your mind to historic landscapes as context to structures, and hopefully as standalone sites that are worthy of being preserved individually.

If you are interested in learning more about battlefield preservation, I encourage you to look into opportunities at the Civil War Trust.  We offer paid and unpaid internships on a part- and full-time basis in the following departments: real estate, development, government relations, and education.

Lucinda Philumalee is the Communications Assistant for the Civil War Trust.  She graduated with a Master’s in Historic Preservation in 2010 and is currently in her last year in the Master’s of Real Estate Development program at the University of Maryland, where she is also a graduate assistant at the Elizabeth D. Alley Visual Resources Collection.  Her interests include history of the southern United States from European colonization to the formation of the New South, historic rehabilitation projects, open land conservation, DC architecture, and perfecting her timing in catching 8-car Metro trains.

Past Posts by Philumalee:
Applying 21st Century Technologies to 19th Century History

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About the author: Lucinda Philumalee

Avatar of Lucinda Philumalee

Lucinda works in communications for a national preservation nonprofit. She graduated with a Master’s of Historic Preservation in 2010 and a Master’s of Real Estate Development this past May, both from the University of Maryland. Her interests include history of the southern United States from European colonization to the formation of the New South, preservation advocacy, historic rehabilitation projects, open land conservation, DC architecture, and perfecting her timing in catching 8-car Metro trains.

1 comment

  1. Avatar of timaskin timaskin says:

    And there are certain landscape preservation organizations that are violently opposed to building preservation.
    See, for example: Judge orders removal of historic lookout in wilderness.

    And another example with which I have personally done battle with a different local chapter: Nature Conservancy, Anonymous Posts and Demolition.

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