Slinging mud, mixing mortar and photographing frescos were just some of the activities Heritage Conservation Network volunteers found themselves doing last year at project sites in places as varied as Italy, Montana, and upstate New York. The primary goal of the non-profit organization is to restore historic buildings, but volunteers who join one of HCN’s hands-on building conservation workshops as a volunteer vacation soon learn that the impact of their work goes beyond the building itself.
“Our workshops offer the chance to really get in touch with history, experience a new culture, and work with other to make a difference in people’s lives”, says Judith Broeker, HCN’s program director. The projects requiring volunteers in 2008 are all good examples of the impact historic preservation can have, she went on to say. In Armenia, volunteers will be working alongside local masons and residents to restore an earthquake-damaged home in the middle of the Kumayri central historic district of Gyumri. At the Hutmacher Farmsite in North Dakota, they will be helping preserve one of the last (and possibly the best) examples of stone-slab construction in the state.
HCN is also looking for volunteers to continue preservation work at the cloister of a 15th century monastery in Italy and in the Old West town of Virginia City, Montana; and to begin work on shotgun houses in an economically depressed area of southern Illinois as well as at the oldest known vintner’s cottage in Slovenia and a traditional kullë house in Albania. Complete workshop details - including project leaders’ bios and workshop descriptions, dates, fees, and travel tips - are available on HCN’s website, www.heritageconservation.net, or from the HCN office at +1 303-444-0128.
HCN’s experience in Ghana last year highlighted the fact that their volunteers restore more than buildings. “It was readily apparent to all our volunteers that they were not only helping restore a historic stone building for use as a community center, but they were also restoring people’s pride in their heritage”, Ms. Broeker said. “Everyone who participated will always feel a special tie to that community.”
Heritage Conservation Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of architectural heritage around the world. HCN produces an annual series of hands-on building conservation workshops in association with local preservation partners in order to further the sites’ preservation and provide an educational experience for participants.