As promised, a brief overview of what preservationists can do in the world, or at least in the United States. This is skewed toward what I know best – preservation planning – but I’ve tried to cover the entire field. Please let me know what’s missing and I’ll update!
This overview is organized by type of work, moving roughly from the most concrete/hands-on to the least. It’s important to note that some agencies, companies, and even jobs cover several (or many) types of projects.
– Preventative maintenance, cleaning, and creative repair of historic resources. This could be done with an organization focused on stewardship of a particular building, site, or monument; a conservation consulting firm; or a larger cultural resource owner like the National Park Service (NPS).
– Research of new conservation techniques and materials
– Stewardship and interpretation of a historic/cultural site such as a historic house museum or other historic building, cultural landscape, or archaeological site. This type of job could be done for an organization focused on a single building or a much larger property holder such as the NPS.
– Archaeology stuff
– Educational programming for a historic site or preservation nonprofit
Design, Development + Construction
– Design of historic rehabilitations, restorations, or additions to historic buildings (architecture degree probably required)
– Redevelopment of historic buildings, perhaps for their original purpose or as adaptive reuse
– Construction project management for rehabs or restorations, likely for a contracting company or a developer
– Evaluation of proposed projects from a cultural resources standpoint – the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and local preservation regulations – probably for a preservation consulting firm
Preservation Planning (Policy + Regulation)
– Advocacy, policy, sustainability, and economics work with the National Trust for Historic Preservation or state or local preservation nonprofit organizations
– Management of the National Register of Historic Places with the NPS
– Review of proposed changes to/impacts on cultural resources with the NPS or State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)
– Neighborhood-level or citywide preservation planning and staff support for local landmarks commission for municipal planning departments (may include GIS)
– Review of projects that impact cultural resources for non-preservation organizations such as state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) or the Army Corps of Engineers
– Historic resource survey work to comply with rezoning or redevelopment requirements
– Heritage tourism work for a city or preservation advocacy group
– Commercial corridor revitalization work in a historic neighborhood corridor or downtown. This could be done with a Main Street program, a Business Improvement District, or a community development corporation (CDC).
– Funding of historic preservation projects with the National Trust Community Investment Corporation or a foundation
– Facilitation of tax credit projects for development of historic buildings, probably with a preservation consulting firm (or evaluate those projects with the SHPO or the NPS)
– Community development with a historic bent, such as rehabilitation of historic buildings into affordable housing. This type of work is often performed by community development corporations.
– Communications or development work for any sort of preservation-focused organization or agency
– Maintenance of archival resources as part of a historical society or museum
– Professorship in architectural history or historic preservation (you’ll probably need a PhD)
Here’s another view on preservation employment from the North Carolina SHPO, categorized by type of employer, and a really great employment post from the Savannah College of Art and Design that includes employment categories, type of employer, duties, and skills needed. Finally, Dr. Jeremy Wells (a fellow Penn grad) authored an overview of HSPV master’s programs [PDF] that includes a helpful overview of preservation jobs – see pages 3-5 for details.
Preservation job websites
Jobs Desk, University of Leicester (worldwide)
eCultural Resources (US)