Caring for America's Colleges and Universities: Stewardship Lessons from the Getty Foundation Campus Heritage Initiative

Article excerpt

Chief among the lessons learned - Consideration of the effects of campus development on campus heritage need to be integrated within the planning process.

Introduction

I remember the first full day I spent on a college campus. I was not quite 18, complete with a high school diploma and an eagerness and excitement that I had never previously experienced.

I recall especially that first night: the requisite freshman "mixer" and both the adrenalin and trepidation that went with that moment. There was the wonder of new friends, the exploration of new places, and the learning my way around an environment that soon became familiar, friendly, and forgiving.

This is a campus and place that will forever be entwined with those memories of self-discovery, intellectual enlightenment, and personal experimentation. For what is the undergraduate experience, if not a time to push all those boundaries and establish one's own? We all, I suppose, remember that time in our lives differently, yet there are common themes. For me, as for so many others, college was a moment of both freedom and fear, a time to reach beyond my known horizons to worlds, both physical and intellectual, that I had barely dreamed of before. It was a moment to see myself apart from my comfortable family life. For so many, it is this moment - often stretched out to years - that helps shape and define the directions of our lives.

I have been struck for many years now by the power and presence of the college campus, its unique place and structure in our society, and the particular pressures that these places face from year to year and generation to generation.

As is true for so many places of importance, campuses are valued for their meaning and history, yet are so often neglected, "improved," or even destroyed in the name of progress and advancement. It is a narrow and minimalist view of what we hold near and dear and of the meaning these places have in our individual and collective histories.

If you visit the website of almost any university or college in this country, you will often see the oldest buildings on campus proudly displayed. You will read about legacy and tradition and campus history, as well as about the current and potential glories of these institutions. You will see that colleges and universities present themselves as the keepers and protectors of legacy - intellectual, academic, social, and physical. And then you may read about a new building that will replace an old one, a quad that is now a building site, oran "opportunity" presented by a donor that can simply not be denied. You may also read about campus efforts to protect that legacy, not only regale in it.

College and university campuses present unique opportunities and challenges for historic preservation and campus planning. As the protectors of some of the country's best and most enduring architecture and designed landscapes, campuses are in a unique position to identify, understand, and preserve significant heritage resources. As stewards of these historic resources, colleges and universities are unlike any other large-scale entity, public or private. They exercise a unique degree of control, yet must also respond to legal and zoning requirements, various constituencies, and diverse interest groups. While the preservation issues and demands of these resources may seem usual, the institutional responses to them are often unique.

Getty Foundation Campus Heritage Initiative: What Was Accomplished?

Purpose. The purpose of the Getty Foundation's Campus Heritage Initiative was to assist colleges and universities in the United States in managing and preserving the integrity of their significant historic buildings, sites, and landscapes. The projects supported through this initiative focused on research and survey of historic resources, preparation of preservation master plans, and detailed conservation assessments and analyses. …