Preserving History on Vacation: Our Series on Volunteer Vacations Continues with a Focus on Preserving the World's Great Historical Buildings and Sites

Article excerpt

Lesbians and gay men are famous for their zeal in preserving architectural heritage. From Miami Beach to Paris's Marais district, examples abound of neighborhoods and buildings saved by pink perseverance. But did you know that it's possible to carry that can-save attitude with you even when on vacation?

Across the United States and overseas, organizations want volunteers to paint, spackle, hammer, and saw on trips ranging from one to several weeks. So don't put away that trowel just because you're heading to the airport, pack it along! These working vacations can even be tax deductible.

Will Fellows, the author of A Passion to Preserve, a book about gays and the preservation movement, states that "gay men are extraordinarily drawn to historic preservation." On vacation, he says, that passion can be put to work building "community relationships" and "fostering continuity in the midst of incessant change."

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has many gays and lesbians in its ranks. Anthony Veerkamp, the senior program officer for the organization's San Francisco office, is a gay caucus member. One of his favorite programs for hands-on preservation is organized and run by the University of Oregon's Pacific Northwest Preservation Field School, currently working at the Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park to preserve Depression-era buildings created by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Another of his favorite trips has volunteers going to Italy to preserve medieval stone structures. Veerkamp says it's important to know what you're doing before taking a preservation vacation because "there's a tension about the balance between creating income streams for projects and having folks be a contribution, not a hindrance, to the projects."

Preservation might not be an organization's key function but rather a component of its broader vision. For example, officially Habitat for Humanity doesn't preserve buildings, but the New York chapter recently restored several historic buildings in Harlem. Ann Kone, director of development, volunteers, and communications for Habitat's New York office, emphasizes that the organization's religious affiliation should not put off gay and lesbian volunteers. "While we're Christian-based, we're very proud of the diversity of our sites. …


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