This interview was recorded at the Are We There Yet: Preservation of Roadside Architecture and Attractions Symposium, April 10-12, 2018, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Doug Porter: I work at the University of Vermont in the School of Engineering where I have a research appointment. I am an architectural conservator by training. I work in a department full of engineers. My research appointment takes me to research sites around the country. All of these sites have problems that are susceptible to engineered solutions, and I end up bringing these problems back to work with me and we form informal groups to work on those problems and then go back to implement the repair.
I’m actually having a ball at this conference. I’ve worked on military sites since 2000. I’ve been working at Camp Pendleton on a pair of Adobe Ranchos and worked at the Trinity site, and I had no idea the level of talent and how many people were out there doing similar work. And in time that I’ve spent listening to presentations, the emphasis on recent heritage and recent materials, I had a ball with that.
I came at the invitation of Ron Anthony and frankly we’ve been looking for a little while for a good place to come and talk about the dirigible hangers at Moffett Airfield and this seemed perfect. My first, I think, interaction with NCPTT was over a colloquium on engineering education related to historic preservation that NCPTT helped to fund and that ran at UVM in 2009. So from my past experience with the organization, believing that I would run into a group of people who would not shy away from the techie side of the questions that they were answering and the problems they were solving, this seemed like a hoot.
NCPTT is doing a great job with the symposium series. My feeling is this, that I don’t frankly know whether the size of the group gathered here is intentional. But in my opinion, more people should consider smaller, less formal gatherings where there are not multiple tracks where you don’t have people cutting in and out to catch the last 15 minutes of something. I think to get together with a group of people and to sit for the couple of days all attend to the same set of problems is a stroke of genius.
Lately, we have been working on a number of, for lack of a better term, extraction sites. They have to do with the gathering and processing of raw materials and relate kind of directly to the settlement of the Western States. And I don’t know how long it’s been since you guys have done something on those sites, but they include mines and trains and what aerial trams and engineering structures that because of the purposes they were originally designed, they tend to be ephemeral and because they are in out of the way places their preservation tends to be a tough nut.
Thank you very much for inviting me to talk with you today.
Doug Porter, an architectural conservator, focuses on investigation, stabilization, and repair of culturally significant sites and structures in cooperation with academic, federal and non-profit partners. Projects involve condition assessment, materials analysis, structural modeling, laboratory and field-testing of conservation treatments, and treatment implementation. Porter holds a research faculty position in the School of Engineering, University of Vermont. He is on the Board of Directors of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Earthen Architectural Heritage (ISCEAH), and an expert member of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on the Analysis and Restoration of Architectural Heritage (ISCARSAH). Recent projects include assessment and repair of the Lost Horse Mine and Mill (CA), the Reiling Dredge (CO), the Bartlett Cabin (NM), the Silver Bell Mine (CA), the Live Oak Mine (CA), trestles at Golden Spike National Historic Site, (Utah), Keane Wonder Mine Aerial Tramway (Death Valley National Park), Cable Mountain Draw Works (Zion National Park), and the Breeding Barn at Shelburne Farms (Vermont).