‘Touching History’ Program Preps Morgan Architecture Students for Careers in Preservation
Increasing its racial, ethnic and gender diversity has long been a major challenge for the profession of architecture in the United States. Blacks, for example, were only 5.4 percent of the bachelor’s degree recipients in architecture and related services in 2016–17, according to the latest federal government statistics, and in 2018 only 2 percent of licensed architects in the U.S. were African American, according to the National Association of Minority Architects. Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) has become a major force in the diversity arena since the school’s founding more than 25 years ago, ranking first among higher education institutions in Maryland, and sixth nationally, in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans in architecture and related services in 2016–17.
Now, a new program developed jointly by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the National Park Service and the Hands-On Preservation Experience (HOPE) Crew of the National Trust for Historic Preservation is providing new depth to the educational experience of students in Morgan’s SA+P and at other Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Touching History: Preservation in Practice is giving young African-American scholars firsthand experience in historic preservation and related career paths. The program is designed to raise the students’ awareness of the importance of this work, help spawn a new generation of preservation professionals and complete urgent preservation tasks on HBCU campuses.
“Providing hands-on preservation experiences is mutually beneficial to both the architecture students and to the historic buildings and campuses undergoing the long overdue maintenance repairs, said Dale Green, professor in Morgan’s SA+P. “It is estimated that nearly 50 percent of all HBCU buildings are in need of repair and affording these invaluable experiences to our Morgan architecture students helps to preserve the HBCU campus heritage.”
Six Morgan students — Tyriq Charleus (senior, Architecture and Environmental Design); Devin Funderburk (senior, Architecture and Environmental Design); Danasha Kelly, (spring 2019 graduate, Architecture and Environmental Design); Terry Mayo Jr. (senior, Architecture and Environmental Design); Stephanie Walker (senior, Architecture and Environmental Design); and Zahaira Williams (senior, Architecture and Environmental Design) — are now participating in Touching History, which has among its other goals to promote the rich cultural heritage of HBCUs and increase the number of Historically Black Institutions that offer degrees in historical preservation and related fields. The six MSU scholars are working with a HOPE Crew on two projects in Baltimore: window restoration at Morgan’s Memorial Chapel and masonry work at the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture. Before taking on their current projects, the group worked at the National Park Service’s Western Center for Historic Preservation in Grand Teton National Park, in Wyoming, completing a course titled “Guiding Principles for Historic Preservation.”
Speaking highly of Touching History and his MSU education, Devin Funderburk offered: “I grew up thinking about Morgan State University. I always wanted to attend, because of its rich history, because of its roots in my family,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference on campus,” he added, and Touching History has given him a chance to do that.
“Touching History gives students the opportunity to grow (personally), grow as professionals and connect to their shared history and heritage,” said Robert G. Stanton, ACHP expert member and former National Park Service director. “The historic preservation and conservation fields need young people like these six Morgan State students. This internship could lead them in a new direction for their careers and is giving them an understanding of the importance of telling the whole story of the American experience.”
During the last week of the summer program, the Morgan students will join Stanton on field trips to historic places in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area and will visit St. Mary’s College in Maryland to research evidence of enslaved African Americans’ quarters on the proposed site of the college’s athletic stadium.
For their final project, the students will create a portfolio that highlights the importance of preserving and restoring the historic buildings on Morgan’s campus, which has 20 structures eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. In 2016, the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated MSU’s campus as a National Treasure — the only HBCU campus so honored — and has partnered with Morgan to develop a preservation plan.
Touching History: Preservation in Practice is funded by the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which receives additional financial support from the Fund II Foundation and in-kind support from the ACHP.