Track 3: For Power or For Passage: Re-envisioning Historic Industrial and Transportation Infrastructure

APT Student Scholar Abstract

1 - What does it mean to preserve a historic technology? Exploring revitalization, interpretation and adaptation at historic hydropower sites.

Tuesday, September 25
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: BNCC-106AD
Faculty Advisor: Michael Holleran, Ph.D – University of Texas at Austin

This study asks what it means to preserve a historic infrastructure system, and suggests how adaptation of historic technologies as operative sites may best serve interpretive, preservation and sustainability goals. Preservationists are constantly evaluating the physical historic fabric, the integrity, and the temporality of a site. The reality of both historic and modern technologies is that they are constantly evolving entities, and that their significance stretches beyond the physical fabric of the actual place. Preservation’s tools for placemaking, buildings and materiality are ill-equipped for some systems whose use has evolved constantly over centuries, and whose character is defined in their functionality. Operative examples offer the best opportunity for public history, interpretation and legibility. This is illustrated by a close examination of two historic hydropower systems at falls sites, and how they have been preserved, documented and adapted for public interpretation and continued use.

Through a review of the literature, this study endeavors to understand how the fields of historic preservation, industrial archaeology and civil engineering have handled infrastructure and industrial systems after the passage of the National Historic Preservation and and the establishment of the Historic American Engineering Record. This study also briefly touches on the arguments for and against the removal of dams and canal systems, a movement that gained momentum at the end of the 20th century. Then, by examining the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Area and the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, this paper explores how operative hydropower systems serve as excellent public history opportunities. By re-establishing energy generation is a visible and interpretable way, technological history becomes accessible and legible.

This study’s relevance to our present conversations is essential, as the national lens is focused on infrastructure revitalization. A 2015 report from the United States Department of Energy sets a goal for growing our nation’s hydroelectric power generation dramatically by the year 2050, and lists the alteration of existing dams as a key apparatus towards that goal. Hydropower was the backbone for 18th century industrialism after the American revolution, and history should be a part of the process of bringing that sustainability into the new era.
Finally, the presentation will define the goals of technology preservation as practitioners more and more often need to address complex mechanical and technological sites, like those commonly associated with adaptive reuse projects and structures developed in the computer age.

Learning Objectives:

Katherine Duffield Hill

MSHP Expected May 2018
University of Texas at Austin

Katherine Duffield Hill has a BA in Anthropology from the University of Montana and recently received her MS in Historic Preservation from the University of Texas at Austin. A lifelong love for archaeology, industrialism, and secret tunnels - combined with a passion for street photography - led to her current focus on adaptive reuse and the changing urban landscape. Aside from the history of tunnels and turbines, Katherine is continuing to study the architecture of civil defense and engineering.


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LaLuce Mitchell

Historical Architect
Flynn Battaglia Architects

LaLuce Mitchell is a Preservation Architect at Flynn Battaglia Architects in Buffalo. During college he interned in Buffalo and fell in love with its historic architecture. Recent restoration projects have included the Williamsville Water Mill in Williamsville, NY and the Richardson Olmsted Complex in Buffalo. He is a licensed architect in New York State. He was an APT Student Scholar in 2010 and is vice-chair for the 2018 APT conference. When he’s not out preserving old buildings, he enjoys eating the craziest, most interesting food he can find and taking roadtrips to explore little-known corners of the US and Canada.


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1 - What does it mean to preserve a historic technology? Exploring revitalization, interpretation and adaptation at historic hydropower sites.

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