Events ~ 30th Annual RI Statewide Historic Preservation Conference ~ Glocester

The Historic Preservation Conference is an annual day-long event held in different locations around the state each year.

This was my first time attending the conference, and it happened to be in Glocester, which is a part of the state I don't get to very often now that we don't have a car. It turned out to be a great experience.

It started out at St. Eugene's Church in Chepachet with a keynote speech by Robert M. Thompson, PhD, Professor of Geology at the University of Connecticut, called "From Sticks to Stones and Back Again."

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He gave a very engaging and informative talk on the history that's visible in the stone walls that abound in New England, and what they can tell us about the people who built them. It tied in perfectly with a film clip I saw later about the Narragansett people who often built those walls for the English settlers.

Professor Thompson discussed the influence of culture on the height and intricacy of wall building, comparing New England stone walls with those found in Ireland.

You could tell the level of investment in the attendees when a collective pained groan erupted at a photograph of a demolished stone wall. There's something very affirming about being in a room full of people who share your interests and passions.
After keynote was a selection of sessions. The morning offered walking and bus tours of local interests, practical sessions on preservation tools, and grant writing, I signed up for the bus tour to Harrisville. I'd never been to this little mill village, and I learned so much. Enough to write several individual posts. We stopped at the library for a quick and informative presentation by the Town Planner on the restoration and revitalization efforts in the town.

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After lunch, we continued to our next sessions. Again there were tours and didactic sessions and presentations.

I went to a presentation and tour on the history of the Chepachet Meeting House, where I learned a lot from the Church Historian, Clifford Brown, who is also a Professor at Union College. He talked about the history and rationale behind the architecture of New England meeting houses in general, and went on to talk in more detail about the Chepachet Meeting House (called the Free Will Baptist Church). Since the church was recently restored, it was interesting to hear how it had changed over the years before the restoration. This is another story that warrants its own post.

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My final session was at the Glocester Manton Free Public Library. The Rhody Film Showcase: The Sequel was presented/moderated by Bonnie MacDonald, Professor of Communications and Film Studies at Rhode Island College. We saw clips from three different Rhode Island Films: “Stories in Stone” by Marc Levitt and Lilach Dekel, “Haven Brothers: Legacy of the American Diner” by Jeff Toste, and “The Ballad of Baby Roger” by Patti Cassidy. The filmmakers answered questions about historical documentary filmmaking that helped me to appreciate not just the passion but the work and decision-making that goes into the process.

Big Rock in Front by Brian S. via Yelp

Finally everyone got together again at the closing reception hosted at Chepachet Union Church's Fellowship Hall.

Chepachet Union Church
by Robert Magina

It was a full day, and I met lots of great people and learned a lot. This will be a regular event for me in the future. And I'll remember to sign up early to get the best chance at my first choices again.

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