Evangelists Louis Nelson and Dell Upton brought me into the VAF fold while I was a graduate student in architectural history at the University of Virginia in the mid-2000s. As an undergraduate art history major, I’d had trouble seeing past the famous monuments and stuffy questions of the canon. But VAF’s membership, publications, and conferences (my first was FresYES in 2008) helped me to realize that there really was a professional application for the nosy door-opening and almost-trespassing I’d been doing for most of my life.
Over the years, the VAF has become a central anchor for my professional and personal relationships. Since 2011, I have been the sole architectural historian at the University of South Carolina. The VAF (as well as the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, for which I serve as vice president) has given me a space to create a “chosen” professional family, but also provided a reliable bank of outstanding scholarship, advice, and encouragement via its publications and annual meetings. This network has helped me to articulate and maximize how my various “lives” – as an academic, preservationist, and community history advocate – are intertwined.
I joined the VAF board in 2019 as a coeditor of Buildings & Landscapes. While I find discovering the errant typo immensely satisfying, it has more importantly deepened my relationship with the organization and the methodologies and ideas that connect its members. It also creates a privileged platform from which to see the field: I am inspired by the range of questions we ask, places we consider, and people we refuse to overlook. This has helped me to see my own work – usually on intersections of memory and popular visual culture – differently and encouraged me to embrace cultural landscapes more holistically.