I undertook the Endangered Places, Emerging Stories project, nicknamed MEP20, on behalf of the Providence Preservation Society (PPS) in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their Most Endangered Properties (MEP) program. Over the course of 10 weeks I explored 20 buildings featured on the MEP list: success stories, losses and many buildings that continue to struggle. In an effort to create a community dialogue around preservation and the built environment, I blogged and tweeted (under the PPS handle @pvdpreservation) my way through Providence from March through May of 2015.
Learn More about this project by reading about it on the National Council for Public History’s History@Work blog.
Providence’s historic architecture is one of the city’s greatest assets, yet important buildings are constantly threatened with demolition and re-development. This project was a means of connecting the public to, and inspiring their investment in, our built environment. This goal comes from an understanding that community collaboration is central to any successful preservation effort.
Over the course of 10 weeks I met with several community leaders, building owners, residents, librarians and archivists to help tell the story of 20 endangered properties. I also turned to PPS’s twitter following to solve mysteries, share stories, and build a dialogue around Providence’s endangered properties.
The most successful and engaging blog posts, such as on the Phenix Iron Foundry and Fruit Hill School, were almost entirely produced through information provided by PPS’s twitter and Facebook followers.
SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT
In an effort to build community around preservation in Providence, the MEP20 project focused heavily on engaging the public through social media. During the ten weeks of the MEP20 project, PPS’s twitter presence exploded as seen in an increase of 25% in followers, 134% in retweets and 3750% in replies. In a short period of time a digital community was built around preservation. Hopefully PPS will be able to continue to build this community, as a foundation for advocacy, for years to come.
The chart below compares the twitter engagement seen in the 10 weeks before and 10 weeks during the MEP20 project. From retweets to replies, twitter engagement increased remarkably, demonstrating the growth of a PPS digital community.
A great deal of research went into the MEP20 project, whether through interviewing community leaders and building owners, digging through the city archives, or through social media. All of the information uncovered has been archived for future use of PPS and the public on ppsri.org/mep20. Additional information can be found in the following places:
Listen to a series of short interviews collected at Endangered Properties around Providence. Audio stories include everything from the inside scoop about living in one of the Arcade microlofts from a resident, to a chance encounter with a former Gorham Manufacturing security guard.
Providence twitter followers are a knowledgeable crowd! People shared newspaper clippings, historic photographs, their own memories, and ideas for re-purposing struggling buildings on twitter. A complete archive of these tweets, organized by building, can be found on PPS’s new Storify account.