Option 3: Interpreting the Story

Earlier sections of the Toolkit discussed the steps involved in learning the story of a place. But informing yourself is only part of any protection campaign. To draw attention to your place, you need to tell others. An educational (sometimes called interpretive) project creates a bridge between the actual place and broader concerns that might otherwise remain hidden or abstract. This bridge enhances the connection between the place and its story.

Committing yourself to interpreting the story of your place is extraordinarily useful to your advocacy efforts, helping you build a case for why a place matters and convincingly present that case to others. Interpreting the story will strengthen campaigns to protect a structure or a longstanding use. In addition, when the place you care about no longer exists, interpreting its story can be a primary aim, a principal recourse for preserving its history and significance.

Educational projects can be oral, written, visual, or experiential. When you offer a guided tour, write down or record a history, make a video, put up plaques, or reproduce photographs for public display, you are engaging in educational work. See Presenting Your Place for suggestions about writing a place profile and making public presentations. These two interpretive strategies are low cost and adaptable to many situations. There are, of course, many other methods. Choosing the right one(s) for your campaign will depend on factors such as the audience you want to reach, what you want to say, the size of your budget and/or resources, and the interests and skills of your fellow stakeholders in the place.

Many of the steps involved in creating educational projects will be done more easily and with more bang for the buck if you can find skilled practitioners among colleagues and supporters of your advocacy campaign. This is another important reason to reach out widely to stakeholders early in your efforts.

Here are two examples to help you think about how to approach educational projects:

From Mambo to Hip Hop in the South Bronx

Place Matters collaborated with The Point Community Development Corporation in the South Bronx to undertake a variety of educational efforts that would tell history of the development of a New York Latin music sound and hip hop in a few neighborhoods in the Bronx. The From Mambo to Hip Hop Case Study is in the Toolkit appendix.

Your Guide to the Lower East Side

Place Matters collaborated with the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and Lower East Side Preservation Coalition to develop location markers—signs—that would highlight special places in the Lower East Side from the perspectives of community residents. Download the pdf here.

Call the Neighborhood Preservation Center to get references for practitioners of educational projects: (212) 228-2781

Email Place Matters for advice: placematters@citylore.org