Impact, response, and (mostly) survival Historic Preservation and the Coronavirus

PlaceEconomics periodically conducts online surveys on topics of interest to those in historic preservation and related fields. The most recent poll asked about positive and negative impacts of the Coronavirus and the responses to the pandemic taken by preservation professionals. A link to the survey was posted on the firm’s Facebook pages as well as being distributed through an e-mail list assembled by PlaceEconomics and its companion firm Heritage Strategies International.

The challenges articulated in the poll related to business operations, personal finances, the inability to provide the professional services that clients expect, experiencing a sense of isolation, and more. For the open-ended questions, the usually terse comments were often so powerful and reflective of challenges caused by the pandemic that they are included as appendices in this report just as they were written by the respondents.
Participants did acknowledge some positive outcomes, most prominently the appreciated a newfound expertise in communicating with colleagues and constituents remotely, but the sentiment was often followed by a feeling that enough is enough. “Zoom – I am so so over it.”

The overriding theme was a strong desire to move back to “normal” while taking into the future a selection of skills acquired over the last year. More than three-quarters of respondents said, “We will continue to utilize electronic interaction technology but also look forward to renewing face to face work.”

Finally, it also emerged that were significantly different experiences for those in the private, public, and non-profit sectors, with the latter being particularly hard hit in terms of loss of projects, reduced budgets, and personnel cutbacks. It is our hope that the results of this survey will reinforce the sense among preservation professionals and organizations that “you are not alone” and also showcase the resilience demonstrated by many during what was the most challenging professional year in their careers