Careers in Historic Preservation

Historic preservation is a pervasive, enduring national movement driven by the public’s fascination with the past in the form of old buildings, neighborhoods, Main Streets, and landscapes. Rather than focusing on preserving houses or villages as museums, the modern preservation profession emphasizes adapting old buildings to new uses.

There’s more to the historic built environment than the “plus factor”—features people admire, such as high ceilings, elaborate or simple woodwork, decorative tile, and fireplaces that are works of art in themselves. Beyond this aesthetic is an emotional attraction. Living in an old house or working in an old building provides a sense of heritage and connects individuals to the past.

The nation’s interest in historic preservation is growing, and today it is a living, breathing, and functional way of life. Historic preservation professional skills are needed by communities across the country that want to preserve their built heritage for future generations.

Job Opportunities

Preservation professionals take a wide variety of positions in the public and private sectors. Many find employment in state historic preservation offices, consulting firms, local preservation commissions, state historic sites, and nonprofit preservation groups such as the Indiana Landmarks, the nation’s largest nonprofit, private statewide preservation organization. Others work for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service. With the growing interest in historic preservation, job opportunities in this field are abundant. Students typically land entry-level positions within four months of graduation. 

Types of Projects
Professionals in this field deal with the complex challenges of rejuvenating the historic core districts of cities, maintaining a sense of identity in small towns, revitalizing neighborhoods, preserving rural areas, and restoring historic landmarks and landscapes.

This diverse discipline focuses on preserving a variety of historic places where people live and work, including:

  • houses and schools 
  • commercial buildings
  • religious structures
  • industrial structures
  • Main Streets
  • neighborhoods
  • designed landscapes
  • rural countrysides

Project Roles
Historic preservationists try to find ways to preserve historic features of an old building while making changes needed for new life.

  • The effort to adapt old buildings to new uses sometimes requires careful research into uses for which a demand exists, as well as a search for grants, tax credits, and loans.
  • Preservation professionals also assess what’s wrong with old buildings and make sensitive yet fiscally sound recommendations for repair and rehabilitation.
  • Often they help building owners obtain historic preservation tax credits and apply for buildings and districts to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Some preservation professionals participate in a protective environmental review of federal projects and their effect on historic properties.
  • Others help communities protect historic districts and landmarks through preservation ordinances or assist local preservationists in developing strategies for saving endangered landmarks.
  • Work in this field includes producing drawings, assessments, plans, and documents; conducting paint and mortar analysis; and communicating effectively with clients and organizations.

For more information, contact Susan Lankford, director, graduate program in historic preservation.

Department of Architecture
Architecture Building (AB), Room 402
Ball State University
Muncie, IN 47306

Phone: 765-285-1900
Fax: 765-285-1765