Helping to Preserve History from a Distance

By Joey Mazzaferro

In April, Harshitha Beere, second-year year Masters of Historic Preservation student, was selected by the National Council for Preservation Education (NCPE) to intern for the National Park Service (NPS) as a historic architecture intern.

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“The internship required me to intern in Washington, D.C., for 10 weeks, but due to COVID-19, my start date kept getting pushed back,” Beere said. “After consulting with NCPE, my supervisor decided it would be best if I worked from home and came to Washington, D.C., for two weeks for a site visit.”

She finally began the internship June 1. Her work involved drafting a Historic Structure Report (HSR) for Catoctin Mountain Park’s Visitor Center, which was built in 1941. An HSR involves archival research on the history of the building and site, a statement of significance, an assessment of current conditions and treatment recommendations.

Beere conducted most of the research at home using resources available through both the National Park Service and University of Florida Library’s online database, as well as documents available at the Visitor Center’s archives.  

“I drove to Washington, D.C., from Gainesville as taking a flight was a greater risk,” Beere said. “The first day I spent assessing the Visitor Center and interacting with the park rangers. The second day I visited the Jefferson Memorial, which is currently under renovation.”

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Antietam National Battlefield Park

She helped assess damage to the marble and learn how to understand preservation techniques such as laser cleaning of marble and steam cleaning. Using laser technology for cleaning is a new technique being used for the first time by the NPS.

“I climbed to the top of the memorial and learned how to re-grout joints and assess biofilm growth under a magnifying glass,” Beere said. “It is by far the coolest site visit I have been on.”

She also worked in Antietam National Battlefield Park helping Kirsten Crase, a postdoctoral student at the University of Maryland. They worked on a Cultural Resource Inventory Survey (CRIS), which involved using a geospatial device to record the condition of the monument along with a photograph.

“Working on the field proved to be difficult as a mask had to be worn in the heat and six feet distance maintained at all times,” Beere said. “However, it was a wonderful experience learning about the different fields of historic preservation.”

Two weeks later, Beere completed the on-site portion of her internship and drove back to Florida where she is working on the draft for the Historic Structure Report.

“There are challenges as I can’t go back to the site and have to rely on others to get photographs of the element which I missed,” Beere said. “This is one of the most prestigious internships I have done, and it is an honor to be able to work for the National Park Service.”

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