Christine Henry, PhD
Department of Historic Preservation
University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA
Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest?
My current research is focused on several aspects of the history of Fredericksburg, VA including the influence of women in the preservation of local landmarks, and the role of the heritage economy in racial segregation in the city.
Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?
I currently teach four courses each semester on various topics of historic preservation including a wide range of class sizes, topics, and teaching styles. Classes include an introductory architectural history course, a building documentation course, a seminar on diversity in historic preservation and a seminar on vernacular architecture. In my large lecture courses I use my research on gentrification and neighborhood change as case studies to illustrate how historic preservation happens in urban environments. In my seminar, I have been able to involve my students directly in the documentation and development of a walking tour app for the Vernacular Architecture Forum meeting in Alexandria to be held in May 2018.
What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?
I am very excited about the upcoming publication of an edited volume titled Contested Pasts: Urban Heritage in Divided Cities. This past year I have been working with a colleague in the Department of Historic Preservation, Andréa Livi Smith, PhD, to co-author a chapter in the book which is titled ”Segregation, Gentrification, and Heritage in Fredericksburg, VA: A Preservation Perspective.”
What advice do you have for young scholars preparing themselves for a career related to urban history or urban studies?
The advice I have for young scholars is to keep an open mind in terms of research interests and to listen to as many people as possible about your research area. I am always talking with people about ideas, buildings and sites to investigate, which at first don’t seem to relate to my research areas, but after some exploration often have some connection I would not have found on my own.
As someone who studies neighborhoods, what would you personally argue is the most essential ingredient in making one great? Is it the built environment? The retail and services available? The relationships between residents? And what could you not live without in a neighborhood?
As a person who studies neighborhoods, I think that the most significant factor is the relationship between the residents and business owners. This atmosphere is of course shaped by the physical environment, which can enhance or inhibit interaction among residents, but the essence of a neighborhood is the people and the ties they create with one another. One thing that I could not live without in a neighborhood is age diversity—both personally and in my research I have found that having neighbors that are part of an age spectrum makes for a vibrant and interdependent community.