This Place Matters – Vote for Your Favorites

Miller's GroceryWhat do you get when you ask the public to download a simple sign, find a place that is important to them, photograph themselves in front of that place holding the sign and then download it to the Internet?

You get This Place Matters.

More than 2,000 people took the National Trust for Historic Preservation (full disclosure: my employer) up on their offer, and the results are fascinating.  When you have some time, go to the site, click on the slide show, and sit back and watch.  I guarantee you’ll love it!

And now, the Trust is having a This Place Matters photo contest where you can go online and vote once per day for your favorite This Place Matters photo.  The top three photographers win a digital camera.  (Full disclosure:  I am not eligible.)

You can guess which photo I’m voting for: Miller’s Grocery (shown above) in Christiana, Tennessee.  (Full disclosure:  I do not know the photographer or the subject.)  I just love this picture. Perhaps it is because it comes from my home state (another disclosure).  Perhaps I can just see myself sitting on the bench of a Tennessee country store with my dog by my side.

For whatever reason, I’m going online every day and voting for Miller’s Grocery.  But you should view all 12 finalists and choose your own favorite.  Perhaps you’ll fall for the kids in the Bronx.   San Antonio’s old Humble Oil station may grab your heart.  Or who knows, you may start crying reading the story of Hugh Smalling’s grave in Macon, Georgia.

The deadline for the contest is October 9th, but it is never too late to download a This Place Matters sign, find something that has special meaning and upload a photo at to tell the world about a place that matters to you.  (Full disclosure:  That’s me to the right in the photo below.  It was not chosen as a finalist.)

More to come…


This Place Matters, Easton, MD

Serendipity and The Fretboard Journal

William Jackson HarpLast Friday as I boarded my plane in Dublin, I opened the overhead bin and came across a banjo case.  A nearby passenger asked if it was mine, and I said, “No, but I was going to ask the same question.”  A slight man with a female companion sitting across the aisle identified himself as the owner of the case, which he said held a bouzouki.

Well, my antennae went up and I recalled an article I read on the flight over in the new issue of my favorite magazine, The Fretboard Journal. I dug in my bag, quickly found the article about bouzouki maker Edward Victor Dick and passed it along.  It came back as the bouzouki owner pointed to a picture of Tony McManus in another part of the magazine and said, “I know this guy.  He’s played on some of my recordings.”

At that my new acquaintances were asked to change seats so I could enjoy having a family with two children under the age of 4 across the aisle for a seven hour flight.  (I’ve been there, so I was sympathetic.)  On the way out, I stopped to talk with the bouzouki owner and his companion and introduced myself.  He stuck out his hand and told me he was Billy Jackson.  She introduced herself as Grainne Hambly, and as Billy headed back to claim the instrument, Grainne and I headed to baggage pick-up sharing musical interests and connections.  They had been to the Swannanoa Gathering, where my good friend Tom Dews spent a part of his summer, and we discussed the wonderful traditional music to be found in the Asheville and Black Mountain areas of North Carolina.

Cut to the chase.  I just met internationally known harper and composer William Jackson and Irish harper Grainne Hambly who were headed to the states for a series of fall concerts.  Jackson was a founding member of Ossian and he and Hambly just released a new CD, Music From Ireland and Scotland. They are playing dates in North Carolina, Tennessee, and at the Virginia Harp Center in Richmond, Virginia on October 25th.  I encouraged them to push their agent to get a slot on the IMT schedule in DC and Grainne told me that she will play an Irish Christmas in America Concert at the National Geographic in Washington on December 4th with the band Teada.  It is now on my schedule!  Check their web sites for tour dates, and go hear them if they are in your area.

Regular readers know I love The Fretboard Journal, so I was pleased it played a small part in this serendipitous moment.  The fall issue is chock full of great stories.  Banjo goddesses Abigail Washburn and Alison Brown talk about five strings, running your own record company, and the feminine approach to banjo playing.  A story on the little known Larson brothers – makers of fine guitars that no one’s ever heard of – makes you want to run out and find one of their early 20th century creations.  Wilco fans will salivate over the article on the band’s secret hideout.  (I know this last fact to be true, as a colleague – and Wilco fanatic – practically tore the magazine from my hands when she saw the cover photo.)  The Editor’s Note talks about meeting up with their fans at Merlefest – and I was certainly among that group.  My recommendation:  get a subscription.  They never disappoint.

And for my last “Irish” post of the trip, I’ll provide you with some wonderful Celtic music performed by William Jackson and Grainne Hambly.  Enjoy.

More to come…


Why Should We Care About an International National Trust Movement?

This Place Matters at Dublin Castle with Catherine LeonardWe have just completed a wonderful International Conference of National Trusts here in Dublin—the 13th in the history of the National Trust movement. I suspect that when a small group of Anglophiles gathered together in the 1970s in Scotland for what became the first gathering of the world’s National Trusts, they could not have imagined either the spread of their movement or the diversity of people, countries, issues and models that we have seen this week from among the 200+ delegates in attendance.

To read my full post on the wrap-up to the ICNT13, visit the PreservationNation blog.

More to come…


Why Do You Hate Your Knife?…

…and other tidbits of cultural commentary from an American in Ireland.

On our second night in Dublin we were enjoying a wonderful dinner in the historic Tailors Hall headquarters of An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland.  I had the pleasure of sitting between the An Taisce past-president and a board member born in that far-away Irish town of Knoxville, Tennessee.  (His wife is Irish and as a software engineer he had the freedom to work from home.)  It was a delightful evening filled with laughter from the witty conversation.  I was on my best behavior, so I was surprised when all of a sudden my Irish seatmate – a distinguished botanist turns to me and says, “Why do you hate your knife?”

In typical American fashion, I was using my knife and fork to cut my food then placing the knife on the side of the plate while switching the fork to my right hand to eat.  She proceeded to give me a lesson on “eating Irish style” so that the fork stayed in my left hand (and never turned over) while the knife stayed in my right.  We laughed some more, and I told her that my daughter Claire ate this way (as did many of her friends).  My Tennessee-born seat mate told me that his wife had been working on him to switch for 18 years, to no avail.  He did, however, save me further embarrassment (and lessons) by leaning over as I picked up my dessert fork to say, “Europeans eat all desserts with their spoon.”  That I could master!

While the food throughout my week was very good (thank you An Taisce), I’m not a fan of the “traditional Irish breakfast,” as was served every day in my hotel.  But breakfast did give me the chance to read the Irish Independent newspaper.  I love the diversity of the English language, as seen in headlines such as “Dozens left injured by bus and transit smash.” Smash.  What a great, descriptive, way to talk about a crash.

The best traditional meal actually came on my last evening with a visit to Gallaghers Boxty House. The boxty – an Irish potato pancake – was filled with lamb and covered with a very tasty sauce.  It was a great way to end a wonderful visit.

More to come…


Irish History: As Fresh as Today’s News

River Boyne Canal Restoration ProjectAs part of today’s International Conference of National Trusts, I joined a tour into the countryside to explore a bit of Irish history and see rehabilitation and interpretive efforts at work.

Our host for the conference, An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, owns a 1748 canal running through Ireland’s valley of the kings along the River Boyne.  The canal is under restoration and we had a chance to meet with the energetic project manager and learn about his work. The lock at the top is where the salt water from the sea meets the fresh water of the river.  The picture below is a historical view from the An Taisce web site of the canal in operation.

This important part of the Irish attempt to capitalize on the Industrial Revolution was only one of the sites we visited.  I mentioned earlier in the week about seeing the silver at Christ Church Cathedral donated by King William in honor of his victory in Ireland that solidified his hold on the English throne.  Boyne navigationToday, we visited the battlefield where that victory was won:  The Battle of the Boyne.  It was here in 1690 that protestant King William of Orange defeated the army of the Catholic King James II.  There’s a recently opened visitors and interpretive center which we toured with a guide from the site.  As An Taisce put it in the conference materials, “the outcome of this battle has been the source of much bitterness historically and the correct interpretation of the site has been integral to the Irish Peace Process.”  The closing line of the center’s interpretive film put it a little more directly:  Issues arose in the battle that  “reverberate to today.”  The good efforts to focus on how different parts of Ireland view the battle and its outcome were obvious, showing another way historic places resonate even today.  You could say that Irish history isn’t even history because it is as fresh as the morning’s news.

I’ve attached a couple of photos from the center and the countryside, which also show an unfortunate highway bridge that dominates the landscape from the critical view in front of the interpretive center.

More to come…


Boyne Battlefield Tour

Boyne Battlefield Landscape

River Boyne Canal View Near Battle of the Boyne Center

Heritage of the World in Trust

Dublin Castle 2009Every two years the world’s preservation and heritage conservation community comes together for the International Conference of National Trusts, a wonderful gathering of colleagues and friends working together across the globe to protect, enhance and responsibly enjoy our planet’s fragile heritage.  To read my full post on the opening of ICNT13, check out the PreservationNation blog on the National Trust web site.

More to come…


Santiago Calatrava’s Dublin Bridges (And More) By Dawn’s Early Light

Samuel Beckett Bridge 2010 DublinI am blessed with two talented children who teach me so much every day.  Claire has an imaginative and artistic eye that she uses to great effect in her photography of buildings and landscapes.  Andrew has been fascinated by architecture since he was a toddler and stood in our hall to carefully run his hand over the curved beaded siding on our wall.  As a preservationist and father, I love talking with them about their passions.

So when Andrew texted me on Friday morning to say, “Dad, there are two Santiago Calatrava-designed bridges in Dublin,” I knew they must be special.  I wanted to see them not only based on Andrew’s message, but because I had seen the Spanish-born Calatrava’s Milwaukee Art Museum (a building I’ll be in again in a few weeks) and was intrigued as to  how he handled his designs in this city of bridges.

To make a long story short, I left in dawn’s early light this morning and went on a 1 1/2 hour walk, beginning at Calatrava’s James Joyce Bridge (2003) and ending at his still-to-be-completed Samuel Beckett Bridge (2010 – in the photo above).  In between I took photos of each of the bridges on Dublin’s River Liffey.  (Warning:  I’m not as good a photographer as Claire.)  Enjoy this look at Dublin’s River Liffey bridges – in their order on the river and in the dawn’s early light.  (If you put your cursor over the picture you should see the name and date of the bridge.  And keep looking, as the best – the Irish harp shaped Beckett bridge – is saved until last.)

More to come…


James Joyce Bridge Dublin

James Joyce Bridge Dublin

James Joyce Bridge Dublin

Liam Mellowes Bridge 1768 Dublin

Fr. Mathew Bridge 1818 Dublin

O'Donovan Rossa Bridge 1816 Dublin

Grattan Bridge 1875 Dublin 091309

Millennium Footbridge 1999 Dublin

Liffey (Ha' Penny) Bridge 1816 Dublin

O'Connell Bridge 1880 Dublin

Butt Bridge 1932 Dublin

Talbot Memorial Bridge 1978 Dublin

Sean O'Casey Bridge 2005 Dublin

Samuel Beckett Bridge 2010 Dublin