Michael Zimmerman: Gettin’ Busy in Center City

“Lets have a look at the numbers.”

Hi everyone! Wow the summer has zipped by! I’ve been interning full-time at the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia since mid June. The Preservation Alliance is an organization that acts as the principle public steward of historic landmarks in the Philadelphia area. To accomplish this, they actively advocate for, and save historic buildings from demolition. They also accept easements and act as a resource and voice for organizations and individuals interested in historic preservation. My objective for the summer has been to create a report that outlines the benefits and needs of the historic preservation organizations they advocate for.

To construct this report, my first task was to develop a steering committee of 16 professionals working in the field who could offer guidance in developing and researching the report. With the help of several other Alliance staff members we created a committee that ranged in size from large collaborative organizations to small house museums with one or two full time staff. In late June we hosted the first committee meeting and came out with a clearer idea of how to proceed. I then began drafting a survey and began identifying potential recipients.
During this time I also worked on updating the Alliance’s 2010 Economic Impact Report which details the quantifiable benefits of preservation. This proved someone difficult, as the data for the report were scattered among a wide variety of sources. I became very familiar with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s 2011 report on state wide preservation economic impacts, and was able to identify key organizations and individuals who could provide the necessary data. One of the most interesting elements of this side project was contacting the city organization that deals with film production. Through this contact I learned that spending in Philadelphiaattributable to film, television, and video production, was $123,763,414 in 2011. This is up from around $90 million in 2010! That’s a ton of cash! I suppose it makes up for the inconvenience of having those giant trailers in Center Cityevery now and then.
Anyway. Around the end of July the survey was deemed ready to release into the wild. The first week it was out, we had very little response. What responses we did get were mostly issues with the survey monkey website. After ironing these out and sending a reminder email I was able to take about a week off and go camping in the Adirondacks. Since I’ve been back, responses have been a bit better. Out of the 50 odd organizations I’ve emailed, about 20 have responded. Not too bad considering the survey takes the average executive director about an hour or two to complete, it’s prime vacation time, and many of these organizations are staffed by few people.
My internship will conclude sometime around the second week in September. Until then I’ll shift from collecting responses to interpreting the data and ultimately, writing the report. While the whole summer has been like one huge homework assignment, it has been a lot of fun, and I’ve learned so much already. (Getting a paycheck is nice too) I’m really looking forward to writing the report and articulating the wide variety of unique benefits Philadelphiapreservationists so tirelessly contribute to the city.
Mike Zimmerman
Key takeaways I’ve had so far are:
            -lots of people take vacations in the summer
            -keeping your desk / files organized is super important
            -keeping files updated is also key
            -being honest with people about what you expect from them is important
I’ve also learned:
            -much about the cultural data project, most of its ins and outs
            -how cool the cultural data project is
            -excel, lots of excel
            -that Lynda thing that Uarts subscribes to is really awesome
            -wearing biz casual and riding a bike in the summer is tricky
            -shorts are biz casual sometimes
            -the value of working in a friendly and collaborative environment

Busy desk, I had to keep a variety of large lists updated daily in order to keep track of all the organizations we were surveying.

The front of 1616 Walnut, a really beautiful building with National and Local historic designation.
Back of the building on a nice day!

The office.