M.R.P. Student Gets Real-World Preservation Planning Experience in L.A.

Los Angeles Parade car
Barnum and Office of Historic Resources staff seated in a parade car near their offices at Los Angeles City Hall. photo / provided
City meeting in L.A. toy district
City officials hold a site meeting in the Toy District in downtown Los Angeles. photo / provided
Paige Burnam at Silver Lake Reservoir
M.R.P. candidate Paige Burnam on a Los Angeles County Department of Public Works tour of Silver Lake Reservoir. photo / provided
September 28, 2016

For 12 weeks this summer, M.R.P. candidate Paige Barnum (M.R.P. '17) was an intern at the City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning, Office of Historic Resources. It was an experience that taught her about the origins of the city of L.A. — and gave her an appreciation for "the historic fabric of a city that is so often made the butt of planning jokes."

Barnum's work included preparing staff reports for proposed designation of buildings and sites as individual local landmarks — called “Historic-Cultural Monuments" — and assisting with the presentation of report findings at meetings of the Cultural Heritage Commission. She also participated in the final phase of SurveyLA, the city's first-ever comprehensive program to identify its significant historic resources, conducted by the Los Angeles Historic Resources Survey. Developing and editing citywide historic context statements, and playing a critical role in research for several statements — in particular, the Asian American Historic Context, a study under development using an Underrepresented Communities grant from the National Park Service — enriched her internship experience.

"I learned about the origins of the character of Los Angeles, how its distinct built environment came to be, and the role preservationists and planners have played in the development of that landscape," Barnum said. "For example, I was surprised to learn that Nickelodeon Studios resides in what was once the Earl Carroll Theatre, one of the last remaining examples of modern entertainment venues constructed at the height of Hollywood's Golden Age."

Other valuable experiences included attending training sessions held by the staff of the Getty Conservation Institute and site visits to structures with cultural, social, and historic significance in Los Angeles.

"These experiences helped enrich my understanding of real-world preservation planning practice," said Barnum. "The internship improved my professional abilities, and gave me experience that I will carry forward in my career after graduation."

After securing the internship, Barnum was able to make living in L.A. more affordable with the support of a Student Assembly experience travel grant. More than 40 AAP students applied for the grants, and Barnum was one of only five to receive one.

By Patti Witten