The authoritative source on
  early churches of New Jersey


About this site
We've created a database and photographic inventory on more than half the 18th & 19th century churches in the state and add to it each month. We welcome and solicit all contributions and suggestions from our visitors.

How to use this site
Respond to readers' queries
Consult the database
Annotate the database
Upload a photo
Suggest a church for inclusion

Glossary
List of churches, by county

Photographic notes
Links to related sites
Bulletin Board

   online apprenticeship in documenting local history

Interested in photography and local history?
You can help preserve a record of the at-risk architecture of the 20s, 30s and 40s that is fast disappearing. If you are interested in the 19th century (or earlier), there's still a myriad of things (RR stations, hotels, city halls, taverns, and schools) that have not been photographed or inventoried. Projects can be as large as my endeavor to create a photographic inventory of all the 18th and 19th century churches in the state, or as small as the truss bridges of Hunterdon county, for example. Whereas a few scattered photos of a site, especially if undocumented as to date, aren't particularly valuable to subsequent historians, an attempt to inventory the built environment and document it, may be of considerable significance.

Much of our architectural heritage has already been lost, and too much that was never adequately documented. As David mcCulloch said, "Ignorance of history is a form of ingratitude." Over the several years I have been working on this project, more than a dozen nineteenth century churches have burned or been so altered as to be unrecognizable—and there was no one with sufficient interest to document the building before it was razed. That's not only ingratitude, but an insult.

At the suggestion of several friends who know my work as an educator as well as photographer, I've thought about developing an online apprenticeship in photographing, documenting, and publishing aspects of our architectural heritage. You can read much more about what an online apprenticeship is at my e-Learning website [http://www.wiredseminars.com] but in brief, it is an extended series of assignments—instruction, coaching, collaboration with peers, and consultation, organized around a series of tasks and projects—all conducted online via the Internet. We use email, instant messaging and collaboration software to enable participants to discuss and show their work, get suggestions and feedback from others, and learn their craft, whether that be as a photographer, a researcher or a writer. We can't turn anyone into an Ansel Adams or John McCullouch, but we can assist you in becoming quite competent from a documentary perspective if not necessarily an artistic one. I can tell you there is an immense satisfaction in seeing your work reach a broader audience, and knowing that future generations will benefit.

One of the things I've noticed about many church websites, local histories, and other publications issued in commemoration of a church's 200th anniversary, is how poor the photography is, how little documentation there is of important events, and the almost total failure to relate anything happening within the congregation to outside events. One church, whose building plans were interrupted for several years during the 1870s, made no mention of the financial Panic of 1873, which caused business and personal failures throughout the country. Another failed to mention that more than half the Sons of Liberty who organized to protest the Stamp Act in 1765 were from their congregation. A little bit of research can put those events into perspective. A third ran the minister out because of his inveterate opposition to slavery—they preferred he "stick to Christ and Him crucified."

One doesn't have to be a history major to make a valuable contribution; indeed, I am not. I majored in economics and the behavioral sciences. But you do have to have an interest in history and some awareness that significant events in the history of a local institution, like a suspension in construction, usually can be traced to a cause or movement of larger potential significance.

Unless you live in Virginia or New England, or in one of the historically important colonial cities like Charleston or Newport, the architectural heritage of your region has probably been overlooked and undervalued—and that's not just true of architecture. Any locale where few of the country's major architects built their "great" buildings is likely overlooked. But part of the reason for the neglect is that there is a dearth of local and regional information about our buildings, compared to what is available for New England, Virginia, New York, and even Delaware! I can't tell you how many of the local historical societies I speak to have no inventories of significant regional architecture because no one thought it was important or made any effort to pull together those materials.

Fortunately, the most valuable resource we have is free—our local knowledge. It may not be gathered or organized, but "locals" know where things are and why they're there instead of some place else, and often what really happened. So we don't have to have advanced degrees or substantial funding to carry out some of the local projects that I have discussed with people over the last several years. A camera, some film, and a practiced eye is enough to start.

Apprenticeship features
To take your interest to the next level, the kind of apprenticeship I have in mind would be a productive move. At this point, I am simply trying to determine if there is any interest in such a program. Here are the particulars as I see them at this moment:

  • The apprenticeship/seminar would last for 6-8 weeks, include 6 or 7 topics, each built around a specific task or mini-project. About a third of the activities would be devoted to photographing the subject of your project, a third to research and other documentation of what you can find, and a third to the methods of "publishing" your material, including a website, a blog, and cd-rom, as well as traditional media.
  • Participants would communicate with each other and with the instructor/coach (me) frequently by email, instant messaging, and a collaborative workspace that is like a high-powered bulletin board. Everyone would be expected to discuss their projects, pose questions and problems, and volunteer from their own experience. We expect a high level of participation, so if you cannot spare several hours per week to photograph, research, write, and think about these tasks, the apprenticeship is probably not for you.
  • Although this is an online seminar, my experience is that most participants will have only modest computer savvy. If you are a regular user of email and can attach a file to a message, that is sufficient to handle every aspect of the seminar.
  • The apprenticeship will be limited to 12 participants. Given the substantial amount of time I expect to spend communicating, consulting, and coaching participants on their projects, photography, research and writing, it is not possible to work closely with more than that. (I have a full-time job that requires at least 60 hours a week, so my commitment to this will siphon some hours from other projects.)
  • The software we'll be using is free, shareware, or trial versions, so there is no investment in the tools, but the projected cost of the seminar is $395. I've found that if participants don't pay something for a seminar, they don't value it. I will be responsible for setting up the collaborative workspace and for all hosting costs, as well as assisting participants in downloading and installing the software tools (such as instant messaging) we will be using for the seminar.
  • You don't need to live in New Jersey or have an interest in Jersey history. One of the advantages of distance learning is that participants can be anywhere they have access to an Internet connection. I'd be delighted if someone wanted to take on a project similar to my New Jersey Churchscape but for their own county or state.

Questionnaire
Here is what I'd like to know (you can simply fill in this section and email it back to me at flg@njchurchscape.com):

1. What is the level of your interest: ( ) high ( ) moderate ( ) low

2. Please indicate the topics of most interest (check as many as you want):
( ) photographing structures or activities
( ) researching local history, including structures, people, customs or activities
( ) writing about local history, people, customs, and activities
( ) preparing and organizing materials for presentation or publication
( ) preparing a website or blog to share your work on local history

3. When you would be prepared to begin (assuming you are interested):
( ) in the late spring--say about May
( ) sometime in the summer
( ) after September

 

 

 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS  |  ABOUT US  |  HOME