Thomas McDowell, PA; AIC  Architectural Conservator

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Personal Narrative of Thomas McDowell

Today, Project Management and Planning expertise, combined with the people skills necessary to work within complex project teams, become more critical than ever before. Trade practice or university training alone – one without the other – will not prepare competent architectural conservators, preservation project managers or preservation consultants to meet the complex requirements of their assignments. This is one of the reasons why companies offering these services to the public and/or private sectors frequently fail to achieve complete success. 

My experience, training, education and professional contacts over more than three decades have afforded me a unique combination of qualifications necessary to help you reach your goals in preserving Cultural Heritage Properties, and Sites.  

Despite the allure that history, material science, art and architecture have for me, the inspiration to continue on my path for over 3 decades has been the contact with the human “traces” of the past - most important to retain - that link us inexorably to the individuals and cultures who came before: the masons trowel marks in an 18th century mortar joint, the worn marble treads where so many rose or descended, the brush strokes in an early distemper painted surface, the giornate in a buon fresco, the hand plane marks in the wood work, the candle flame burns in the walnut paneling, the adze marks on the log face etc. This is the poetry of our work and these “touchstones” to the past have inspired me to continue working with cultural heritage sites and objects.  

         “Is it not possible – I often wonder – that things we have felt with great intensity have an existence 
          independent of our minds; are in fact still in existence? And if so, will it not be possible, in time, that 
          some device will be invented by which we can tap them?... Instead of remembering here a scene and  
          there a sound, I shall fit a plug into the wall; and listen to the past... Stong emotion must leave its trace; 
         and it is only a question of discovering how we can get ourselves again attached to it, so that we shall 
         be able to live our lives through from the start.”   Virginia Woolf

During this time I have been fortunate enough to have worked with many of the leading art and architectural conservators in America and to have assisted with many important projects for both private and public sector owners.

Professional Status 

PA, AIC   Professional Associate in the American Institute for Conservation

 Assoc., AIA      Associate in the American Institute of Architects

To be useful in preserving cultural heritage sites, objects and individual structures, knowledge and experience must be combined in the correct proportions. It is a field requiring a very broad background in training and experience. Field experience and artisan or craft training are important, very important, as are appropriate formal studies in the histories of art, architecture, trade practices and materials history. A thorough understanding of materials science and engineering principles must also be included.