Bridget Maley is the owner of architecture + history (a + h), an architectural history and historic preservation consulting firm. She lives in San Francisco, California, and has been a member of SAH since 1995.
Can you tell us about your career path?
I started my career in historical archaeology at Old Salem, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina then at Monticello and Poplar Forest, both sites affiliated with Thomas Jefferson in Virginia. I received a master’s degree in Architectural History from the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia (UVa). I benefited from an incredible network of academic and professional mentors while at UVa and after! I moved to San Francisco, California, and began working for an architectural firm specializing in historic preservation, Architectural Resources Group (ARG), as their first in-house architectural historian. I helped ARG grow a historic resources and architectural history studio, at one point managing seven architectural historians in two offices. My time at ARG taught me that you can manage a business while doing the work that you love. I started my own practice ten years ago and I love the flexibility of working for myself!
What interests you most about architectural history?
I think it’s the stories that buildings and sites tell us; they provide a tangible, visible reminder of our past. I particularly enjoy the research component…finding that one piece of information that completes the puzzle and really informs how we interpret a particular historic place.
What projects are you currently working on?
The past three years, I’ve had a significant focus on National Park Service (NPS) projects. I’ve participated in several Historic Structure Reports (HSR) on Mission 66-era NPS Visitor Centers in California and Alaska. I’m working on a project in Mount Rainier National Park looking at historic resources from both the NPS Rustic Architecture period and the Mission 66 era at Ohanapechosh Campground. I also have a project at Tule Lake, a component of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, documenting several of the only remaining built resources from the Tule Lake Segregation Center. I’m participating in an HSR for two employee cabins at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lastly, I’ve contributed recently to a Maintenance Plan for the Glacier Bay Lodge in Alaska, one of the few Mission 66-era lodges built in the National Park system and am documenting 1960s Pan Abode-constructed (kit) cabins in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, that are threatened by some very large bears who like to gnaw and scratch on their wood components!
Additionally, I’ve had several projects at the University of California, Santa Cruz, one of the most significant collections of modern campus buildings in California. Lastly, I am currently leading a team of historians writing a National Register of Historic Places Historic District Nomination for St. Francis Wood, a designed residence park with over 550 homes in San Francisco, laid out by the Olmsted Brothers. On a more personal level, I’ve been researching the California architect, John Carl Warnecke, with the intent to publish something…at some point…in my free time!!
Do you have a particular memory of when you first became aware of the significance of architecture or when you knew you wanted to study it?
As an undergraduate, I attended Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The college is set within Old Salem, a preserved historic Moravian village set in a surrounding urban environment. Old Salem is a collection of historic sites, gardens, and buildings open to the public with extensive interpretive programs, including working trades people demonstrating various craft practices. Within my first year of college, I began to understand the importance of place and history through experiences at Old Salem. The summer after my sophomore year I participated in an archaeological excavation of the tannery site in Salem. This opened my eyes to how historical research and informed field investigations intersect to shape the stories we tell at historic sites.
Who has influenced your work or career?
There have been several key individuals who served as wonderful mentors throughout my career. First, Michael Hammond, my undergraduate Anthropology / Archaeology professor and the Archaeologist for Old Salem. William Kelso, historical archaeologist, who I worked with at both of Thomas Jefferson’s homes, Monticello and Poplar Forest. Drake Patten, who managed the archaeological laboratory at Poplar Forest. Richard Guy Wilson and Barbara Burlison Mooney, who I studied with at UVa. J. Murray Howard, the former Architect for Historic Buildings and Grounds at UVa, who I had the great fortune to work with for a summer. Bruce Judd and Stephen Farneth, founding Principals of Architectural Resources Group (ARG); Nina Pascale, Marketing Director at ARG; and really all the amazing colleagues I worked with over 16 years at ARG. Lastly, San Francisco Architectural Historian, Anne Bloomfield, who died way too young, and who took me under her wing when I first moved to San Francisco.
What is your biggest professional challenge?
Time management!! As a sole practitioner you do the field work, conduct historical research, write reports, correspond with clients, generate invoices, pay incoming invoices, manage subconsultants, and solve IT problems. Whew!! I don’t have time for time management!!
When and how did you become involved with SAH?
I joined SAH as a graduate student at the University of Virginia where the Thomas Jefferson Chapter was founded and continues to be very active. I served as president of the chapter for the 1992–93 academic year. When I moved to San Francisco I joined the Northern California Chapter of SAH and wrote and produced the newsletter for a few years and also served as chapter president for a period. My first SAH conference was Seattle (1995) where I gave a “Work in Progress” talk in a focused session for graduate students and emerging scholars. I served as the national SAH Chapter Liaison from 2004 to 2011. I’ve stayed active in SAH helping organize the Pasadena conference in 2009, participating on a book award committee one year, and most recently serving on the SAH CONNECTS Advisory Committee.
Do you have a vision for how SAH should evolve in the future?
It has been very rewarding to see SAH embrace the digital humanities, encourage a more diverse membership through targeted outreach, and actively engage a broader audience. These initiatives indicate a leadership and membership committed to staying relevant in a changing academic, research, and publication landscape. I think if SAH continues to evolve within an academic and scholar-focused environment the organization will be poised to remain a leader in the humanities.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to enter your field?
Network, network, network. This is a small field and it's critical to meet others with similar interests and career paths. Most of us are more than happy to mentor a younger generation because we benefited from interaction with excellent mentors ourselves.
SAH members engage with the history of the built environment through a broad array of specializations, professional fields, and areas of interest. Member Stories is a regular feature that recognizes the expertise and unique experiences of our members.