Historic preservation is in the midst of a seismic shift. The days of fighting to preserve Louis Sullivan skyscrapers and Frank Lloyd Wright houses are in the past. Today’s historic preservationists work to save sacred spaces and ordinary artifacts, endangered landscapes and fading practices. Preservationists have to be multi-disciplinary—as comfortable working with sound artists as archivists. And they have to be public-facing, building inclusive coalitions dedicated to preservation.

Biograph is a new app that helps preservationists collaborate across disciplines, connect with the public, and preserve the past. Biograph combines text, image, and audio. It’s easy to document an artifact or a landscape, then meditate on its significance in a brief audio message. All biographs are private by default, so you can use the space for private meditations and note taking in the field.

But Biograph also curates community and makes connection. You can use the app to connect with stakeholders and community members. For instance, you might use it to create an audio tour of a historic neighborhood or an endangered landscape. Or you can make it a space to collaborate with artists, community members, and other preservationists, inviting them to co-author a vibrant, polyphonic record of the spaces you cherish.

As historic preservation transforms to meet the needs of 21st century communities, Biograph will help you make your practice more collaborative, more interdisciplinary, and more inclusive. With Biograph, you won’t just be preserving the past. You’ll also be pre-serving the future.

A Preservationist’s Story: Terra Cotta Symphony

Philip Mullen is a well-known preservationist, focusing on Chicago’s vernacular terra cotta architecture. “There’s so much amazing terra cotta here,” he says, “just on ordinary buildings in ordinary parts of the city. I started documenting it on Instagram so that people would recognize how beautiful and important it is. And I was able to build a big audience. But a lot of them were just looking for architectural porn—they didn’t care about preserving the buildings. They just wanted pretty pictures.”

“Biograph allowed me to connect more deeply with people in the communities I was photographing. We collaborated to create an audio tour of terra cotta buildings in the Albany Park neighborhood. I interviewed local residents and architects using the Biograph app, then we jointly published our stories and comments about the building. People can take the tour remotely or walk around the neighborhood listening to the stories. It helped us build a coalition to defend a building that was threatened with demolition and to raise money to fund our efforts. Biograph helped me go deeper, to do the real work of preservation—instead of just posting pretty pictures.”

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