When Walls Talk: Decoding a Building's History With Lauren Northup - Atlas Obscura Experiences
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When Walls Talk: Decoding a Building's History With Lauren Northup

$240 per person Online Experience
5 sessions
Up to 30 people
See Dates
$240 per person
$240 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do

In this five-part seminar, learn how to decode the language of old buildings, uncovering the stories tucked away in the places and structures that surround you.

Course Description 

An old building is a kind of ever-morphing history book; chapters are caught between layers of paint and architectural features offer clues about the people who lived in them long ago. In this seminar, join Lauren Northup for a cross-disciplinary approach to unlocking the language of buildings, drawing from architectural history, microscopy, historic preservation, and archaeology. We’ll look at buildings across the U.S., from halls that hold the histories of people who were enslaved in Charleston, South Carolina, to buildings erected within Cherokee communities displaced by European colonization—learning how physical structures that have been preserved or destroyed can be central to understanding the history of a place. We’ll walk through specific methods for uncovering important histories that are often hiding in plain sight, hearing from preservation experts, materials analysts, and other guest speakers along the way. By the end of this course, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and practical skills to begin decoding the language of the old buildings and historic structures that make up your local landscape.

Please note that this course will focus on historic sites in the U.S., but many of the methods and techniques we’ll cover can be applied to buildings across the globe.

Syllabus At A Glance

There are five total sessions included in this purchase, each lasting for 1.5 hours on five consecutive Thursdays beginning October 21.

Session 1 (Thursday, 10/21, 7-8:30 PM ET): Understanding Historic Structures with Guest Ed Barnes of Atlantic Heritage

Session 2 (Thursday, 10/28, 7-8:30 PM ET): Reading Buildings Like an Architectural Historian: Stories from Drayton Hall with Guest Patricia Smith

Session 3 (Thursday, 11/4, 7-8:30 PM ET): Let’s Get Microscopic: Understanding Historic Buildings Through Paint Analysis with Guest Kirsten Moffitt of Colonial Williamsburg

Session 4 (Thursday, 11/11, 7-8:30 PM ET): How to Save a Building: A Field Trip to Wheeling, West Virginia With Guest Betsy Sweeny of Historic Wheeling

Session 5 (Thursday, 11/18, 7-8:30 PM ET): Archaeologies of Disappeared Places: Invisible Operations and Charting the Change of Cherokee Building Practices With Guests Sarah Platt and Jon Marcoux

Between Sessions

Students will have four field assignments to work on between sessions, encouraging and guiding students as they explore their own built environment.  

Pricing Options

If you are unable to pay the ticket price for this course, a limited number of no-pay spots are available to increase accessibility for students, regardless of their economic situation. Please note that this option is first-come, first-served, and reserved for those who would not otherwise be able to take this course. To learn more about our approach to pricing, including no-pay options, please visit our FAQ page.

Atlas Obscura Online Courses

This online course is offered by Atlas Obscura. Founded in 2009, Atlas Obscura created the definitive, community-driven guide to the most incredible places on the planet and is now an award-winning travel company that shares the world’s hidden wonders in person and online.

Our online courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. Courses can take one of two forms: Seminars are intimate, interactive classes—capped at nine to 25 students—exploring topics and crafts through discussion, workshops, assignments, and in-class activities. We also offer lecture series that can be attended live, or viewed via a recording that will be shared within 72 hours after each session airs. Class recordings for lecture series will be available with a temporary password for up to two weeks following the final session of the course.

To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit www.atlasobscura.com/online-courses.

For answers to commonly asked questions, check out our FAQ page here.

Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to the class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access your course via Zoom on each scheduled date and time.

About Your Instructor
Lauren Northup
Lauren Northup

Lauren Northup has been a curator, collections manager, and director of museums at multiple organizations in the Southeast United States including the Hermitage Museum and Gardens and Historic Charleston Foundation. A graduate of both UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of St Andrews in Scotland, her recent work focused on an intensive study of the built environment of slavery in Charleston, South Carolina.

What Else You Should Know

This is an interactive, small-group, seminar-style course that meets over Zoom. Students may be invited to participate in discussions, workshop their projects, and receive feedback from the course instructor.

In most cases, instructors will use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors will be using this platform to post resources, discussion questions, and assignments, when applicable.

We provide closed captioning for all of our courses, as well as transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at experiences@atlasobscura.com if you have any questions, requests, or access needs.

Group Size

There are 30 spots available on this experience.

Dates and Availability
  • Thu, Oct 21, 2021
    7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m.
    $240
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