Board Member Profile: Jane Bisel

3 by 4 janeAs one of PAM’s newest board members, I thought I’d take this opportunity to introduce myself and to express my appreciation for all this organization has accomplished over the past few decades, as well as the role it has played in my own life and work.

When I joined the board last fall, a number of people asked me how I came to be interested in historic preservation.  I never seemed to have a simple answer.  In fact, I’d only recently come to think of myself as a preservationist—after a lifetime of interest in social and architectural history, heritage travel, and working on old houses.  In retrospect, it’s amazing that I didn’t see this as a passion for historic preservation.  What was missing, until relatively recently, was people.  I credit PAM, in part, for helping me understand this.

As a childhood transplant to Rochester from Pennsylvania, where almost every facet of everyday life is steeped in early American history, I became aware of regional differences in American culture at a very early age.  My grandparents lived in town whose chief attraction was a French and Indian War fort, in a house built in 1780. They were well aware of their role as stewards of that property, which had been integral to the lives and work of generations before them and has continued to serve others now that they’re gone.  In Minnesota, I immediately noticed a different heritage that soon became part of my own.

I went on to other places and other things in the era after high school, but unexpectedly found myself returning to Minnesota to nurse my mother through a critical illness.  Casting about for a group that resonated with my personal interests, I joined PAM in the early 1990s.  Years later, faced with the controversial demolition of a local WPA building, I became an active member of the organization and a committed advocate for the preservation of historic places in my community.  PAM offered support, in the form of a “Ten Most Endangered” designation and its associated publicity, as well as advice and encouragement from staff and volunteers.  In the ensuing years, PAM has continued to be a constant resource for all of us in Rochester’s small preservation community.

What I have found most compelling about PAM is the way it brings people together, making connections among those with like interests and needs, and connects people with historic places.  Looking back over more than 20 years, I certainly appreciate the results.  As an advocacy group that offers many opportunities to learn about and appreciate historic places throughout our state, PAM has played a unique role in building diverse connections between preservation professionals, volunteer advocates, and other Minnesota residents to create a network of preservation professionals and heritage enthusiasts that can work together productively.  I am proud to support these efforts as a PAM member, and hope to be able to make a meaningful contribution to the board.

With my brother at my grandparents' house


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