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|Highlighting the Research and Expertise of College of Charleston Professors|
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|PROFESSOR ROBERT RUSSELL
Historic Preservation and Art History
|Teaching in the City that Invented Historic Preservation|
|By Stacey Sheppard|
After spending 10 long years trying to get an undergraduate degree, the average student would have given up. For an auto mechanic with an interest in architectural history, Robert Russell wondered when he would find the right career for him.
Finally getting his undergraduate degree from Southern Illinois University, Russell's interests eventually led him to graduate school to study gothic architecture. Armed with a graduate degree from Princeton University, Russell began his teaching career at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. and then the University of Michigan-Dearborn where he taught architectural history and became interested in the development of American cities.
This interest in American cities eventually brought Russell to Charleston, S.C. where he is now a professor of art history and historic preservation. "Charleston allows the best of historic preservation and the study of American cities," Russell says.
In addition to teaching, Professor Russell is involved in many research projects. Russell has recently been researching and writing a book about William Strickland. Strickland is a renowned 19th century architect and one of the founders of the Greek Revival movement in architecture. The second bank of the United States and Merchants' Exchange are two prominent works of his in Philadelphia. Strickland is also the architect who designed Randolph Hall, the most prominent College of Charleston building.
Up next for Russell are multiple encyclopedia entries, book reviews and a book about authenticity and historic preservation. Clearly, he rarely takes time off from his passion for historic preservation.
The undergraduate historic preservation program at the College of Charleston is the largest and most extensive in the country. It is unique to Charleston because without preservation "there would be nothing left to remember," Russell says.
Out of all the historic preservation courses that Russell teaches, he says there is not one that stands out as his favorite. He simply likes what all of them are about and wants to provide his students with as much information and passion for preservation as he has.
One student, Amy Jackson, a junior preservation major, has studied historic preservation for three years. When asked about her interest in the program Jackson says, "Preservation interested me because I have a passion for art and the historical architecture of buildings, especially the houses in Charleston."
Russell says his favorite part of being a historic preservation professor is that what "I like to do has branched into hands-on courses." Showing students the importance of preservation is very special for Russell.
One other special fact about Robert Russell is his interest in gravestones. Over the years the headstones we place at gravesites erode and crumble to pieces. While many of us immediately think this might be morbid and depressing, it actually relates to preservation. From time to time he offers a Maymester course in graveyard restoration that allows students to help with this process. He says it is a "rare opportunity" for students to have the chance to practice preservation..
When asked about what he would like students who are not historic preservation majors to know about the field, Russell says, "Preservation is thinking about the long term, and that's something we all need to consider."
At the College of Charleston, Russell teaches courses such as Introduction to Architecture, The City as a Work of Art, History of American Architecture, History of 18th and 19th Century Architecture, History of 20th Century Architecture, and Cemetery Conservation.
You can find Professor Russell in his office located in historic (of course) 12 Bull St. That is when he's not in the classroom- or a graveyard!