Meet PRC’s new Director of Conservation and Education

This story appeared in the December issue of PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door nine times a year? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!

The Preservation Resource Center is thrilled to welcome a new team member to our talented staff. Michelle Shoriak will be PRC’s new Director of Conservation and Education.

Shoriak has an impressive background in many facets of historic preservation, from hands-on, technical restoration work, to research, having worked as an assistant archivist and in documentation.

Originally hailing from Manassas, Va., Shoriak attended undergrad at Radford University, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in History, not a typical designation for a history major, but the “science” came in as most of her coursework focused on archaeology. After graduation, Shoriak taught for a year in Japan. She then moved back to Manassas, trying to decide if she should pursue a career teaching history. During that time, she worked at the Prince William County Courthouse Archives, and her supervisor there encouraged her to look into historic preservation, given all of her interests.

It was a perfect fit. As she decided which graduate program to attend, it came down to New Orleans or Charleston, S.C. — and New Orleans charmed her from the start. “I loved the city; I liked the structure of the (Tulane Master of Preservation Studies) program; and I even made a friend when I visited the city,” she said. She moved to New Orleans in 2013 and enrolled in the program.

Part of what made her Tulane experience so positive was her internships while in grad school. She made the most of her time, interning for Save our Cemeteries, Cypress Building Conservation, Stratford Hall in Virginia, and also working at the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library on Tulane’s campus. Her projects ranged the gamut of preservation work, from hands-on window restoration and plaster repair at Stratford Hall to a city survey of Bogalusa for the National Register of Historic Places, and work on tax credit projects.

Of all the experiences she earned, Shoriak was especially drawn to hands-on restoration work. “My dad is a mechanic, and I always wanted to be one, too,” she said. “But he said I wasn’t allowed, he wanted me to go to college. So, I found another way to work with my hands,” she laughed. “Finishing a project gives me a sense of accomplishment.” After graduating from Tulane, Shoriak was hired by Staub Window Restoration as its Operations Manager, a position she held for three and a half years.

At Staub, she did it all — window and historic element restoration, training new hires, dealing with clients, estimating jobs. “Sam Staub was a general contractor, so it wasn’t just windows. The real feather in my cap from that job was our restoration of the Willow Grove Plantation House in Baton Rouge,” she said. “We did the entire project. We did an actual historical restoration, taking out all the modern parts of the building and putting it back the way it was, including bousillage” in the walls.

Shoriak left in 2018 to start her own consulting business, and she worked with a variety of clients doing survey work, restoring windows, consulting for National Register nominations, and researching and writing building histories for the PRC. She also worked as an assistant archivist at the Jazz Museum & Louisiana Historical Center.

One of the lasting impacts of Shoriak’s internships back in grad school was that she met her future husband, Michael Shoriak, who is co-owner of Cypress Building Conservation. The two wed in 2019, and in 2020, they welcomed their daughter Mabel into the world.

“It’s really nice to have a husband in the same field, but not in a competitive way,” she said. “We can come to each other with issues and ideas and talk through things.” The two are currently wrapping up a complete restoration of their home in Holy Cross, which they accomplished piece by piece while still living in the home. “There was a lot of termite damage, so we’ve had to redo all the framing, and we also took out all of the drywall and replaced it with plaster, which was really messy, but really fun.”

At the PRC, Shoriak will be in charge of the Revival Grants program, overseeing our free home repairs for low-income homeowners across the city’s historic districts, as well as all of PRC’s educational endeavors, including classes and seminars. We are so excited to have someone with such a broad but deep understanding of preservation practice at the helm of some of our most important initiatives.

Welcome to the PRC family, Michelle!