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While driving country roads, a common sight used to be farmhouses with an accompanying red barn and various outbuildings. It seems that it is becoming rare as the structures that were the heart of farms and the rural family’s life are being removed due to decay and weathering. One Michigan woman’s goal is to save as many as she can by educating the public and forming a network of others who can assist in fulfilling her dream.

Jan Corey Arnett of Michigan considers it her duty to reach out and encourage the care and upkeep of barns throughout the state and the nation, and shares her knowledge in programs. She has an extensive collection of photos of barns with some of the pictures considered very special as the buildings have since disappeared.

Arnett is known as the Barn Lady and has authored a couple of books including one specifically about American barns.

“Why are so many barns dying?” Arnett asked. “Well, farms are changing. The barns are dying because of neglect...lack of information...lack of money...and procrastination.”

She shares information about the preserving of buildings with a note about the European perspective where historical value is the most important. Arnett is concerned about the lack of creativity with the saving of the barns and other historical buildings.

“Ideally a barn can stay a barn where it is,” she said. “Sometimes relocating is a possibility. The use of materials from a decrepit barn to repair one in better condition but in need of replacement wood.” Arnett talked about the different ways that a barn can moved with options being loaded as a whole building, taking large sections of it, or completely dismantling for reconstruction on another property.

She discusses the struggle to get insurance for outbuildings and legal ways to appreciate them. Barns continue to be popular venues for weddings but current laws make it difficult to enjoy this idea.

Arnett shares photos from her collection along with original art and the uses of barn materials in her presentations. M any stories were talked about concerning team work, future uses, and the adopting of the old structures. One picture showed a group of FFA members from Bark River who teamed up with Campbell’s Soup company to save a barn.

Barns are being appreciated as agricultural museums, homes, and churches. There are some barns being adopted in order to keep them standing. One example is the Edsel Ford Sheep Barn in Highland.

She encourages becoming an advocate for the barns by inspiring children and exposing them to the magnificence of the buildings. 

Arnett shares her passion through educating the public by writing, speaking, and recording the structures in photos. She is always interested in barns with unusual designs and architectural features along with the ones in danger of ‘disappearing’. Her website, www.jancoreyarnett.com, has more information and an option to contact her.

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