preservationTOMORROW: A Reading List About the Future of Preservation

By Forum Online posted 10-17-2014 11:05

PastForward_LOGO_RGBThe preservationTOMORROW track at PastForward promises an intriguing variety of perspectives on the future of the preservation movement, including how to make preservation relevant in a changing world, how to respond to shifting demographics, and how to ensure preservation resonates with young, culturally diverse audiences. Majora Carter, an Urban Revitalization Strategist and a 2005 MacArthur Genius Fellow will be the keynote speaker for this track, which is also the opening plenary. Her presentation, which takes place on Wednesday, November 12, will look at how preservation approaches or engagement is—or should be—changing in the 21st century.

We have prepared the following reading—and in some cases “viewing” —list to get you ready for what promises to be a thought-provoking series of presentations and discussions. Our list is a bit eclectic—but then, there’s a lot to think about going forward! (Additional Reading Lists: preservationSTORY, preservationVENTURE, preservationCRISIS)

You will want to start by viewing the TED talk by keynote speaker Majora Carter. Her TED talk, “Greening the Ghetto,” was one of the first six talks that launched In it, she discusses the link between environmental degradation and social inequality in the South Bronx. She also presents three stories of eco-entrepreneurship in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Whitesville, Virginia. You can also read an interview she did for the American Society of Landscape Architects on the role designers and landscape architects can play in revitalizing communities. And finally, you will want to read the recent Next City article, “How Majora Carter Plans to Transform a Building of Injustice in New York,” in which Alexis Stephens looks at Carter’s recent project—a proposal for the adaptive use of the juvenile Spofford Detention Center in Hunts Point.

Holly Sidford, president of Helicon Collaborative, will be one of the responders at TrustLive: preservationTOMORROW. Helicon Collaborative’s recent report “Making Meaningful Connections: Characteristics of arts groups that engage new and diverse participants” was produced for the James Irvine Foundation. It looks at demographic changes in California and the means by which art and cultural institutions are successfully engaging a new, diverse audience. Nina Simon of Museum 2.0 presents an overview of the report in this blog post, appreciating its straightforward, jargon-free presentation. She summarizes the three aspects of the report that she most enjoyed—its “friendship” analogy, its call for structural change rather than targeted programming, and its recognition that “deepening” existing values can be more important than adopting new values. She also ponders the report's lack of a “case statement” as to why the report is relevant everywhere despite possible differences in regional ethnography, and its call for a “balancing” of its five recommended practices, concluding by asking for opinions of the report in the comments.

The learning lab “Changing Demographics: The Consequences for Historic Preservation” on Thursday, November 13, will consider how shifts in where and how people want to live will affect the future of historic preservation. In 2010 the Brookings Institution released the “State of Metropolitan America” report, which explores how demographic and social trends will shape U.S. cities. Stating that the terms “Rust Belt” and “Sun Belt” are dead, the report focuses on the following new categories that are defining large metropolitan areas: “Next Frontier” (Washington, D.C.), “New Heartland” (Atlanta and Charlotte), “Diverse Giant” (New York and Los Angeles), “Border Growth” (southern border state cities plus Orlando), “Mid-Sized Magnet” (mostly Southeastern locations), “Skilled Anchors” (Boston, Philadelphia, Akron), and lastly “Industrial Cores” (older industrial centers of the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast).

The learning lab session on demographics will consider the future of suburbia. In June 2009, Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson wrote an essay for the Urban Land Institute on retrofitting suburbia. You can watch Dunham-Jones' TED talk on solutions for redesign and redevelopment of suburbs below. Also check out “Skyscrapers in the Subdivision,” in which Amanda Kolson Hurley counters the popular notion that suburbia is dead by discussing why suburban neighborhoods are vibrant and here to stay, presenting the examples of Montgomery County in Maryland and the York region of Ontario.


In addition to the discussion of who will be engaged in preservation in the future will be the question of how we will engage people in the future. In the learning lab "Where Hip Meets Historic,” several panelists will explore innovative and creative methods to reach out to the public. Learn more about what two of the panelists are doing by watching a TED talk from Bernice Radle and reading “10 Tips for Introducing the Public to Preservation”  by PreservationNation blogger Dana Saylor.

In a three-blog series, David Brown, the National Trust’s Chief Preservation Officer, discusses the dynamic future of the historic preservation movement. He explains how the movement is reaching a broader, more diverse membership while recognizing that preservation itself means more than simply the saving of old buildings. Rather, it is increasingly seeking the protection of historic sites through the promotion of those sites as a vital resource for intelligent urban development. The preservation movement is also emphasizing the importance of historic places to all members of the communities who have lived there, including those who have been historically marginalized. Brown’s posts can be found at “Preservation in the 21st Century: Change Is the Constant,” “Preservation in the 21st Century: Preservation Is About People,” and “Preservation in the 21st Century: Preservation is a Political Movement.”

In the Why Do Old Places Matter blog series, National Trust’s Deputy General Counsel Tom Mayes discusses the numerous ways in which historic places are vital to a community and the individuals living within it. He invites readers to comment on and discuss how historic sites have affected them under each of several means by which historic places hold an important role in society. So far Mayes has covered the sense of continuity provided by historic places, how they help us to remember our personal pasts, how they—and sometimes their loss—shape our individual and collective identities, how we look at historic places through a prism of beauty, history, architecture, sacred, how they inspire creativity, and how they provide opportunities for learning. Mayes will present more on his research at the “Why Old Places Matter” learning lab on Thursday, November 13.

Joining Mayes in the “Why Old Places Matter” learning lab is Jeremy Wells. In his “Historic Preservation, Significance, and Phenomenology” article for the Environmental & Architectural Phenomenology Newsletter, Wells notes that when most people are asked why they appreciate historic places, they will more often than not answer based on their emotional connection to the site. He advocates that this phenomenology should “form a core methodology for understanding how people are attached to older built environments.”

Finally, we look to the next generation of preservation leaders to gain insight in preservationTOMORROW. In the learning lab “Student Thinking, Student Perspectives” we get a glimpse of new thinking and new ways of doing preservation. To read more about the topics covered, check out the “Student Thinking, Student Perspectives” blog post by Richard Wagner, director of the historic preservation program at Goucher College.

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