Outside the Box: A Reading List For Change

By Priya Chhaya posted 07-15-2020 13:20


Last week Preservation Leadership Forum published a piece by Brown University professor Marisa Angell Brown that addressed “Preservation’s Existential Crisis.” In that piece Brown examined some of the standard practices of preservation and described how some of these methods are used to create a culture of inequity.

That piece is just the beginning of a conversation that the field will need to grapple with in the months and years to come, and we at Preservation Leadership Forum are committed to supporting that work through webinars, articles, discussions, and more. We start by bringing back a feature used as a lead-up to our annual conference: The Reading List.

Bryan Lee Jr., speaking about design justice during his keynote speech at PastForward 2017 in Chicago. | Credit: David Keith Photography

We recognize there is a lot of information out there, and we encourage preservationists to look outside the box to listen and hear from different perspectives as we  create a more inclusive preservation practice. These reading lists are designed to look not only at allied and preservation adjacent fields, but also industries and issues that are outside the day-to-day work of preservationists.

While each list may have a specific angle, this first one looks at the different ways in which we as preservationists can be anti-racist as individuals, organizations, and in practice. Links are also included about the ways in which social justice, design, and planning all intersect.

This list is by no means comprehensive. If you have a suggestion for a future list,  feel free to share it in the resources thread on Forum Connect.

Institutional Change

"Creating an Ethic of Care for Black Life" by Aleia Brown: Presented on Twitter through the National Council on Public History, historian and advocate Aleia Brown describes the importance of building an ethic of care for Black life through the dismantling and re-invention of standard systems of historical work. She provides readings and resources for public historians to examine key theoretical underpinnings of community engagement such as the concept of “Shared Authority.”

"Boston Globe: Why Words Aren’t Enough":  This piece from the Boston Globe asks companies and corporations to look beyond statements and commit to real and lasting change in their organizational structures. The piece provides additional resources such as the “Interaction Institution for Social Change,” “The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond,” and a look at funding through the Greenlining Institute.

Other Spaces of Learning:

On Words and Language

One of the key areas for the work of inclusion is understanding the language that is often used to create systems of oppression. This piece from looks closer at the term BIPOC and the broader ways in which linguistics has evolved and changed over time.

On Design and Planning

The work of historic preservationists is more often then not entangled with issues of design and planning. Below, a piece by Bryan Lee, Jr. (keynote speaker at PastForward in 2017 in Chicago) for Bloomberg CityLab picks apart the role of design justice in America’s cities. For more on that work, check out the Design Justice Network and the DAP Collective, which looks to design as an integral piece of protest.

From the planning side, this piece  shared in other preservation circles looks at the role of whiteness in planning structures. As authors Edward Goetz, Rashad Williams, and Anthony Damiano state, "Planners and planning scholars need to understand the role of Whiteness, in particular White affluence, to assess the potential impacts of planning interventions. Doing so will inform a wider range of planning approaches to problems of racial and spatial equity.”

We also recommend reading the manifesto for BlackSpace, a group of planners, architects, artists, activists, and designers and leaders “working to protect and create Black spaces.” 

On Monuments, Commemoration, and Memorials

Finally, as we continue to have conversations about monuments and commemoration at various levels of our government, here are two perspectives on how to approach and talk about this work in other ways.