Looking Back on 2020: Where Do We Go From Here?

By Priya Chhaya posted 12-23-2020 09:14


At the heart of our work as historic preservationists is the philosophy of acknowledging and managing change. Every place, landscape, or piece of cultural heritage we strive to protect is affected by external factors that can be attributed to both human and natural intervention.

Our challenge is to ask: how much change is too much change?

In an answer that might seem antithetical to protecting spaces of the past, my answer is as much as we can handle, and then more.

Restoration of the second floor foyer, arch and staircase at the Tate Etienne Prevost Center in September 2020. Learn more about the Center  and another recipient of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund in this piece by Lawana Holland -Moore | Credit: Tremaine Riley/ Leona Tate Foundation for Change

We have, as it is impossible to avoid, found ourselves at an intersection of two interlocking moments of crisis. For the field, the COVID-19 pandemic stripped away even an illusion of stability revealing just how fragile our institutions are to economic challenges.

More importantly, we were forced to recognize the complicity of a profession that struggles against systemic challenges limiting inclusion, diversity, and telling the full story.

 Where do we go from here? For most  in this field, the work we do as historic preservationists comes from a belief that understanding the past is essential in meeting the critical challenges of the day—that building stronger communities, or helping to elevate underrepresented histories will help us face what divides us in order to form a “more perfect union” .

The only way to do this is to be honest with ourselves about what changes look like in 2021.

Here on Preservation Leadership Forum we have provided you with resources in the form of webinars, curated webpages, and online discussions. But we know that action is also needed and we will continue to support the field as it walks through this essential transformation.

Next week we'll be sharing a piece by Marisa Brown outlining her suggested resolutions for 2021, but one of the first things—or the last thing for the year—that you can do is take part in the PennPraxis survey. This 10-minute survey explores the makeup of the historic preservation field and how it is changing in light of contemporary issues. The survey is a project of PennPraxis, supported by the 1772 Foundation. Results will be shared in publications available on the PennPraxis website. (For more information, contact rfmason[at] The survey closes in mid-January.

As we close the year, here is a reminder of some of the resources available to you—and a reminder of a few things we accomplished. Please join us in sharing your New Year’s resolutions on Forum Connect.

On Inclusion and Equity

Preserving African American Places: Growing Preservation's Potential as a Path for Equity


 On Surviving COVID-19

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