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Preservation’s Existential Crisis


From: Monday, October 26, 2020, 08:00am

To: Monday, October 26, 2020, 05:00pm

  • Marisa Angell Brown, Ph.D. (John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities)
    Monday, Oct. 26, 12pm
    Zoom Link

In the US, a struggle is under way to tell a more accurate story about the past. Across the country, educators are revising curriculum units on Black and Indigenous history, activists are demanding the removal or recontexualization of public art that promotes white supremacy, and a new generation of writers and artists are articulating a radical critique of the racial hierarchy and violence that has shaped American history and identity. Where does preservation fit into this movement? Not comfortably – and possibly not at all. A fundamental problem is that the urgent need to radically remake the built and interpreted environment to tell a more accurate and just story of our past is in conflict with the mission of preserving many of our “historic” sites. That is, we can have preservation, or we can have spatial justice, but it may be that we cannot have both. This presentation considers the dimensions of preservation’s existential crisis, and offers thoughts on the structural changes that would need to take place at all levels – from policy to culture to curriculum – for the field to survive this era of historical reckoning intact.


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