San Francisco and the heritage of cultural innovation

March 31, 2016 Blog, California, Intangible Heritage, Interpretation Comments (0) 1261

The Mission, recently

Heritage conservation is about place even more than buildings, which are large and important but not exclusive constituents of place.  “If these walls could talk” is also true of streets (I did a course for over a decade called “If These Streets Could Talk”)  and sidewalks and trees and mountains and streams and streetlamps benches and on and on….  You also have certain places that have an enduring character despite the passing of decades and technologies, these places just seem to imbue activity in a similar way over time, causing us to assign that “character” to place. Continue Reading

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Integrity and Authenticity

March 16, 2016 Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice, History, Intangible Heritage, Interpretation Comments (0) 1307

My favorite example:  where Ralph Ellison wrote Invisible Man.  Authenticity?  Integrity?

I will presenting at the 7th National Symposium on Historic Preservation Practice this weekend at Goucher College, on the Diversity Deficit and the National Register of Historic Places.  I have written often about this subject over the last five years, but lately my recommendations are getting more specific.  One of those has to do with the concept of Integrity, which I have previously proposed needs to be replaced with Authenticity. Continue Reading

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Lathrop Homes, 3 years after

February 20, 2016 Chicago Buildings, Historic Districts, Sustainability Comments (1) 2353

Full disclosure:  Four years ago, I was the Historic Preservation consultant for the Julia C. Lathrop Homes in Chicago, a very important 1937 federal housing project.  This past Thursday the Chicago Plan Commission approved the current plan for the project, which I ceased to work on when I left Chicago in July 2012. I took the opportunity to compare the plan to my April 2011 Preliminary Report and to the project at the time I left.

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Diversity and American History

December 18, 2015 Blog, Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice, History, Interpretation, Texas Comments (2) 1828

I took this picture in the United States.

For several years I have been working on a problem: the “Diversity Deficit” in the National Register of Historic Places.  95% or more of our historic sites have as their primary significance the story of a male of European descent.  You can see some of this year’s blogs on the topic here and here. Continue Reading

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Strategic Thinking and the Heritage of Every Single Day.

September 9, 2015 Economics, Global Heritage, Sustainability Comments (1) 1448

Aaugh HELP they are tearing it down!!!  NOW!!

One of the many benefits of my three years in Silicon Valley, buttressed by 30 years of serving on non-profit Boards of Directors  (I whittled it down to four recently.  Well, five.)  is that I have been steeped in strategic thinking and strategic planning.  While this may seem like a normal exercise to the MBA crowd, it is something that tends to be lacking in the historic preservation/heritage conservation field. Continue Reading

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National Historic Preservation Act: Addressing the Diversity Deficit

August 4, 2015 Blog, Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice, History, Intangible Heritage, Interpretation, Texas Comments (3) 1880

Two weeks ago I spoke during the meeting of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regarding the Future of the National Register of Historic Places, which will be 50 years old next year.  I detailed some of the shortcomings that have emerged over that time, including a startling “Diversity Deficit.”

Less than 5% of the buildings listed on the National Register evoke the nation’s diverse history – the rest chronicle white men, who are much less than half the country.  I also detailed many of the challenges in preservation practice that we inherited from an architect-driven 1960s practice, one that has a tendency to focus too much on the formal.

The photo is one of may favorite examples, from St. Nicholas Avenue in Hamilton Heights, New York, the building lacks architectural integrity.  But Ralph Ellison wrote Invisible Man there in 1947, a book more relevant than ever today. The building is authentic but does not have integrity.  The problem is not the building but our practice – we adopted the architectural concept of “integrity” in 1966 instead of the international concept of “authenticity.” Continue Reading

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Associazione Canova and the Ossola Valley

July 8, 2015 Blog, Global Heritage Comments (7) 1886

This is the entrance to the village of Canova in the Ossola Valley in northern Italy.  Most of these stone houses date back hundreds of years, and the stone not only forms their walls, but their roofs as well. Continue Reading

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