Historic Preservation

Posted September 3, 2020

Dear Penn preservation community

A message about diversity and inclusion

Dear Penn preservation community,

Undeterred by a raging pandemic, millions have joined the protest movement to finally end systemic racism.  Most colleges and universities have pledged to be a part of that change by reexamining diversity in the curriculum, student body, and faculty.  This work will take time and much effort as we continue to prepare all our students for their professional lives and advocate for change in our disciplines, but it cannot be done as an appendix or footnote to learning.   We must find ways to integrate our views, our actions, our dreams. To this end, in discussion with the faculty and students, we have identified several actions that we trust will put us on a course that begins to realize these goals. 

First, I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Brent Leggs as senior adjunct faculty this year, contributing to the curriculum, to professional development, and to a new research center.

Second, we are in the final stages of developing a new Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites, founded and directed by Professor Randal Mason.  The center will be devoted to the preservation of civil rights sites across the US, creating opportunities for new partnerships, training programs, field projects, and research, and building on our existing partnership with Tuskegee University.

Third, since 2017 the Preservation Program has explored the issues of social and environmental justice through targeted seminars and studios.  This year we will situate and therefore integrate these important issues into our spring semester Public History course. 

Fourth, the Historic Preservation Studio will once again tackle the issues of equitable development, tactical preservation in neighborhoods and sites located in both Philadelphia and Detroit.  Detroit community engagement leader Lauren Hood and other experts will join Randy, Pamela Hawkes, and Dorothy Krotzer to lead workshops, serve as critics, and apply best-practice preservation planning models.

Fifth, for the next three years I will be working with the National Park Service and tribal organizations to introduce Native American students to historic preservation as an educational choice and professional path through a new multi-year project to be announced next month.

Finally, I have invited HP alums to assist the department in exploring how we can better open the field of historic preservation to a more diverse and inclusive group of potential students and faculty. Working groups are being formed now based on a polling of interest and we will be convening this year for recommendations and follow-up.  

All this will be occurring in the unprecedented and remote world of a largely online academic year so I invite you to stay connected with the department and each other.  Academic community is the heart and soul of higher education.  Without it we are lost.

I will leave you with this.  John Lewis, the civil rights leader and congressman who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death. I urge everyone reading this to take a moment and listen to his message. 

Be well, keep safe, stay in touch,

Frank Matero
Professor of Architecture and Chair, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation
Director, The Center for Architectural Conservation
Editor in Chief, Change Over Time