Historic Preservation

Student working equipment in the lab


The thesis is a requirement for the Master of Science in Historic Preservation and a foundation of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation’s curriculum.  Mastery of the research process is essential for professional success and the progressive evolution of the field.  The thesis is therefore required as a capstone course intended to demonstrate competency in the field, accomplishment in a chosen area of specialization, and the capacity to perform independent research.

Thesis topics are chosen according to several criteria: the topic is relevant to an individual’s interests and capabilities; it reflects the preparedness acquired through the program’s core and elective courses; it contributes to the intellectual capital of the preservation field. Theses are built on original research, and in some cases original design work or laboratory experimentation. 

Individually and collectively, the hundreds of Penn Preservation theses represent an impressive intellectual achievement – and a good reflection on the intellectual and practical questions driving preservation practice.

View and download the Historic Preservation Theses collected on Scholarly Commons.
Search for topics and read abstracts in the Historic Preservation Thesis Database.

Selected Student Thesis Projects

Building with sign reading City of Austin Power Plant

Image Source STG Design.

Seeking to illuminate climate justice-oriented preservation work such as adaptive reuse and stewardship of...

Bulldozer in desert next to fence

Photo courtesy of KBPS News and U.S. Border Patrol.

Study on competing policy effects on cultural landscapes of the border wall region.


Local governments devise incentive programs to mitigate the “stick” directed towards owners of historic houses.

Black and white photo of a building with a sign: Public Baths and Wash House

Image courtesy Harvard Art Museums.

Philadelphia’s public bathhouses, architectural aesthetics, and the morality of cleanliness

Building 92 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard: 1858 brick building with 2011 glass and steel addition

One of La Porte's four case studies: a 2014 expansion of the 19th-century Marine Commandant’s residence designed by Thomas Ustick Walter. It now serves as the site for a permanent exhibition about the history of the Yard as well as an employment center.

Exploring synergies between conservation and broad urban planning policies.

Map of Airbnb listings in New Orleans

Map generated by Fei based on data from Inside Airbnb and New Orleans Open Data.

How can cities regulate Airbnb to protect historic properties and promote public engagement with historic...