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Amber Wiley, an award-winning architectural and urban historian whose teaching and research center on the social aspects of design and how it affects urban communities, will join the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design as Presidential Associate Professor and the inaugural Matt and Erika Nord Director of the Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites (CPCRS). She will teach principally in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation.
“This is as close to a dream job as one can get, and I am looking forward to building on the work that [Founding Faculty Director] Randy Mason has done and moving the vision forward,” said Wiley, currently an assistant professor of art history at Rutgers University. “As we re-examine the multitude of ways people have fought against oppression in this country, and understand how these stories and battles are embedded within the built environment, CPCRS can be instrumental.”
Wiley’s scholarship examines how preservation and public history contribute to the creation and maintenance of the identity and sense of place of a city. Her work focuses on the ways local and national bodies have claimed the dominating narrative and collective memory of cities. Wiley’s publications concern African American and African diasporic cultural heritage, urbanism in New Orleans, school design, urban renewal, and preservation policy.
“We are thrilled Amber Wiley is joining the Weitzman team to lead this important initiative,” said Matt Nord (W’01), a member of the Weitzman Board of Advisors who made a significant gift to endow the directorship. “Erika and I believe it is incredibly important to preserve the civil rights heritage that has helped to shape our communities. We believe this Center has the potential to be a powerful platform through which we can deepen our understanding of history and the vibrant cultures that are foundational to our country.”
Wiley’s current book project, under contract with the University of Pittsburgh Press, is entitled Model Schools in the Model City: Race, Planning, and Education in the Nation’s Capital. A second research project, The Revolution Continues: The Legacy of Black Heritage Movement, narrates the influence of the Afro-American Bicentennial Corporation on the national historic preservation scene in the 1970s.
As a practitioner, Wiley has been active nationally, completing interpretation, research, and visioning projects for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Monument Lab, the DC History Center, and the National Building Museum. She was co-principal investigator of the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site National Historic Landmark Nomination Update, and she is a founding member of the DC Legacy Project: Barry Farm-Hillsdale steering committee.Wiley’s leadership in institutional change is exemplified by the exhibition she curated with her students entitled Collective Yearning: Black Women Artists from the Zimmerli Art Museum, at the Mary H. Dana Women Artist Series and Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Featuring prints, photographs, and multimedia artworks, this exhibition is the first time Rutgers University has conducted a comprehensive and methodical review of its holdings of art by Black women artists. Many of the artists in the exhibition, which is on view until December 14, 2022, have ties to New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia.
Wiley’s activism and scholarship have been honored by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and Vernacular Architecture Forum. Her work has been supported by Dumbarton Oaks, the Mellon Foundation, the Society of Architectural Historians, Artstor, the American Educational Research Association, and the SRI Foundation.
Wiley received her PhD in American Studies from George Washington University. She also holds a Master of Architectural History and Certificate in Historic Preservation from the University of Virginia School of Architecture, and a BA in Architecture from Yale University.
The Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites (CPCRS) at Weitzman works in partnership with organizations based in Philadelphia and elsewhere in the US, including Tuskegee University and the National Park Service, to raise visibility and build capacity where historic preservation and civil rights histories intersect. CPCRS maintains a program of research, teaching, and fieldwork to re-orient the preservation field toward narratives, ideas, and practices embodying the preservation of civil rights heritage and access to heritage as a civil right.
CPCRS was founded in 2019 by Randall Mason, a professor in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at Penn and the former faculty director of PennPraxis, the consulting and community engagement arm of the Weitzman School. Mason will continue contributing to CPCRS projects.
Wiley’s appointment begins in January of 2023 and she will assume leadership of CPCRS in July of 2023. Her teaching appointment will be reviewed by the provost and the Board of Trustees this fall.