HISP 635 Social and Ethnic Issues in Historic Preservation Practice



Faculty Assigned
Th 7:00pm - 9:40pm (ARC 1117)

Relatively few historic sites across North America do a good job of interpreting women’s experiences, never mind the histories and cultures of non-privileged and non-white racial groups, socially-marginalized groups like the poor, or GLBTQ people. This seminar will focus on the issues, challenges, and some theoretical and practical techniques for documenting, recovering, and interpreting the everyday lives and cultures of people whose heritage often gets overlooked, distorted, erased, or made invisible. New preservation practices implemented since the 1980s are shaping our understandings of heritage and of the built environment in important ways. They provide powerful tools for local citizens and grassroots groups engaged in historical research and small-p planning, as well as preservationists, planners, designers, and policy makers. The new critical preservation practices raise fundamental questions about what preservation and heritage encompasses, who gets to be a preservationist, the functions of grassroots preservation in a democracy, and how best to research, conserve, and interpret both tangible and intangible heritage of a much broader range of North Americans.

Students will explore these issues through weekly readings and the occasional viewing that will include 1) theoretical texts from cultural studies, critical race theory, African American Studies, gender studies, historical archaeology, and critical geography, and 2) case studies of local, national, and international heritage sites. We will also take some fieldtrips, and participate in Maryland Day with residents of the Lakeland Community. The class will form a partnership with members of the Lakeland Community Heritage Project to record current and former residents' oral histories about growing up and livingin Lakeland. The project, which will model best practices in community-grounded preservation, will be partly supported on an Omeka-driven software platform.


Catalog Description

This seminar course examines the broader social and ethnic dimensions of historic preservation practice that have impacted the field since the “culture wars” of the 1990’s. Through weekly case studies of local, national, and international sites, students will explore these issues and apply newly emerging methodologies to their final case study project. 

Goals and Objectives

  • To learn about best practices focusing on preservation of the heritage of racial-ethnic or other groups of people frequently left out of mainstream preservation practice and interpretation.
  • To become conversant with the literature of new critical preservation studies and practice.
  • To ponder whether and how preservationists, historians, ethnographers, and cultural landscape specialists need to rethink or reorient research and methods to produce a socially-just, inclusive, and equitable scholarly practice.
  • To partner with a community group to record, recover, and interpret the neighborhood’s history, culture, and heritage.
  • To craft a supportive, challenging, and intellectually rewarding environment in which students can work together to enhance each others’ learning, work constructively as a team, and self-monitor their progress to complete a challenging project on time.


Permission of ARCH-Historic Preservation Program. Credit only granted for: HISP628E or HISP635. Formerly: HISP628E.