Special EDRA47 intensive on using social science evidence to change built heritage conservation practice

EvidenceEnvironmental Design Research Association Conference, Raleigh, North Carolina, May 18, 2016

As part of my activities with the Environmental Design Research Association’s (EDRA’s) Historic Environment Knowledge Network, I have been working with my co-chair, April Allen, along with Ned Kaufman to design a day-long intensive on conservation and the social sciences at the upcoming EDRA47 conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. The intensive is scheduled for Wednesday, May 18.

The official description for this intensive is as follows:

In 2012, the Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS) was formed at a meeting at the University of Gothenburg, which produced a manifesto of its aims to “ruthlessly criticize” elite notions of cultural heritage and the “fetishising of expert knowledge” to challenge “traditional ways of thinking about and doing heritage.” The manifesto claims that there are too many experts in history, architecture, and art history, and not enough in cultural aspects of heritage. The goal of ACHS is to “democratize heritage” by rejecting the “old, grand, prestigious, expert approved sites, buildings and artefacts that sustain Western narratives of nation, class and science.” Although the field of heritage studies has existed for over 30 years, for the first time, researchers and theorists now have a shared vision of what the future of heritage conservation should look like and it is very different from how conservation is practiced today. Most importantly, however, there is a growing divide between heritage studies theorists who critique heritage conservation practice through the lens of the social sciences and heritage conservation practitioners (e.g., historic preservation) who actually do the on‐the‐ground work of conservation, largely without the use of social sciences. The theorists often do not have a practice background and fail to address the regulatory aspects of conservation and the practitioners are unintentionally excluded from the conversation because they lack a social science background. ACHS’s manifesto fails to address practitioners as allies in their mission to democratize heritage and instead views these professionals only as objects to critique. This intensive will describe this gap and ways to bridge it from a transdisciplinary perspective.

A draft schedule for this intensive is below. Participation from interested historic preservation/heritage conservation practitioners is especially welcome. (The EDRA conference is multidisciplinary and welcomes all individuals with an interest in the built environment/cultural landscapes and environment/behavior research.)

Draft schedule of “Using Applied Social Science Methodologies to Conserve the Historic Environment: Can Evidence Change Practice?”

8:30 am to 8:45 am: Introduction

8:45 to 4:00 Individual presentations (15 minutes each)

8:45 to 11:00 — Gathering and using empirical evidence to influence practice

  • April D. Allen, “How Evidence Can Assist in the Conservation of Historic Buildings”
  • You-Kyong Ahn, “Importance and Preservation of Vernacular Features in Urban Historic District: Case Study of Wealthy Heights in Grand Rapids, Michigan”
  • Daniel Levi, “Attitudes toward Historic Preservation and the Management of Historic Sites”
  • AnnaMarie Bliss, “Image for the Future of the Historic City through Architectural Preservation in Barcelona”
  • Ted Grevstad-Nordbrock, “Using Social Science Methods to Shed Light on Preservation’s Impacts: A Chicago Case Study”
  • Annie McDonald, “The National Register of Historic Places at 50: From an Academic Past to a Pragmatic Future”

Discussion (20-30 minutes)

11:00 to 11:15 — break

11:15 to 1:00 — Bridging practice and theory from a social, cultural, and experiential perspective

  • Jeremy C. Wells, “Are Heritage Conservation Practitioners Only Valuable as Objects to Critique?”
  • Jack D. Elliott, Jr., “Radical Preservation Revisited: A Return to Roots”
  • Michael R. Allen, “Trashing Historic Preservation: Toward a Cultural Heritage Conservation Ethic that Challenges Destruction”

Discussion (15-20 minutes)

1:00 to 2:30 — lunch break (on your own)

2:30 to 3:15 — Pedagogy

  • Barry L. Stiefel, “‘The Places My Granddad Built’: Using Popular Interest in Genealogy as a Pedagogical Segway for Historic Preservation”
  • Melinda Milligan and Michelle Jolly, “Shared Places, Contested Pasts: Interdisciplinary Lessons on Pedagogy and Practice”

Discussion (10 minutes)

3:15 to 3:45 — Challenges for the future

  • Ned Kaufman, “Organizational and Strategic Obstacles for the Future of Evidence-based Heritage Conservation”

Discussion (10-15 minutes)

3:45 to 4:00 — break

4:00 to 5:30 — Discussion on How to Change Practice

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