Disasters, resiliency, and built heritage

I would like to share the work of one of my students, Jamesha Gibson, who recently graduated with a Masters in Historic Preservation and a Master of Community Planning from the University of Maryland. She just published “From Engagement to Empowerment: How Heritage Professionals Can Incorporate Participatory Methods in Disaster Recovery to Better Serve Socially Vulnerable Groups” in the International Journal of Heritage Studies. Marccus Hendricks, Assistant Professor in University of Maryland’s Urban Studies and Planning Program, and I are co-authors for Jamesha’s paper (Jamesha is the first author).

Jamesha’s work is especially important because it combines equity and social justice issues with historic preservation practice, which is an area that is becoming especially critical as climate change and sea level rise result in an increasing frequency and ferocity of disasters. The most vulnerable populations who will be affected by climate change are also the same populations that historic preservation practice often marginalizes, such as African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, among many other possibilities. These groups constantly have to work within a social environment that marginalized their needs, values, and cultural meanings. And, perhaps not surprisingly, when a disaster displaces communities and destroys their cultural assets, those groups who are already in a dominant position of power and authority receive the most time and financial resources. This is an issue that the field of historic preservation needs to fully engage in a way that recognizes the past ills of practice, but also the potential for the use of heritage as a tool to make communities more resilient to disasters.

Again, this is an excellent article well worth the read.

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