Human-Centered Built Environment Heritage Preservation

It is with great excitement that I share the publication of my new book, co-edited with Barry Stiefel, Human-Centered Built Environment Heritage Preservation: Theory and Evidence-Based Practice, which was officially released by Routledge last week. (Google Books link here.)

The official description is as follows:

Human-Centered Built Environment Heritage Preservation addresses the question of how a human-centered conservation approach can and should change practice. For the most part, there are few answers to this question because professionals in the heritage conservation field do not use social science research methodologies to manage cultural landscapes, assess historical significance and inform the treatment of building and landscape fabric. With few exceptions, only academic theorists have explored these topics while failing to offer specific, usable guidance on how the social sciences can actually be used by heritage professionals.


In exploring the nature of a human-centered heritage conservation practice, we explicitly seek a middle ground between the academy and practice, theory and application, fabric and meanings, conventional and civil experts, and orthodox and heterodox ideas behind practice and research. We do this by positioning this book in a transdisciplinary space between these dichotomies as a way to give voice (and respect) to multiple perspectives without losing sight of our goal that heritage conservation practice should, fundamentally, benefit all people. We believe that this approach is essential for creating an emancipated built heritage conservation practice that must successfully engage very different ontological and epistemological perspectives.

How important is this book? As far as we are aware, it is the first book that directly addresses human-centered preservation conceptually and in practice. It explores the applied use of methods from environment/behavior research and environmental psychology along with more general, evidence-based approaches from participatory planning and social science methods. Try Googling the words “human centered preservation“. What do you see? Or, moreover, what don’t you see?

The contributing authors to this book represent academics and practitioners and the overall perspective is a balance between theory and practice. We (hopefully) expect this book to appeal to both audiences.

Here’s the full list of chapters and authors:

Foreword by Tom Mayes

Introduction: “Moving Past Conflicts to Foster an Evidence-based, Human-Centric Built Heritage Conservation Practice,” Jeremy C. Wells and Barry L. Stiefel

Part 1: Defining a Human-Centric Built Heritage Conservation Practice

Chapter 1: “Bridging the Gap between Built Heritage Conservation Practice and Critical Heritage Studies,” Jeremy C. Wells

Chapter 2: “The Measurement of Meaning—Psychometrics and Sense of Place,” Suzanne Elizabeth Bott

Chapter 3: “Meeting the Shadow: Resource Management and the McDonaldization of Heritage Stewardship,” Richard M. Hutchings

Chapter 4: “The Mystery of History and Place: Radical Preservation Revisited,” Jack D. Elliott, Jr.

Part 2: Ways to Gather Evidence

Chapter 5: “The Perception and Preservation of Vernacular Architectural Features in an Urban Historic District with Heritage Value: A Case Study from Grand Rapids, Michigan,” You Kyong Ahn

Chapter 6: “Image for the Future of the Historic City: Photo-Elicitation and Architectural Preservation in Barcelona,” AnnaMarie Bliss

Chapter 7: “Conservation and the People’s Views: Ethnographic Perspectives from Jones Beach State Park,” Dana H. Taplin, Suzanne Scheld, and Setha Low

Part 3: Using Evidence to Change Practice

Chapter 8: “Tours of Critical Geography and Public Deliberation: Applied Social Sciences as Guide,” Jennifer Minner

Chapter 9: “Of Policy Lags and “Upgraded” Neighborhoods: Historic Preservation for the Twenty-First Century,” Ted Grevstad-Nordbrock

Chapter 10: “Urban Preservation: A Community and Economic Development Perspective,” Stephanie Ryberg-Webster

Chapter 11: “Using Evidence from the Community to Guide a Local Municipality’s Preservation Program,” Kimberli Fitzgerald

Chapter 12: “Democratizing Conservation: Challenges to Changing the Paradigm of Cultural Heritage Management,” Richard A. Engelhardt, Heather A. Peters, and Montira Horayangura Unakul

Chapter 13: “Missed Opportunities: The Absence of Ethnography in America’s Cultural Heritage Programs,” Richard Vidutis

Part 4: The Role of Higher Education in Leading Evidence-based Practice

Chapter 14: “But Where Are the People? Grappling with Teaching New Approaches to Our Relationship with Place and the Past,” Michelle Jolly, Melinda MilliganMargaret Purser, and Laura Alice Watt

Chapter 15: “The Places My Granddad Built”: Using Popular Interest in Genealogy as a Pedagogical Segue for Historic Preservation, Barry L. Stiefel

Chapter 16: “Resistance To Research: Diagnosis and Treatment of a Disciplinary Ailment,” Ned Kaufman

Conclusion: “A Human-Centered Way Forward,” Jeremy C. Wells and Barry L. Stiefel

Appendix A: “The Palmer House Charter: Principles for Integrating Environmental Design and Behavior Research into Built Heritage Conservation Practice”


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Suzanne Elizabeth Bott

    Thank you and congratulations, Jeremy and Barry. I’m certain this will be a great contribution to the literature and look forward to reading the volume! With the recent passing of David Lowenthal, it feels particularly significant.

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