Civil expert: Members of a community who understand their own heritage through cultural and personal expression and intuition. As such, these individuals are knowledge experts in terms of the characteristics of heritage that are meaningful to their community and reasons why these meanings are important. Meanings held by civil experts can consist of intangible heritage and folklore, among many other possibilities. The validity of these meanings is not judged against scientific “truth” or “facts”; as such, these meanings do not need to be congruent with the values held by professionals who work in the built environment.
Conventional expert: Individuals who are professionally trained and educated built heritage practitioners, planners, and environmental conservators. Conventional experts describe their meanings and values as objective and based on the scientific method and facts; these meanings depend on a Western, positivistic, Cartesian paradigm for their validity.
Environmental psychology: Environmental psychology is a subfield of social psychology that explores how people interact with and engage with their surroundings. It is deeply engaged in understanding the way people behave in certain environments and how certain environments might influence behavior, feeling, and cognition.
Heritage: A description of the meanings assigned to older moveable or immovable objects; these meanings may, or may not, be grounded in historical facts.
Heritage conservation: A noun that describes the protection of the physical fabric and/or sociocultural meanings of heritage objects.
Heritage object: A generic description of older movable items, such as found in museums, or immovable items, such as buildings, that are considered to have historical or cultural significance of some kind.
Heritage studies: The study of the identification, protection, and treatment of heritage from a social science perspective. See “heterodox theory and practice” for a description of its origin.
Heterodox theory and practice: In the 1970s, post-processual archaeology began to question the positivistic assumptions of archaeology practice and emphasized the role of interpretation in heritage conservation. Building on this precedent, David Lowenthal published The Past is a Foreign Country in 1985, which is considered to be the start of the “heritage studies” discipline, which takes a critical approach to orthodox heritage conservation practice. Heterodox theory is therefore associated with the work of heritage studies scholars, who are largely from an anthropological background. The primary goal of heterodox theory, which is based on a post-modern paradigm, is to conserve the meanings associated with heritage and empower communities with “bottom-up” approaches; these meanings are gathered from a wide variety of stakeholders and interpreted via social science research methodologies. One of the first consistent uses of the term “heterodox heritage” is by Lucas Lixinski in his article, “Between Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy: The Troubled Relationships between Heritage Studies and Heritage Law” (International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol. 21, no. 3, 2015, pp. 203-215).
Historic environment: A holistic description of the collection of older buildings, structures, and landscape elements that exist in the human environment. Often the definition of “historic” in this phrase is vague, but it can mean that these heritage objects are officially recognized as “historic” by government bodies or informally by certain cultural groups. This phrase is sometimes used interchangeably with “cultural landscapes” and is in most common usage in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Historic preservation: A noun that is only used in the United States to primarily to describe the conservation of built heritage, but can also be construed to apply to the conservation of cultural landscapes. About three-quarters of the paid, professional practice of historic preservation, in the US, is driven by historic preservation policy.
Historic preservation policy: A bureaucratic system whereby local, state, or federal governments systematically make required or guided decisions on topics that impact the public. Preservation policy is commonly understood to take the form of laws, regulations, and guidelines that governmental agencies use to implement an historic preservation program for the benefit of the public.
Local knowledge: Sometimes referred to as “contextual” or “situated knowledge,” this concept respects the fact that the people who live or work in context with specific environmental or cultural contexts are experts on their own lived experiences; in recognition of their unique expertise, these individuals are refereed to as “civil experts”. For instance, someone who has lived in his/her/their neighborhood for forty years knows a great deal about the cultural practices that take place in their neighborhood, local social networks, and how their neighborhood has changed over the years than an outside, conventionally-trained expert. In the context of heritage, local residents are uniquely positioned to be experts on how their community values its own heritage. The dismissal of local knowledge can become a social justice issue when an outside expert imposes his/her/their values on a local community in an attempt to displace this local knowledge with objective art/historical facts.
Minoritized identities, people with: People whose racial, ethnic, religious, gender, and/or sexual identities are not part of the dominant group. The dominant group’s identity, in the United States, is white, non-Latinx, Christian, cis-gender, and heterosexual. Examples of people with minoritized identities include African American people, Asian American people, Latinx people, Indigenous people, People of Color, Muslim people, Jewish people, Hindu people, and LGBTQ+ people, among many other possibilities.
Orthodox theory and practice: The dominant way that built heritage conservation is theorized and practiced, which has become law in many developed countries. Its theoretical perspective is based on the ideas of white, male, aristocratic Europeans of the nineteenth century (John Ruskin, William Morris, Camillo Boito) and on international charters developed before the 1970s: the Athens Charter (1931) and Venice Charter (1964). Regulatory systems in most developed countries adapted the Venice Charter to laws and rules that prescribed the conservation of built heritage. The primary goal of orthodox heritage theory and practice, which is based on a positivistic paradigm, is to conserve the physical fabric of heritage objects in order to avoid a “false sense of history”. Orthodox practice is defined by “top-down” processes and expert rule.
Participatory research: Applied, community-driven or grass roots research in which the division between the “researcher” and the “subject” can be completely blurred. Participants are empowered to design the overall research strategy, collect and interpret data, and participate in presentation of these data. The “researcher,” in this context becomes a facilitator and does not dictate any specific solutions, directions, or methods. Specific methodologies are action research, community-based participatory research, community-led research, or facilitated research. Participatory research places a great deal of emphasis on the collection, use of, and respect for local knowledge.
Positivism: A perspective on the nature of reality and knowledge that is associated with the scientific method, objectivity, quantification, remote observation, and prediction. It assumes that “facts” or truth can exist independently of interpretation. Clifford Geertz famously questioned the ability of positivistic research designs to understand cultural phenomena. He analyzed a wink from a positivistic and constructivist (or post-modern) perspective. In the former case, he described how the timing of a wink could be measured and objectively analyzed, but yet it utterly failed to reveal the real meaning behind a wink. In order to understand the meaning of the wink, the researcher must adopt an emic or inside perspective—the same as the person being studied—and in the process destroy the barrier between researcher and subject. The wink, in fact, conveyed a “thick” set of meanings that a “thin” positivistic research design completely missed.
Social science research methodologies: The rigorous techniques used by social scientists (e.g., anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, humanistic geographers) to gather, analyze, and interpret data that originates from people in social, cultural, or individual contexts. Data can consist of numbers, which are then analyzed via statistical methods, or meanings, which are analyzed through a process known as “coding” — producing themes or overarching organizational structures from texts, audio, or video.
Sustaining people in place: Traditionally, the primary focus of historic preservation/built heritage conservation is on sustaining the physical continuity of buildings, places, and cultural landscapes; the people who live and work in these places are a second priority or even an afterthought. Frequently, therefore, traditional preservation/conservation activity focuses on aesthetics, up-scaling communities (e.g., boutique shopping), and the implicit emphasis on changing the socioeconomic demographic of an area by increasing the number of higher income individuals. This demographic change, which long-term residents often perceive as a policy-driven endeavor to “whiten” communities, disrupts neighborhoods and is a cause of social injustice. By, instead, focusing on ways to encourage people to stay in their neighborhoods through financial and community/social support, the beneficial side effect can often be the preservation/conservation of place, especially with small, legacy businesses. In other words, rather than relying on outsiders to bring economic resources to a neighborhood, the focus is on helping existing businesses to thrive in an effort to minimize disruptive demographic changes. For instance, helping a legacy business to be successful means that the older building. in which the business is located, is also preserved; empty, unused buildings lead to the loss of historic resources. Used buildings are saved buildings. University of Maryland’s Small Business Anti-Displacement Network, led by Dr. Willow Lung-Amam, is an example of a group of people dedicated to sustaining people in place, which results in the preservation of the built environment.