Upcoming Virtual Program to Explore ‘Evolution of Preservation’

An upcoming virtual program sponsored by the House Museum Alliance of Downtown Boston on Thursday, May 27, will explore recent progress made by historic house museums and other historic sites to broaden their respective scopes from focusing predominantly on white culture to include other more-diverse perspectives.

In “The Evolution of Preservation: from Elitism to Equity,” Alison Frazee, assistant director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, will discuss how historic sites continue to change their practices to be more inclusive, accessible and deliberate in an effort to tell everyone’s history through preservation.

“One key message is in the past, there was only one type of history, but now we’ve broadened what we preserve and interpret to tell the story of all people,” she said

For her discussion, Frazee will draw heavily from the Act (Advocate Certificate Training) class she teaches at Boston Preservation Alliance, which educates students on the fundamentals of historic preservation, including how they can become preservation advocates in their own neighborhoods (and which must be completed in order to receive ACT certification).

While equity in preservation has come to the fore in recent years, particularly in 2020, this movement, she said, actually got its start nearly 45 years ago when the nation was gearing up for the Bicentennial and began to consider the accounts of Native American and Black Americans, among other viewpoints that were too often previously neglected or ignored.

“I understand that some movements and emotions today all come from events that occurred in the past so part of what we do is connect the past to the present,” said Frazee. “There’s always more to the story for any historic site, building or space.”

Michael Maler, Historic New England’s Metro-Boston regional site administrator, sees the upcoming discussion with Frazee as “an opportunity to start looking at preservation as a more equitable science.”

“There’s so much redevelopment going on now that it’s a great time to look at preservation and see how we move forward and make positive change and improve livability in the city,” Maler added.” I look forward to a more equitable approach where different buildings, and histories, are considered in preservation [to make for] a broader narrative, and to tell more inclusive stories through preservation.” To register for “The Evolution of Preservation: from Elitism to Equity,” visit https://www.thegibsonhouse.org/events.html.

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