Goal 2: An Inclusive Movement

Increase the diversity of people who are empowered to lead and carry out preservation work to ensure that the movement better represents our diverse heritage.

Amajor shift is underway and a cadre of new preservation leaders is emerging. This transition underscores the urgent need and opportunity to grow participation in the preservation field so that it more fully represents our communities, culture, and heritage.

More diversity is needed in every aspect of the preservation field: tradespeople, developers, planners, site directors, nonprofit staff, boards of directors, university faculty, and more. Targeted scholarships, recruitment, training, and better pay can help to provide people with earlier exposure to preservation as a viable career path.

How we decide and who decides what places should be recognized, interpreted, and protected is being reexamined. Lowering barriers to participation, such as the cost of education or the complexity of preservation processes, could help meet potential new leaders where they are.

The Ajo Curley School rehabilitation project in Ajo, Arizona.

photo by: New Historical Project

The Ajo Curley School rehabilitation project in Ajo, Arizona.

Crowdsourced Actions

A few highlights of the suggested crowdsourced actions generated during focus groups are paraphrased below to stimulate conversation and further brainstorming. The source of each idea is indicated in parentheses at the end of each suggested action. If you would like to add a suggested action to this list, please email us at nationalimpactagenda@savingplaces.org.

  • Use recruiting and scholarships as incentives to encourage more diverse individuals to study preservation, and also diversify our own faculty. (Source: Preservation educators focus group)
  • Modify existing accreditation programs and proactively address issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and relevancy. (Source: Historic sites focus group)
  • Create trades training as a specialty for those who are already in the construction industry to help address the dearth of skilled preservation tradespeople. (Source: Preservation tradespeople focus group)
  • Ensure pay equity through transparent and fair compensation practices including: listing salaries on job postings, offering paid internships, and not basing compensation on past salary. (Source: Emerging professionals focus group)
  • Find ways to better align trades training programs with potential students, and to connect graduates with apprenticeships to keep them in the field. (Source: Preservation tradespeople focus group)
  • Intentionally attract and retain diverse staff members, and mentor more diverse staff to take on leadership positions. (Source: National Preservation Partners Network focus group)
  • Meaningful inclusion, and to provide a sense of belonging to those who have felt invisible. One person can’t shoulder the burden of representing a group of people and be the “token” representative. (Source: Asian American heritage professionals focus group)
  • People don’ know how to do appropriate building repairs. Start national or regional apprenticeship programs for preservation trades. (Source: Architects focus group)
  • Increase training opportunities for people and use established outreach lists such as the U.S. Department of the Interior Native Hawaiian Organization Notification List maintained by the Office of Native Hawaiian Relations. (Source: Asian American heritage professionals focus group)
  • When you have boards that are afraid to support this work, worried that funding from large corporations or others might be cut if they support social justice, there needs to be training with boards, with staff, between boards and staff together, even with funders. The burden should not fall on mid-level people and people of color who are tasked with changing the attitudes and approaches of people at the staff level and board level to prevent burnout. (Source: Historic sites and museums focus group)
  • Funders have a strong role to play and significant leverage to create change and incentivize organizations to take on social justice issues. We could create a professional accreditation standards or codes for how organizations should address these issues. We could form a consortium that organizations and funders could sign on to. (Source: Historic sites and museums focus group)
  • Survey all the statewides, SHPOS, etc. to find out how many on staff and/or boards are BIPOC. Would be a good thing to do and would challenge organizations that aren’t doing that to understand it could happen and they may have a responsibility to do that. (Source: PastForward listening sessions)
  • The challenge is there aren’t enough diverse practitioners in preservation to fill all the positions we need in 2021. Look at the metrics of people now in college – those metrics are also low. Success would be incrementally increasing the number of BIPOC persons in the preservation field. Tracking diversity now and in 20 years. Diversify the pipeline of those who go into the field. (Source: PastForward listening sessions).
  • We have a pipeline issue, not dissimilar to what STEM education has been dealing with for a number of years. They’ve had to make the field more attractive in terms of financial incentives, workplace structure, mentoring, etc. It’s a long-term process but it is measurable. (Source: PastForward listening sessions)
  • Change from within is necessary. There is a need to create allies for inclusion from within the agencies, not just in hiring practices, but in the way we support those brining knowledge and resources to employee training. It would be wonderful if the Trust or NPS had inclusive trainings available for organizations to take to their employees. (Source: PastForward listening sessions)
  • We could do a better job of making nonprofit and heritage work more prevalent in education. Increasing diversity in field will require better compensation in order to offset high education costs. [Preservation] career path is currently not sustainable for many due to burnout and low pay. Increasing legitimacy of field could make up for pay discrepancies. (Source: PastForward listening sessions)
  • CRM requires many types of professionals beyond formal historians and archaeologists. Too many university students dissuaded from going into anthropology or history because of perception that there are no jobs. People with diverse skillsets (e.g., GIS) and backgrounds are critical in this field. Would be great to work with HBCUs. (Source: PastForward listening sessions)

Case Studies

We hope the case studies below will inspire and inform your work in preservation. To reflect a fuller spectrum of the preservation movement as it continues to grow, we will continue to crowdsource and add additional examples over time. Please send additional case study ideas to nationalimpactagenda@savingplaces.org.

  • The Kali’uokapa’akai Collective is working to reframe historic preservation from a Native Hawaiian perspective by elevating the voices of Native Hawaiians in making decisions around stewarding Hawai’i’s ancestral places and raising awareness of the importance of intangible heritage.
  • Landmarks Illinois completed an organizational reassessment for their 50th anniversary that resulted in a new set of guiding principles for how they do their work, including an intentional focus on diversity and inclusion in leadership, the board, staff and program delivery. In 2023, Landmarks Illinois published “The Relevancy Guidebook,” which identifies the field’s current challenges, presents ways to make it more just, equitable, and accessible; and provides actionable solutions to enhance the field’s relevance in a changing world.
  • In June of 2020, the Los Angeles Conservancy published a Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that acknowledges the persistence of systemic racism in historic preservation and includes seven specific pledges outlining ways that their organization will strive to do better in this area and be antiracist.
  • Latinos in Heritage Conservation was started in 2014 to help preserve Latinx places, stories and cultural heritage in the U.S, and to connect the “diverse network of intergenerational advocates conserving Latinx sites and living cultures in the fabric of American Society, affirming the value of our history in the hemispheric struggle for social justice.” 
  • Over the past 29 years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Diversity Scholarship Program has brought 2,528 scholars to the Trust’s annual conference, and in more recent years has also paired scholars with preservation mentors, with the first 50 mentors receiving a complimentary conference registration.
  • The City of Seattle, Washington preservation program has collaborated with Community Liaisons who assist with community engagement, speaking multiple languages and meeting people where they are. Seattle has also partnered with the YMCA’s Get Engaged program, which places emerging leaders, ages 18-29 on City Commissions, to have a specified commission position for a younger member.
  • Landmarks Illinois has a mentorship program to connect members of the Skyline Council (Landmark Illinois’ committee of young professionals) with a member of their Board of Directors or Emeritus Board.  Participating mentors and mentees strongly recommend mentorship programs like this as a great way to meet amazing preservationists, have insightful and informative conversations about preservation, and learn from one-another.
  • The City of San Antonio Texas’s Living Heritage program and annual Living Heritage Symposium have broadened the preservation movement to encompass intangible heritage and the people who safeguard local cultural practices and traditions and traditional trades.
  • The City of Los Angeles has launched the Los Angeles African American Historic Places Project, in partnership with the Getty Conservation Institute. This project will advance local landmark nominations and cultural preservation strategies related to African American heritage as well as examining all local preservation practices and processes through an antiracist lens.
  • In 2017, the American Alliance of Museums convened a DEAI Working Group consisting of twenty museum professionals representing a variety of disciplines, organizational sizes and types, and perspectives to identify “characteristics of effective museum inclusion practices and consider what steps the field could take to promote DEAI,’ resulting in a report of shared language and principles to guide the museum field, Facing Change: Insights from the American Alliance of Museums’ Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion Working Group.
  • The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña) has introduced a new building arts training program hosted by the Escuela Taller de Conservación y Restauración del Patrimonio Histórico de Puerto Rico. The training has been certified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s apprenticeship program, providing future employment credentials for graduates seeking work in Puerto Rico and the United States. This program helps address the urgent need for trained professionals in traditional building trades.

Next Steps: Commitments to Action

We are focused on developing an assessment tool and resources for the National Trust and other preservation agencies, organizations, firms, and leaders around the country to evaluate their existing and future initiatives and shed light on how these goals can further align with the priorities identified in the crowdsourced Leading the Change Together. We aim to share more in the coming months and to provide opportunities for preservationists to showcase their initiatives and leadership in redefining the U.S. preservation movement today. Please check back for updates.

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