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Talk: Setting the Standard: Challenges to Equity in Landmark Designation

Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

White Hall, 106
123 Central Ave., Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

Lecture by Amber N. Wiley, Rutgers University

Amber N. Wiley (Rutgers University) will discuss recent case studies of national and local landmark designation that have challenged the notion of “standards” in relation to traditional historic preservation practice. Specifically, Wiley will highlight two projects she has worked on in Washington, D.C.: the fight to preserve Barry Farm Dwellings, a World War II-era public housing project, and updating documentation on the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site for the National Park Service.  Landmark standards were developed in a historical milieu that favored the material remains of privileged classes – grand houses and institutional buildings of the elite. Therefore, analytical criteria for preservation skewed towards foregrounding social capital in the form of the tangible. For the preservation field to remain relevant, it must move beyond traditional notions of “integrity” that elevate the physical over the emotional.  Additionally, national landmark criteria was devised in a period of nation-building, therefore 21stcentury preservationists must interrogate the myth of American exceptionalism to truly come to terms with the American present.

Amber Wiley is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Rutgers University. Her research interests are centered on the social aspects of design and how it affects urban communities - architecture as a literal and figural structure of power. She focuses on the ways local and national bodies have made the claim for the dominating narrative and collective memory of cities and examines how preservation and public history contribute to the creation and maintenance of the identity and sense of place of a city. Her publications cover African American cultural heritage, urbanism in New Orleans, school design, urban renewal, and preservation.  Her current book project is entitled Concrete Solutions: Architecture, Activism and Black Power in the Nation’s Capital.

Professor Wiley received her Ph.D. in American Studies from George Washington University.  She also holds a Master's in Architectural History and Certificate in Historic Preservation from the University of Virginia School of Architecture, and a B.A. in Architecture from Yale University.

Sponsored by the Cornell Public History Initiative and the Department of City and Regional Planning, with the support of the Polenberg Fund for Undergraduate Education 

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