From Behind the Scenes, Moving the Society Ahead
Pauline Saliga was so much of a behind-the-scenes enabler for other people’s careers and scholarship that we too often forget that she was an accomplished architectural historian and curator in her own right, having worked on important exhibitions under John Zukowsky at the Art Institute of Chicago before the Society of Architectural Historians had the incredible good fortune of snagging her as executive director. The time could not have been more propitious, for the Society had just recently moved from Philadelphia to Chicago to take up residence in a landmark building. Scaling up from a small foundation office hidden in a Philadelphia row house, the new office matched the ambitions of a society that was ever more expansive in its publishing and range of activities and outreach, going digital even as it became steward to one of Chicago’s most important late nineteenth-century houses. Pauline was no longer moving drawings and models in galleries; she was now so-to-speak head curator of a full-scale museum building, since the Charnley-Persky House Museum Foundation had to be established to administer the house. In that building—at once a public museum and an office—Pauline became the driving force, connecting glue, lightning rod, and social animator during a period when SAH began to function increasingly as a dynamic activator of the discipline rather than merely a gathering point for its members.
Pauline was the primary force leading the transformation of SAH, making it into a very different organization today than it was three decades ago, and she accomplished this over and over again in collaboration with the very engaged and committed elected officers with whom she worked. I am proud to have been one of them. It was very much because of Pauline that exhausted former presidents rarely slipped away but remained engaged and active in the organization. Pauline had a way of making each of us believe that we had realized our own ideas although it was Pauline’s quiet but firm persistence that guided their common development and brought them into existence.
Pauline was the most careful of administrators, taking care of everything from the health of SAH finances to the details of the ongoing planning of the annual meeting, the tour program, and increasingly the fund-raising activities that were more and more part of the ethos of a scholarly society committed to the public appreciation of architecture and not merely the activities of scholar members. But just below that orderly surface was someone ready for the next adventure, from the great turn to the digital that happened at the moment when the ambitions of the Buildings of the United States project threatened to take the Society over the financial brink to the series of international meetings in London, Paris, and Zurich (where I was proud to take a leading role) that not only furthered the international profile of our North America–based society but also in essence led to the creation of the European Architecture History Network (EAHN). I was an officer at the time, and I saw how Pauline balanced her wise caution with a gleeful willingness to experiment. She repeated the same astute audaciousness when we began an early experiment with a fund-raising venture—a private dinner in Fallingwater for those willing to spend an extra day and to write a big check after an annual meeting in Pittsburgh—that soon developed into events in Chicago and tours abroad (Figure 1 and Figure 2).
As the familiar saying goes, a person grows into their job, but in Pauline’s case, the job grew with her. And along the way she grew so many friendships that they would be impossible to count. At some point we weren’t just working on tours, events, and ideas together, we also had become friends. I think nearly every member who has served on the SAH Board, a committee, or a prize jury, or even attended a tour, felt that Pauline was not only the ultimate professional but the very finest of friends. I admired her greatly. She was a model of quiet straightforwardness, openness of spirit, and unfailing commitment to the discipline and the Society.
Pauline Saliga: Inside a Life
Every weekday morning Pauline left her home in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood with her trusty black backpack, taking first a Metra train and then a bus to the Charnley-Persky House. When she arrived, before diving into her email and her tasks for the day, she spent time taking care of SAH’s landmark headquarters—removing litter from the sidewalk, rinsing off the front steps, and making sure the house looked its best to welcome visitors. She loved the Charnley-Persky House, and working at the building was a privilege she never took for granted (Figure 3).
As executive director of the Society of Architectural Historians, Pauline not only stewarded the Charnley-Persky House, she also positioned SAH as a leader in the digital humanities, fostered public engagement with architectural history, and drove initiatives aimed at creating a more inclusive and equitable culture at SAH. Her accomplishments are impressive, and she was deeply committed to her work, but what we on the SAH staff remember most about Pauline are the everyday moments we had working together.
After her morning routine taking care of the grounds, Pauline came up the stairs to her second-floor office, originally the house’s main bedroom, lined with bookshelves filled with architecture and exhibition catalogues, magazines, and other publications. Photos of her beloved family—her husband, John, and her children, Nadia and Tom—lined her desk. Architect Barbie sat proudly on a nearby shelf. A small, colorful pillow with a geometric pattern adorned her chair, along with a gray pashmina for chilly days.
Pauline wished everyone good morning, and most days came across the hall to Beth and Helena’s office to ask a question or to chat about some exciting project update. Christopher is an early bird, and she’d often remark when he emerged from his office, “Christopher! I haven’t seen you all day!” She liked to leave her desk to pop across the hall or to visit Anne and Carolyn’s office upstairs. Pauline always made our work environment warm and friendly.
On Monday mornings, the entire staff met on Zoom so that colleagues working remotely could join in. The first order of the day was to compare the weather in our respective cities—Catherine in Jersey City and Karen in Washington, D.C. Then we got down to business, sharing our tasks and goals for the week. Despite her own impossibly long list of tasks, Pauline always made sure everyone had what they needed to get their work done.
On Wednesdays, the Chicago staff gathered at the dining room table on the first floor like a family. Pauline sat at the head of the table, with a cup of hot tea, her iPhone, a notebook, and a pen. She informed us of any important updates or initiatives, and we talked through projects and issues together. Our table was always a safe space, especially during stressful times. We could vent our frustrations and Pauline listened, with her great sense of humor that lightened the mood. She could always help us through any situation with a good laugh. We were a team, and she always supported us.
Pauline cared for each one of us, allowing us the freedom to execute new ideas and grow professionally. She respected each individual experience and skill we brought to our respective roles. She thanked us not only for tackling demanding tasks but also for doing the routine parts of our jobs that only she noticed, which made us feel truly valued, both as employees and as individuals. We all admired her calm and confident leadership. She encouraged us and listened, and never lost her cool, even during marathon days of nonstop phone calls and meetings. We never knew how she got it all done.
Pauline’s emails always began with “Dear friends”—and she meant it. She genuinely cared about us. Occasionally, we would take group lunch excursions and short field trips to architectural sites and exhibits in Chicago. She understood the importance of getting out of the office to connect with each other on a personal level. She was an empathetic manager, always flexible and understanding about personal and family commitments. When the clock hit 5:00 p.m., Pauline would call out from the second floor, “It’s time to go home!” She never expected anyone to stay late.
Pauline was an extremely caring and thoughtful person. She had a wonderful rapport with members, donors, and people in the architecture community. People responded positively to her: not only did she have many longtime relationships, but she also quickly turned new acquaintances into friends. Her talent was finding the right way to bring someone into the SAH family, so that everyone felt as appreciated as each one of us. Above all, she valued SAH’s membership, answering correspondence and graciously advising people who sought her out. Recommendation letters, collaborations, it didn’t matter. She always had time to listen to an idea or a problem and to give feedback, even though she faced a whirlwind of work every day. So many people knew and admired Pauline, but few had the unique privilege of working with her as closely as we did.
At SAH we haven’t only lost our leader, we’ve also lost a dear friend. Pauline’s presence will always remain a part of the Charnley-Persky House, and will live on in the ongoing work of SAH. In everything Pauline did, her commitment to SAH was clear, and we hope that by sharing this glimpse of her working life, we have helped you understand how much she meant to us.
Graduate Students Remember Pauline Saliga
Pauline Saliga’s many accomplishments include the relationships she nurtured with graduate students. During the three decades of her leadership at SAH, she recognized the symbiotic role that graduate students play in the organization and in the field. As previous SAH president Victoria Young notes, “Although we included a graduate student on the SAH Board for many years, it was the leadership of Pauline and others that determined we needed to have a more robust representation to help provide opportunities for our graduate students.” Pauline’s vision and leadership critically facilitated the formation of the Graduate Student Advisory Committee.
In the early years of the GSAC, Pauline encouraged the committee to develop professional pathways and programs to serve existing SAH members as well as to welcome new graduate students into the organization. In 2018, the first group of graduate students—Jia Gu, Jonah Rowen, Jennifer Tate, and Jessica Varner—met during the annual SAH conference in Chicago. These students, all with their own experiences and perspectives, aimed to produce programs supporting the professional growth and development of graduate students in SAH. As Jennifer Tate, the first chair of the committee, recalls, “Pauline championed robust institutional support for graduate students through the creation of the GSAC, ensuring students have space in SAH to develop their own voices, perspectives, and contributions to the field.”
Pauline also helped launch the faculty workshop program to mentor students making research presentations at the Graduate Student Lightning Talks. These presentations not only provided opportunities for constructive feedback for first-time presenters but also fostered faculty and student relationships across institutions. Vyta Pivo, second chair of the GSAC, remembers that Pauline encouraged this programmatic addition because she recognized that it furthered the vision of SAH as an inclusive and transparent organization. As Pivo remembers, Pauline “was committed to these values while also managing the expectations and structures of a more conventional institutional framework.” This subtle shift in format allowed students to be more aware of the context of their own research both within the larger academic setting and with respect to SAH’s mission and values.
The Method Acts workshops emerged from a similar set of concerns that the committee brought to Pauline’s attention. This series of workshops, produced by GSAC, addresses methodological questions and strategies proposed by students and emerging scholars in the history of the built environment. In the workshops, students working with new and interdisciplinary methods gather to discuss pressing concerns in the field. While providing opportunities to explore the politics of new methodologies adopted by junior academics, the workshops also set up trajectories for new methods involving the digital humanities, oral histories, revision of the canon, and the unearthing of lost archival voices. Pauline not only listened to the GSAC’s proposal for the workshops but also took an active role in guiding the production of this new program.
For the Graduate Student Book Group, a recent GSAC initiative, authors are invited to speak about their newly released books that the GSAC considers to have made significant contributions to the field. These events give students opportunities to engage in conversation with senior scholars who are advancing new research agendas or theoretical frameworks. They also enable students to learn more about organizing monographic research projects, from writing and development to publication and reception.
GSAC offers a range of programming in conjunction with the SAH administration for both graduate students and more senior scholars. The roundtable discussions accompanying the David Brownlee Dissertation Fellowship bring fellowship recipients together with graduate students and members of the SAH administration to explore their dissertations’ contributions to the field. “Pauline was a great supporter of graduate students,” remembers Carla Yanni, SAH first vice president, “and she saw the dissertation award as a way to extend that support—as well as an opportunity to recognize David Brownlee, an SAH Fellow known for PhD mentorship.” Likewise, Pauline’s vision for a partnership between SAH and the Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative led to the inauguration of the annual GAHTC event, a series of intimate workshops, designed and facilitated by graduate students, that bring together a global network of scholars to share pedagogical concerns as well as global perspectives on teaching architectural history.
Pauline’s dedication to graduate students shaped many GSAC initiatives, and we hope to continue to advance our program as championed by Pauline’s vision. Pauline’s work not only helped to build bridges between generations of architectural historians but also created a foundation of institutional, professional, and financial support for the next generation of the Society. Much remains to be done, such as foregrounding the unjust graduate student economy, but we will be able to move forward thanks to everything that Pauline made possible.
Exemplary Leader, Valued Colleague, Cheerful Friend
From Sandra Bradley
Over twenty-seven years of leading SAH, Pauline was always actively involved with her peers, the executive directors of ACLS member societies. She served on the executive committee for this group and always willingly accommodated our frequent requests to lead meeting sessions, discussions, and panels with her warm sense of humor and dry wit. As an administrator, she was innovative in her approach to leading a scholarly association and generous in sharing her experiences, both good and challenging, with her colleagues.
From Joy Connolly
For years before we met, I knew of Pauline Saliga through friends who admired her scholarly work and her achievements as SAH executive director, and I always associated her with learning and scholarly vision. I first met her in person in 2019, when we gathered with several other executive directors of learned societies for lunch in her beloved Chicago. Just a few months into my term as president of the American Council of Learned Societies, I was still learning the ropes, and all of the directors devoted several hours of their busy day to help me understand their responsibilities, challenges, and hopes. No one was more generous than Pauline, who offered advice that stemmed from her deep knowledge of and affection for the field and its scholars, and her passion for humanistic scholarship.
I had asked the group for suggestions on how best to expand and diversify the ACLS society membership list. I still have the page of notebook paper on which Pauline neatly listed her recommendations—she handed it to me at the close of the meeting, accompanied by a warm smile and an offer of further help.
Pauline’s wisdom and gracious directness characterized her participation in all her activities with ACLS, including an online panel on racial equity and new intellectual directions that she moderated in the first year of the pandemic. Her support for new modes of creating and disseminating knowledge, and especially for digital scholarship, inspired many in the ACLS community and beyond.
Pauline’s excitement about leaping into life following retirement from SAH was also inspiring, but it made her sudden passing even more of a shock. Pauline enriched a large network of people inside and outside academia with her intelligence and her commitment to advancing scholarship and sharing its fruits with the public. We remember her as an exemplum of leadership, with sadness and gratitude.
From James Shulman
I first worked with Pauline in 2006 when she and Hilary Ballon began working on reenvisioning JSAH for a digital age—it’s incredibly sad they are both gone. Pauline’s 2017 tribute to Hilary as an “innovative disruptor” should be applied to Pauline as well. Both Hilary and Pauline knew how to innovate within hard-to-change and long-standing institutional structures. Disrupting can often mean toppling, but that isn’t such a good mode for those who—like Hilary and Pauline—love and deeply value those structures. Pauline and I subsequently worked together with colleagues at Artstor and SAH leaders, including Jeff Cohen, Dianne Harris, Jeff Klee, Dietrich Neumann, and Abby Van Slyck to create SAHARA. Embarking upon new ventures is never simple, but Pauline’s calm and strategic presence played a critical role in tying together different threads and personalities. SAHARA could never have been envisioned, funded, or carried out without Pauline.
When I came to ACLS, I was so glad to resume my work with Pauline. I remember riding in on the “L” from Hyde Park when I first met her with a group of ACLS executive directors. Pauline was widely respected by the other directors, and as I was starting to think about where and how ACLS could best support the Society’s efforts, she provided incredibly helpful perspective and advice. Pauline was warm, even-keeled, and never without clarity and commitment. She combined a profound pragmatism with a deep sense of the values of the field and of the members of SAH. I will always remember her smiling at the ways of the world—knowingly, calmly, and perhaps more than a little amused.
From Steven Wheatley
Pauline was an exemplary leader of a learned society and of the learned societies that are members of ACLS. Her stewardship of SAH placed that organization at the forefront of the digital humanities. She was esteemed by her fellow society executive directors for her evident dedication, persistent thoughtfulness, and authentic collegiality. Elected to the leadership of the ACLS Conference of Executive Directors, she gave careful consideration to all positions on any issue, but never let deliberation become a roadblock to decision. It was my great good fortune to work with Pauline for thirteen years. She was an inspiring model of calm determination.
Pauline Saliga was a dear friend of mine. We first met in the mid-1970s when she and my wife, Judy, were classmates in the Museum Studies program at the University of Michigan. As fellow Chicagoans we immediately bonded over our love of that city. Several years after Pauline left Ann Arbor, we renewed our friendship when she took the position of associate curator of architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago and we both began to attend SAH national meetings. Our bond only strengthened further when Pauline joined SAH as its executive director in 1995 and when I served on the Board of Directors from 2002 to 2006.
I couldn’t believe my great fortune when I was asked to join the SAH Executive Committee in 2010, and for the next six years I worked closely with Pauline as well as other members of the Executive Committee, including Dianne Harris, Sandy Isenstadt, Ken Oshima, and Abby Van Slyck. During that time, it was remarkable to watch Pauline working to raise the national and international profiles of the Society, as well as its endowment, engaging with organizations such as the American Council of Learned Societies and developing new relationships with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Applewood Foundation, and the J. Paul Getty Foundation. Her warm, open personality and her brilliance won her and SAH the respect of the representatives of every one of these important institutions.
As a strong advocate for the digital and public humanities, Pauline, with the support of these organizations, worked to position the Society as a bridge between scholarly and public audiences with the creation of public-access programs such as SAH Archipedia and SAHARA. All of this reflects one of Pauline’s truly great talents: her ability to collaborate with others. This was exemplified by the twenty-seven years she led SAH—working with and inspiring a wonderful and devoted staff, board and committee members, and members of the Friends of the Charnley-Persky House, as well as no fewer than thirteen Society presidents. Under Pauline’s collaborative leadership, all of these individuals contributed to the Society’s many achievements.
Pauline also forged strong bonds with a network of like-minded individuals at important Chicago institutions, an achievement that will be difficult if not impossible to replicate. She also raised public awareness of the Charnley-Persky House as a significant monument in the history of Chicago’s rich architectural legacy. It is worth emphasizing Pauline’s special devotion to the house. When she became executive director in 1995, she established SAH’s new headquarters at the Charnley-Persky House in Chicago, thus completing the Society’s move from Philadelphia. She subsequently created the Charnley-Persky House Museum Foundation, raising thousands of dollars to preserve the house and make it accessible to the public, as well as overseeing the creation of its first conservation management plan, a model of preservation stewardship, to ensure the house will continue to be cared for properly in the future. In my mind this is yet another one of Pauline’s most important legacies, one that will serve as a continuing reminder and tribute to her presence in the city she so loved.
My condolences go out to her family and friends. I know we will all dearly miss her.
Pauline Saliga’s SAH: Open to Change
For almost as long as I’ve been involved with SAH, Pauline Saliga has been synonymous with the Society. However, her impact on the organization became much more evident to me when she became terminally ill and I took on the role of interim executive director. To step into Pauline’s rich world of ideas and friendships is to grasp the range of her vision for SAH and to appreciate her skill at cultivating the ideas of our wise and creative members and weaving them together to create programs that promote the better understanding of our built environment.
What struck me most immediately as I tried to pick up where Pauline left off was the remarkable skill and collaborative spirit of the staff members she gathered around her. Pauline’s supportive leadership style is evident in the close-knit and unselfishly cooperative character of the people who do the daily work of the Society. They have been given autonomy to work as they see fit, and this has enabled them as individuals and the Society as a whole to grow in unexpected ways. Of course, Pauline held extraordinarily high standards of quality for all that the organization undertakes, and everyone takes pride in ensuring that we meet the benchmarks she established over many years.
But the most significant indication of Pauline’s leadership that I observed, both as a board member and then as interim executive director, was her openness to change and her ability to foster completely new ways of operating that acknowledged current criticisms related to hierarchy and privilege. Working with SAH presidents Victoria Young and Patricia Morton, Pauline initiated the IDEAS Committee to explore structural changes to the Society that could address long-standing concerns about sociopolitical equity and environmental justice in our field. She also introduced a series of “affinity groups” to promote research and conversation on a wide variety of topics of interest to SAH members. There are few rules governing the operation of these groups, and as a result, the Society’s officers and staff are continually scrambling to keep up with their varied activities. But the open dialogue of these liberated ensembles has created a place for discussions that rarely occurred under the traditional auspices of the Society. Such conversations allow for critical, reflective thinking to interrogate the fundamental objectives of our organization, to explore its operation in the past, and to consider how to move forward into the future.
Pauline’s fostering of conversations that potentially called into question the foundations of the organization that she nurtured for twenty-seven years reflects how she prioritized her deep care for the work of the group over her personal achievements. Few organizations in general, let alone those involved with scholarly endeavors, are lucky enough to be guided by such selfless leadership, and SAH owes a great deal to what a colleague recently described as Pauline’s “thoughtful unflappability”—a phrase that captures not just her calm manner but also her intrepid resolve in growing the Society into the prominent organization that it is today.
The Power of Collaboration
I last saw Pauline at the 2022 SAH conference in Pittsburgh, where we rejoiced at finally meeting in person! I didn’t imagine it would be our last meeting. I had been meaning to send an email to thank her for a small personal act of kindness and to properly congratulate her for the well-deserved retirement. I delayed sending that mail until it was too late. For the past two months I have been reviewing our email exchanges: they provide the slender threads with which to put together the fabric of our acquaintance.
My relationship with SAH perfectly coincides with Pauline Saliga’s tenure as executive director. It is, however, only in the last twelve years, after I was appointed editor designate of JSAH, that I got to know Pauline. Since then, myriad communications, mostly about the day-to-day functioning of JSAH and working with the press, filled our inboxes, peppered with more substantive discussions about expanding the revenue, readership, and digital capabilities of JSAH.
Pauline judiciously navigated between our collective intellectual desires and institutional capacity, and mindfully listened to ideas about how to make a journal with deep foundations in American academic culture an international venue for conversation about the built environment. That the Society has made significant efforts to embrace a diverse global membership is the product of Pauline’s commitment to the discipline as a scholar and administrator, and her willingness to take on transformative initiatives.
Quietly persuasive, Pauline excelled at collaborating and connecting with people. She honed her collaborative skills during her tenure as associate curator at the Art Institute of Chicago. Not only did she work with colleagues on most of her publications and curatorial activities from that time, but these publications also paid particular attention to the collaborative nature of architectural practice itself. In an article she coauthored with Robert Sharp, the talent and labor of architect-collector-curator A. James Speyer shines through an analysis of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s drawings.1 In another article discussing Daniel Burnham’s and Louis Sullivan’s late works, she explains: “Though Burnham had final approval over all the designs by his office, he did little actual design work on buildings produced by the firm of D. H. Burnham and Co. Peirce Anderson, Charles B. Atwood, Frederick P. Dinkelberg, Ernest Graham, and Peter Weber were among those who actually designed Burnham’s buildings.”2
Pauline had the same hopes for architectural history as a collaborative practice. Drawn to architectural narratives that “take issue with accepted histories” and “attempt to revise long-accepted theories,” she joined SAH attuned to the changing tenor of the field and of the humanities.3 Her tireless efforts to work through the logistics of a disciplinary association’s transition to a digital world that helped launch three digital initiatives—JSAH Online, SAHARA, and SAH Archipedia—depended on her trust in the power of collaboration.4
Her enthusiasm for born-digital scholarship spilled beyond the Society. In June 2019, when a few of us launched PLATFORM, Pauline sent us a congratulatory email:
I just received your announcement about PLATFORM! How fantastic is that? I’m really excited for you because you’ll be publishing in an area that other, existing publications just can’t accommodate. . . .
I searched around your website to discover the origins of the publication, and now I understand. What you’re doing is really important. Would any of you (all of you) be willing to expand your origin story from the website text into a blogpost for the SAH Blog? . . . Please consider it, my friends.
We were only too glad to accept the invitation. After all, we hatched preliminary plans for PLATFORM at the SAH conference in Minneapolis. Pauline helped connect SAH and us.
I will remember Pauline’s warmth and sense of humor, her enviable ability to stay calm under pressure, and her gentle, encouraging voice urging us all to keep in view the larger good of the discipline.
Pauline Saliga and Robert V. Sharp, “From the Hand of Mies: Architectural Sketches from the Collection of A. James Speyer,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 21, no. 1 (1995), 57–69, 77–78.
John Zukowsky and Pauline Saliga, “Late Works by Burnham and Sullivan,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 11, no. 1 (1984), 72–73.
Pauline Saliga, review of In Search of Modern Architecture: A Tribute to Henry-Russell Hitchcock, edited by Helen Searing, Winterthur Portfolio 19, no. 4 (1984), 292.
Pauline Saliga and Ann Whiteside, “Collaboration at Its Best: How Dozens of Digital Humanists Helped a Learned Society Create Three Online Academic Resources in Four Years,” Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation 29, nos. 1–2 (2013), 120–28.
The Sky’s the Limit: Pauline Saliga’s Legacy of Continuity
It is an honor to commemorate Pauline’s remarkable work as both a stabilizing force and organizational mover for the Society of Architectural Historians these past decades. As I gathered my thoughts about her role in shaping the success of SAH, I reached out to my father, Leland M. Roth, longtime member of the Society and SAH president from 1977 to 1980. As he recalled, Pauline attached personal thank-you notes to all contributions made to the organization. Such individual signs of thoughtfulness and care always defined Pauline’s work for the Society.
In 1999, Pauline took a prominent role in the celebration of the Society’s sixtieth anniversary. As she affirmed in the December issue of JSAH, the Society “strives continually to achieve and exceed the ambitious goals that the founding members set forth in 1940.”1 Indeed, she was an effective agent in manifesting those goals. She expressed her desire to “improve and expand [SAH’s] publications, programs, and fellowship opportunities” in coming years, and she helped the Society meet these challenges by providing ever-expanding funding opportunities to members, particularly students and emerging scholars. She also facilitated the creation of the SAH affiliate groups and oversaw the launch of the celebrated open-source database SAH Archipedia.
Pauline’s successes over the years were many, including the global expansion of the Society’s reach. But even as she steered the Society toward an innovative future, she also kept her eyes on the past. SAH was founded in 1940 during a summer session at Harvard University, when “a number of professors and students in the field of architectural history met for informal, extracurricular talks, discussions, and study trips.”2 Pauline always kept her sights on the spontaneous enthusiasm that characterized these activities. Embracing the aphorism that the past is prologue, she enthusiastically supported the mission of the organization, which she outlined in four points: (1) to provide forums for all whose interest is the history of architecture, (2) to foster an appreciation and understanding of the built environment, (3) to encourage and disseminate research in the field, and (4) to promote the preservation of significant monuments worldwide.3 In this way, Pauline tirelessly upheld the indispensable service provided by the Society in remembering and celebrating the built environment of the past and the present.
Pauline was a scholar in her own right, continuing to publish on architecture and design in venues such as Design Issues, published by MIT Press.4 Prior to her tenure as SAH executive director, Pauline researched and promoted the work of influential architects such as Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan.5 She championed Chicago architects and skyscraper innovation, as revealed in her edited volume The Sky’s the Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers (1990). And she strongly promoted both junior and senior architectural historians in the field, consistent with the founding aims of the Society and the Charnley-Persky House.
We are indebted to Pauline for her prodigious and foundational work for the Society, and for her efforts to preserve and celebrate our diverse built environment. She inspires each of us to continue the work that she started, with the same passion and dedication. Thank you, Pauline.
Pauline Saliga, “The Society of Architectural Historians Celebrates Its Sixtieth Anniversary,” JSAH 58, no. 4 (Dec. 1999), n.p.
Pauline Saliga, ed., “Symposium: Architecture and Design in American Museums circa 2000,” Design Issues 5, no. 1 (1988), 71–81.
John Zukowsky and Pauline Saliga, “Late Works by Burnham and Sullivan,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 11, no. 1 (1984), 70–79.
Pauline Saliga: Leading Change, Transformation, and Ethical Growth
The SAH IDEAS Committee first took form under Pauline Saliga’s leadership in 2020. The foundation of the IDEAS Committee was a momentous event, attesting to Pauline’s characteristic pragmatism and matter-of-fact fearlessness. Most of all, Pauline’s openness and willingness to improve the organization she loved so much symbolized her selfless dedication to architectural history, its practitioners, and its scholars. The committee’s essential work in addressing the complexities and challenges of our times was a critical element of Pauline’s exceptional determination to provide the necessary tools to allow SAH to transform and thrive. She was a wise and compassionate leader, offering guidance that created a scaffold for positive growth. Her vision of a forward-looking institution will forever be a part of the vital work of the IDEAS Committee.
In spearheading the creation of the IDEAS Committee, Pauline brought clear intentionality to the key goal of promoting and maintaining inclusivity, diversity, equity, accountability, and sustainability at SAH. She encouraged open dialogue with the committee, promoting both understanding and learning, and, showing the true sign of a great leader, wholeheartedly trusted and supported the committee’s vision for action and growth. After twenty-seven years of ethical leadership, she remained as committed as ever to exploring new directions to strengthen SAH’s importance and relevance. She recognized, however, that the task of transforming SAH could not rest on her shoulders alone; rather, the membership needed to be encouraged and empowered to make significant contributions. During our meetings Pauline always listened with the greatest attention and thoughtfulness, and committee members universally praised her collaborative approach as well as her preternatural ability to translate the most complex conversations into meaningful solutions.
Pauline modeled strong and empathetic leadership by treating members of the committee with genuine warmth and appreciation. She always remained focused on supporting us and never missed an opportunity to express her gratitude for our work. Her philosophy of care found its way into many of our conversations as we discussed how SAH might best serve its diverse community. With Pauline as an example of positive, inclusive leadership, we learned to embrace change, to be humble enough to continually seek betterment, to strive for greater inclusivity, and to champion accessibility for the broadest possible participation. Pauline’s leadership proved that we must find ways to ensure that everyone feels welcome, and that we see, hear, and value diverse perspectives. In this way, Pauline will always remain at the heart of the IDEAS Committee’s mission. Pauline’s leadership and unceasing support for the IDEAS Committee demonstrated her belief in an institutional culture that constantly challenges itself to adapt and to reflect all of its members’ desires, intellectual pursuits, and concerns. The present and future IDEAS Committee will always aspire to Pauline’s capacity for empathy, transparency, and inclusion as we continue to seek to elevate all SAH members in every aspect of the discipline and in every facet of the profession.
Pursuing Change at SAH
My first, if indirect, contact with Pauline Saliga occurred when I served on an exploratory committee to discuss the viability of affiliate groups within the Society of Architectural Historians. It was an interesting task: creating a space of inclusion for people of color under the umbrella of a well-respected learned society. While I strongly favored creating thematic chapters to provide minorities with greater autonomy for academic expression and institutional decision making, I came to see the benefits of constructing a less formal internal forum to gather people of common interests while also integrating new members into the Society. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this committee paved the way for my future collaborations with Pauline over the next few years.
I first met Pauline in person when I joined the SAH Board of Directors. During official meetings, and over phone calls and emails, we worked on several major initiatives together, including developing more institutional supports and transparent guidelines for SAH affiliate groups, serving on an IDEAS committee to establish new equity proposals within the organization, and collaborating with Nancy Levinson of Places Journal to establish a joint research prize on race and architectural history. In all of our dialogues and exchanges, I found Pauline to be a fair-minded, accessible, and patient leader, essential qualities for someone tasked with reforming a venerable organization like the Society of Architectural Historians. Even if we did not always agree on the best ways to achieve racial equity within the organization, I felt that Pauline leveraged her authority as executive director to push the Society in the direction of change. On the rare occasions when these demands outstripped her personal ability or reach, she found ways to collaborate with others who shared her vision and had a firm grasp of the issues on the ground. I have seen her humble and engaged style of leadership encourage collaboration, discussion, and debate among very privileged and highly independent scholars. She never made herself the center of attention and instead directed us all toward a common goal.
After reflecting upon my time serving with Pauline, I believe that at least two episodes deserve special mention. The first involves a set of circumstances that led the new affiliate groups to assume a strong moral voice within the Society. During the summer of 2020, reporters detailed the harrowing final moments of George Floyd’s life under police arrest. In the wake of these tragic “nine and a half minutes,” many felt compelled to leave the safety of their COVID lockdowns to protest what they saw as a pattern of police brutality. Urban environments across the United States served as conduits to support racial justice in unprecedented ways during a public health crisis, and many of my peers and colleagues took notice. As I look back, I realize we were all uncertain how to best respond. It was Maura Lucking, co-chair of the Race and Architectural History Affiliate Group, who found a simple and profound means to intervene. Maura noticed that the social media posts and email messages of the Society did not comment on the gravity of these events. In an effort to verbalize the support of activist members of our group, she approached the leaderships of two other affiliate groups—the Minority Scholars Affiliate Group and the Asian American and Diasporic Architectural History Affiliate Group—to compose “A Statement of Solidarity for Racial Justice at SAH.”1 While the impassioned message gave some within our membership pause, Pauline and her peers on the Executive Committee provided prompt support for the moral platform represented by affiliate groups within the Society. Our statement was approved by both the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors and swiftly found its way to the Society’s public platforms. For me, this gesture was a powerful demonstration of the shared governance that can occur when the leaders of a learned society recognize the value of minority members’ testimony. It also set a high standard for affiliate groups to respond to contemporary events in an activist role when our expertise will provide a reflective lens for analysis.
A second instance of Pauline’s tremendous leadership occurred during her support of two formal initiatives undertaken by the Race and Architectural History Affiliate Group. While planning academic programming for our group, I reached out to several editors of online publications to determine whether we might start an online journal dedicated to scholarship on race, or whether we should focus elsewhere. Given the major time commitment and personnel required for online editorial work, it made more sense to begin a podcast featuring conversations on recent scholarship while collaborating with editors of publicly engaged journals to complement the largely academic audience of JSAH. Pauline worked with me, Maura, and Caroline Garrett, SAH director of development, to apply for an external grant to support Race &, our group’s podcast. In addition, she helped our group plan presentations to persuade the SAH Board to authorize our official collaboration with Nancy Levinson, the editor of Places Journal. This work resulted in the establishment of the SAH | Places Prize on Race and the Built Environment, with its first winner announced in April 2022. We look forward to honoring Pauline’s extraordinary dedication to diversifying the Society in the fall of 2023, when the inaugural prize winner, Ginger Nolan, delivers the first public lecture in Chicago. I know she will be listening.
SAH Asian American and Diasporic Architectural History Affiliate Group, Race and Architectural History Affiliate Group, and Minority Scholars Affiliate Group, “A Statement of Solidarity for Racial Justice at SAH,” JSAH 79, no. 4 (Dec. 2020), 376–77.
Pauline Saliga: Leading with Intelligence and Grace
When the digital humanities came to the Society of Architectural Historians, Pauline Saliga was ready, promptly embracing both the possibilities and the challenges of emerging technologies: Mosaic 1.0, the first web browser, became available in April 1993, not long before Pauline took the helm as SAH executive director in 1995. SAH soon launched its first website, and by 1996 SAH member Jeffrey Cohen—with Pauline’s support—created the SAH Image Exchange, a cooperatively created database of free digital images for teaching and research purposes that was among the first of its kind. Pauline spent significant portions of the next two decades innovating with digital projects that made SAH a shining example for learned societies across the United States. In hindsight, her early interest in computational tools to enhance the work of our members seems even more prescient and groundbreaking. As a small-to-medium-size scholarly society, SAH became “the little engine that could,” spearheading successful digital initiatives that swiftly outpaced those of our much larger nonpeers. Indeed, SAH became an exemplar in digital innovation for humanities-oriented learned societies. While one might argue that architectural history’s dependence on visual imagery motivated this early adoption of the digital humanities, many other fields equally dependent on visual imagery did not embrace or innovate as SAH did. SAH had a distinctive and remarkable asset: Pauline Saliga.
Just thirteen years after the birth of the web, opportunity knocked when The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation proposed funding SAH to develop two large, complex, and experimental projects: JSAH Online and SAHARA (Society of Architectural Historians Architecture Resources Archive). JSAH Online, developed in collaboration by Pauline, Hilary Ballon, and David Brownlee, along with partners at the University of California Press, represented one of the very first multimedia online platforms developed for a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal capable of supporting not just high-resolution digital images but also digital maps, film clips, sound files, panoramic views, and immersive three-dimensional models. The project evolved as a platform to serve scholars across a wide range of disciplines and was ultimately integrated into JSTOR’s Current Scholarship program.
I had the exceptional good fortune to work closely with Pauline as an executive officer for SAH from 2006 to 2012, a time that coincided with her deepest engagement with the development of JSAH Online and especially SAHARA. Sitting by her side in countless meetings provided a series of object lessons in how to lead with grace, brilliance, wisdom, kindness, and creativity. To develop SAHARA, Pauline worked in partnership to imagine the project, prepared grant proposals, served as a principal investigator, and led a very large and complicated team that included SAH members acting as advisers and editors, librarians from partner institutions, and a team of Artstor technology partners. First imagined as a robust scholarly work space that would include a reliably discoverable and peer-reviewed image repository with rigorously generated metadata that could also include scholarly contributions based on its content, SAHARA ultimately developed into a somewhat different version of what Pauline first envisioned with her team, yet it stands as an important and still-growing resource for SAH members. Moreover, SAHARA also served as a pilot project for another major Mellon-funded, Artstor-generated project launched in 2011 as Shared Shelf and now operating as JSTOR Forum, a platform permitting scholars around the globe to share digital resources across institutions. Pauline leaves JSAH Online and SAHARA as gifts to scholars across many fields, institutional types, and locations.
As these two projects concluded their first development phases, Pauline began organizing a team to build SAH Archipedia, a public humanities project and encyclopedia that makes authoritative scholarship in architectural, urban, and landscape history across the United States available online to the public. Built in collaboration with the University of Virginia Press and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the Graham Foundation, and an array of other philanthropic supporters (Pauline’s impressive ability to attract funding was a significant asset to SAH), Archipedia incorporates content from the SAH book series Buildings of the United States as well as contributions from SAH scholars. All these projects attract hundreds of thousands of viewers annually, expanding the Society’s reach in ways that were deeply meaningful to Pauline, who, we should remember, first forged her commitment to the humanities and the public good in her museum work, where she also explored ways to make high-quality educational materials and experiences widely available.
We see the finest attributes of Pauline’s twenty-seven years of leadership—and there are many—distilled in her steadfast support for digital humanities projects at SAH. She was a deeply collaborative leader. She both enjoyed and was extraordinarily good at this kind of work, and repeatedly established cooperative relationships with scholars, university presses, librarians, and technology partners whose areas of expertise were far different from her own, but from whom she was always eager to learn and to whom she contributed new knowledge. A superb listener—attentive, focused, engaged, thoughtful, productively critical, empathetic—Pauline was an outstanding collaborative leader for projects that required her and all those involved to navigate new intellectual terrains, new business models, new working cultures, and even new languages. She was a highly innovative and creative thinker, courageous, and always willing to venture boldly into unknown territory. She never shied away from the unknown if she believed it might lead SAH members to new modes of discovery and the creation of new knowledge; she maintained a nimble mindset that allowed her to pivot toward opportunity; she was driven by curiosity; she was deeply intelligent. She transformed SAH into a model learned society for the twenty-first century. The humility and quiet grace that tempered all of her extraordinary attributes might make it easy to overlook her brilliance, but we will always recall Pauline for the intellectual powerhouse she truly was.
Transforming SAH: A Microhistory of the SAH Affiliate Group Idea
It is no coincidence that the Society of Architectural Historians was transformed under its executive director Pauline Saliga. She understood and embraced the power structure of checks and balances within SAH that requires the executive branch and the board to work together, and, thanks to her skillful leadership, she was able to bring about extensive and remarkable change.
Until recently, many scholars of color found SAH alienating. The lack of diversity within architectural history was particularly evident at SAH annual meetings, which were attended by very few scholars from less-resourced countries, universities, and backgrounds. Not only did the high cost of attending meetings pose barriers to such scholars, but the in-person experience also often left them feeling unrepresented, reinforcing their impressions that the Society did not value scholars with nonmainstream identities or scholarly interests. After several failed attempts to make themselves heard, several scholars chose to leave the Society, contributing to the sense of an exodus.
This was the context for then–board member Itohan Osayimwese’s 2017 proposal to create affiliate groups within the Society. Part of a wider conversation about internationalism, the need for a diversity of methodologies, geographies, and identities, and problems of declining membership, the proposal built upon conversations among scholars of color and the advocacy of board members such as Arijit Sen, Kathleen James-Chakraborty, Patricia Morton, Gail Dubrow, and Claire Zimmerman, who asked probing questions about the Society’s mission and policies. Some board members questioned the necessity of establishing an entirely new category within the Society’s organizational structure. Others expressed concern about the legal and financial implications of such “break-off” groups and asked if they would be political rather than scholarly in nature. Throughout this discussion, Pauline Saliga remained a strong advocate, emphasizing the fact that other disciplines and learned societies had long since established such groups. After much discussion, the board approved the creation of affiliate groups in November 2018 and changed the SAH bylaws to incorporate the new category in April 2019.
Itohan Osayimwese organized a roundtable at the 2018 SAH annual meeting to begin the process of forming the Minority Scholars Affiliate Group. Jesús Escobar, Lynne Horiuchi, Charles L. Davis II, and Melina Gooray served as panelists, with about twenty-five conference members in attendance. Expanding on ongoing board discussions, the panelists articulated two needs: to create a space for scholarship about marginalized groups and to generate a support structure for underrepresented scholars within SAH. The panelists and attendees also discussed creating pipeline initiatives to foster emerging scholars. Overall, the roundtable demonstrated enthusiastic support for the idea of affiliate groups, and the participants agreed to continue the conversation. Pauline Saliga played an instrumental role in ensuring that SAH leadership remained aware of these developments.
Early in 2019 an informal group of scholars of color met to discuss ways to make substantive changes. This did not occur without some skepticism: all had experienced “diversity fatigue” after witnessing too many platitudes alongside little or no change. Over Zoom calls, conference phone calls, email, and one-on-one exchanges, discussions covered the many possible ways to effect structural change at SAH and also within architectural history itself. The group sought to introduce changes in organizational structure and to bring attention to neglected topics, particularly around racial and other kinds of difference; it further aimed to support pathways to publication, to level academic hierarchies, and to develop new methodologies that would intersect with other disciplines and community members. The inclusion of scholars of color in SAH leadership roles was to be addressed through nomination slates, mentoring of graduate students and emerging scholars of color, and changes in editorial hierarchies. The group asked Lynne Horiuchi to serve as a point person to coordinate with Pauline Saliga, who enthusiastically committed to do everything in her power to promote these changes to which the Society had long aspired.
The informal group decided to form three affiliate groups: the Minority Scholars Affiliate Group, co-chaired by Lynne Horiuchi and Itohan Osayimwese; the Race and Architectural History Affiliate Group, co-chaired by Maura Lucking and Charles Davis II; and the Asian American and Diasporic Architectural History Affiliate Group, co-chaired by Sean McPherson and Gail Dubrow. In collaboration with the chairs, Pauline Saliga drafted affiliate group guidelines, addressing topics such as participation in the annual meeting, potential partnerships between SAH and affiliates, affiliates’ presence on the SAH website and in SAH social media, reporting requirements, membership, and funding. Lynne Horiuchi launched databases to keep track of affiliate group membership. The affiliates identified as priorities the creation of leadership pipelines, mentoring and fellowships for emerging scholars and graduate students, and funding for affiliate group activities. Due to the expense of purchasing SAH membership, the chairs also discussed different options such as free participation in affiliate group programs and tiered membership, arguing that such changes would attract new and younger members who could help revitalize the Society. SAH approved these three affiliate groups, along with a fourth, the Historic Interiors Affiliate Group, in November 2019 and April 2020.
Pauline Saliga and then–SAH president Victoria Young proposed the creation of the IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accountability, Sustainability) Committee as a new institutional body to address othering and difference in the Society. The members of the informal group initially opposed the formation of a body separate from the affiliate groups because they wanted to avoid the division of their efforts and the creation of a two-tiered hierarchy, but they accepted affiliate group representation on the IDEAS Committee as a compromise.
The 2020 SAH annual conference, held virtually and organized by Pauline Saliga, Victoria Young, and SAH staff, marked a turning point for the SAH affiliate groups. Hundreds of people signed up for the Minority Scholars Affiliate Group workshop “Navigating the Challenges in Publication” and the roundtable “Asian American Architecture: Mapping the Field and Its Futures.” The affiliate groups and the IDEAS Committee have continued to collaborate to develop research projects, fellowships, mentoring programs, publication awards, websites, and meetings to map out future work. We will always remember Pauline Saliga for her vital role in helping scholars of color to transform SAH and to bring this long-awaited vision into reality.
Remembering Pauline Saliga
When I joined SAH in 1966, the organization’s management lay in the hands of Rosann Berry, then called the Society’s “secretary,” working out of a makeshift office in her garage in suburban Philadelphia. Rosann was not a historian, but she loved architecture and her greatest pleasure in serving SAH was to coordinate and participate in the annual tours. When the equally affable and supportive David Bahlman, then working on his dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania, assumed the position (with a part-time assistant, as I recall), SAH finally acquired a building as its headquarters, a modest mid-nineteenth-century row house on Pine Street, near the southern edge of Center City in Philadelphia. After several years, David went on to pursue a distinguished career in preservation, and the Society’s leadership had difficulty finding a suitable local replacement, finally settling on someone who commuted from Baltimore three days a week, an expensive and far from optimal arrangement.
The situation changed dramatically when SAH treasurer Carter Page persuaded Chicago entrepreneur and philanthropist Seymour Persky to consider donating the Charnley House to SAH. Although Persky had originally acquired the property from the SOM Foundation to showcase his collection of architectural artifacts, he regarded this proposal favorably. John Eifler had recently restored the house for SOM, and it was in excellent shape. The only condition was that it become SAH headquarters. The opportunity to move SAH to a metropolis renowned for its architectural culture and into a house associated with two of the greatest architects in the United States was an extraordinary gift to the Society. The SAH administration (I was serving as second vice president at the time) had high hopes of securing an excellent secretary, now recast as executive director. A curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, Pauline Saliga, stood at the top of our list of candidates. Some colleagues expressed concern that her talents would soon lead her on to another organization, but I retorted that she would accomplish more in five years than others would in ten.
Little did we know that Pauline would direct SAH for nearly three decades, and we could hardly have imagined the extraordinary accomplishments she would achieve. Previously, the board determined the direction and also the details of the Society’s endeavors. Under Pauline, the dynamic shifted to a more conventional nonprofit model, where the board sets the general parameters and exercises oversight, and the chief executive officer has more freedom to set priorities and develop initiatives.
As an architectural historian with considerable museum experience, Pauline could interact with the board in ways unlike most of her predecessors, and she made abundant contributions. She helped give new life to the Buildings of the United States book series and implemented innovative new projects such as SAH Archipedia and SAHARA, which played a critical role in bringing SAH into the digital world. She also worked closely with board members to make SAH a truly international organization. In addition, she forged ties with other humanities organizations at the national level, fostering cross-disciplinary interactions and strengthening connections with public audiences. She built a presence for SAH in Chicago that it had never had in Philadelphia. In the meantime, the Charnley-Persky House became far more than offices, hosting educational programs and exhibits as well as tours for people from around the region and around the world who wanted to experience the building. Early on Pauline understood that stewardship of this building represented a major and ongoing endeavor. After working hard to gain the Charnley-Persky House favorable property tax status, she went on to establish the Charnley-Persky House Museum Foundation. Pauline realized that the ongoing requirements of maintaining the building could easily fail to receive necessary attention without the support of a separate entity, directed by the same SAH leadership but with its own agenda.
Pauline’s impact on the Society has been transformative. Throughout her tenure as executive director she always managed to keep everything fresh, despite the complexity of the times. Thanks to Pauline, SAH is still a youthful, vibrant organization. She will be sorely missed, but her legacy will long endure.
Pauline Saliga was a leader who grew with the changing needs and opportunities of the Society. In what follows I would like to commemorate Pauline’s invaluable work in coordinating the successful transition of the Society of Architectural Historians to Chicago, as well as her tireless preservation campaign on behalf of what became the new Chicago headquarters of SAH, the Charnley-Persky House.
In 1994, during my tenure as SAH president, Seymour Persky, SAH board member from Chicago, offered funds to acquire the Charnley House, completed in 1892 for James Charnley by Louis Sullivan with Frank Lloyd Wright, for use as the Society’s national headquarters. When the current executive director, Susan McCarter, announced she would not relocate to Chicago with the Society, a committee including Richard Longstreth, Elaine Harrington, Robert Retting, and Patricia Waddy as chair conducted a national search for her replacement. Carter Manny, recently retired as the executive director of the Graham Foundation, and very familiar with the Chicago scene, provided key assistance in this work. Although many well-qualified candidates applied for the position, the committee agreed SAH needed an executive director who understood not only the architectural history of Chicago but also its philanthropic community as well as its political structure. Once again, Seymour did SAH an immense favor by recommending Pauline, a Chicago native with fourteen years of experience as the associate curator of architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago. At SAH, Pauline inherited a forty-five-year-old structure known for its annual meetings, foreign and domestic tours, and publications, as well as the new responsibility of overseeing the maintenance of the headquarters building, renamed the Charnley-Persky House in honor of its donor.
From the first moment, Pauline proved to be a brilliant choice as SAH executive director—in fact, I have always considered the decision to hire Pauline to be the most important achievement of my presidency. In the spring of 1995, at a celebration of the new SAH headquarters, I introduced the evening by thanking Seymour Persky for his exemplary generosity. I also invited William H. Pierson Jr., professor at Williams College and a widely respected architectural historian who had advocated for SAH’s acquisition of the Charnley House, to speak about the importance of our move to Chicago. By the end of these remarks, however, it was clear that Bill had chosen to emphasize the history of the Society rather than to highlight the generosity of our donor. At that point, I introduced Pauline as our new executive director, and she immediately rebalanced the conversation to ensure that Seymour Persky felt appropriately recognized for his gift. Although this was just one instance of Pauline’s diplomatic tact, it attests to the sensitivity that she brought to her new duties (Figures 4–6).
Prior to passing to SAH ownership, two other nonprofit organizations used the Charnley House as a tax-exempt property, but it was unclear whether SAH would receive the same exemptions. Although this discussion arose during the presidency of my successor, Patricia Waddy, I was also asked to attend one of these meetings. Pauline went right to work, contacting the appropriate public officials and politicians to ensure that the property retained its tax-exempt status.
As other testimonials here will confirm, Pauline not only opened up many new opportunities for SAH as an organization, especially in terms of engaging with new technology, but also maintained extraordinarily close personal relationships with many, many of our members. For example, Naomi Miller, my senior colleague at Boston University and the first woman to be editor of JSAH, always remained in regular correspondence with Pauline. Whenever I spoke with Pauline, she always asked after Naomi. Both of us have lost a close friend, but we rejoice in the honor of having known her well. Pauline and I also both loved baseball teams with the word Sox in their names—Red for me and White for her. When I spoke to Pauline for the last time in June, we agreed that we would find an occasion either in Chicago or in Boston to celebrate her years of service while watching our teams compete. I will keep that promise, and I assume that the White Sox will win.
Pauline made a lasting impact on the lives of so many SAH members. We were all incredibly fortunate that Seymour suggested Pauline for the executive director position and that she agreed to lead our organization. She was a woman for all seasons, and she will be very deeply missed.
Pauline Saliga and “The City Beyond”
During my eight years of working first as JSAH editor and then as SAH officer with Pauline Saliga, I learned a great deal from her about leading through compassion and commitment. Complementary with her strong vision for SAH, Pauline had a deep capacity to listen and respond to calls for change, even if these calls might contradict decades of established practice or what stood as SAH tradition. Her ability to facilitate change matched her famously evenhanded and generous style of management that steered SAH through turbulent times and potentially contentious institutional transformation.
After twenty-seven years Pauline’s legacy is everywhere present at SAH, but some of her achievements deserve special attention, including the Society’s embrace of digital media; the SAH Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accountability, and Sustainability (IDEAS) initiative; and the emergence of SAH affiliate groups. In each case, Pauline responded to members of our community who saw a need for innovation and changes to the way SAH had “always” done things. Collaborating with colleagues to create new digital research platforms, she nurtured a culture of innovation within SAH that generated an array of groundbreaking digital publications. In response to an internal, member-driven critique of SAH’s lack of diversity, she helped launch the IDEAS initiative, which works to devise sustainable strategies for diversity, equity, and inclusion within SAH and to promote meaningful change in the Society and its culture. As part of this initiative, SAH made space for affiliate groups, including international scholars, scholars of color, young scholars, and scholars who might not have found a home in SAH previously.
The exhibition The City beyond the White City: Race, Two Chicago Homes, and Their Neighborhoods, one of Pauline’s last projects, illuminates some of the core principles that drove her career. Curated in collaboration with Dr. Rebecca Graff, associate professor of anthropology at Lake Forest College, The City beyond the White City links the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (the “White City”) to the histories of two 1892 Chicago structures: the Charnley-Persky House and the Mecca Flats, located respectively on the privileged Near North Side and the disinvested Near South Side. Framing the history of race, structures of racism, and the built environment in Chicago, the exhibition, held both at the Charnley-Persky House (SAH’s headquarters) and virtually, features archaeologically recovered artifacts discovered at the house.1
Various threads of Pauline’s career coalesced in this exhibition. She drew upon the professional expertise acquired in her academic training in museum studies and her curatorial experience at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago to develop an exhibition addressing a complex and contested subject at three scales: the neighborhoods, the buildings, and the objects that people left behind. The City beyond the White City reveals not only Pauline’s deep attachment to and appreciation of the Charnley-Persky House but also her awareness that this iconic structure represents a history of settler colonial occupation and racial segregation. Pauline’s principled commitment to social justice informs the exhibition’s critical approach, connecting disparate histories to illuminate the nineteenth-century racial ideologies that suffused the fair, the house, and the flats. The virtual exhibition, with its rich visual material and textual analysis, attests to Pauline’s long engagement with the digital humanities and her advocacy for the dissemination of architectural history to broader audiences.
According to Pauline and her cocurator, Rebecca S. Graff, the reciprocal methods of architectural history and historical archaeology bring unique insights into “the city beyond” the elite sites of canonical narratives:
The structures themselves—the Charnley-Persky House and the Mecca Flats—set the stories of those who lived there in motion. But ultimately, we see this project as an intervention between unpeopled architectural histories and narrativity about race and racism in Chicago that lacks a connection to the built environment and human experiences of place, not least the historic experiences of racism in Chicago. Archaeological insights plus architectural histories help to get us there.2
This statement and the exhibition exemplify Pauline’s values and commitments and serve as a fitting testimonial to her legacy.
The City Beyond the White City: Race, Two Chicago Homes, and Their Neighborhoods, https://www.beyondthewhitecity.org/exhibiton (accessed 28 Jan. 2023).
The City Beyond the White City.
Pauline Saliga: From Chicago to the World
SAH is still the beneficiary of Pauline’s rigorous, astute, imaginative, and gentle leadership. Thirty years ago, SAH was a rather stodgy organization, to which many of us were still devoted. Stodgy no more. It is young, dynamic, innovative, while maintaining exceptionally high standards. It has become in some respects a truly international organization. . . . [Pauline] has been the driver to push the Society into new realms, and she has been the glue that has held it together.—Richard Longstreth, 2015
Richard Longstreth, SAH Fellow and SAH past president (1998–2000), proclaimed these contributions of Pauline Saliga upon her induction as an SAH Fellow in 2015. As Longstreth noted, Pauline “stood out” as the stellar choice to serve as the first SAH executive director when the Society relocated from Philadelphia to Chicago in 1995. As he observed, “She was likely to accomplish more in five years than many others would in ten.” Longstreth’s prescient prediction would become reality: over twenty-seven remarkable years Pauline shepherded SAH into a global presence.
Born and raised in Chicago, Pauline first embarked on a career as a curator of architecture at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (1977–81) and the Art Institute of Chicago (1981–95). Her many books, articles, and catalogues embodied the breadth of her interests, including Design for the Continuous Present: The Architecture of Bruce Goff, 1904–1982 (Prestel Verlag, 1995), The Sky’s the Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers (Rizzoli, 1990), and Building in a New Spain: Contemporary Spanish Architecture (Gustavo Gili, 1992). In 1984, the Cliff Dwellers Club, the legendary Chicago arts institution, appointed Pauline as one of its first female members. Earlier members included luminaries such as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, designers of the landmark Charnley-Persky House in Chicago, and from its founding as the new headquarters of SAH in 1995, Pauline championed that house’s stewardship and preservation.
I came to know Pauline’s truly international scope when we led a series of SAH international field seminars to Japan (2006, 2007, 2019). It was there that I first encountered SAH’s broad demographics and the Society’s broader pedagogical mission to promote the understanding of built environments through direct experience. I gained further appreciation for Pauline’s organizational brilliance while serving on the SAH Board of Directors from 2008 to 2011 and on the Executive Board from 2012 to 2018. I witnessed the growth of the annual SAH conference under Pauline’s leadership from nearly six hundred attendees from twenty-five countries (April 2014 in Austin) to nearly eight hundred attendees from thirty-six countries (April 2015 in Chicago) to celebrate the Society’s seventy-fifth anniversary. Thanks to Pauline’s enlightened initiative, the conference welcomed a dozen SAH International Travel Grantees funded by the Getty Foundation, architectural historians, museum curators, and heritage conservationists from traditionally underrepresented countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, India, Nigeria, Russia, Tanzania, Turkey, and Ukraine. As Pauline noted in her recap:
Of the four men and eight women, nine identified themselves as scholars, two were curators of architectural collections, four were heritage conservationists, and three were architects working at academic institutions. Four were in the early stages of their careers and eight were mid-career. The grantees all gave five-minute talks to the SAH Board so we could better understand their work and the challenges they face, for example, not being free to take photographs of buildings and landscapes in Egypt and Nigeria.
The 2016 SAH annual conference in Pasadena welcomed fifteen Getty-sponsored International Fellows from Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Hong Kong, Russia, South Africa, and Tanzania. Although funding was limited to two years, the trajectory of original Fellow Deyemi Akande of the University of Lagos attests to the program’s continued impact: Akande became an H. Allen Brooks Travelling Fellow in 2016 and joined the SAH Membership Committee in 2020.
The SAH 70th Annual International Conference in Glasgow in June 2017 marked a high point in Pauline’s tenure as executive director and signaled her determination to expand SAH’s global reach (Figure 7). Welcoming attendees from a record thirty-nine countries, the conference marked the first time SAH had met outside North America in more than forty years and coincided with Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage, and Archaeology. While Pauline typically needed to attend meetings at SAH gatherings to prepare for the next annual conference, I observed this was one of the few occasions when she had time to truly enjoy the meeting herself. As Pauline mingled with conference-goers, accompanied by her husband, John Gronkowski, who was taking photographs to commemorate the event, I realized that Richard Longstreth’s words rang true: “She has been the driver to push the Society into new realms, and she has been the glue that has held it together.”
Pauline Saliga: Memories and Reflections
Pauline Saliga, our colleague and dear friend, gave us much to admire and emulate. She addressed the formative issues of her time and fulfilled her responsibilities with great clarity, humility, and humanity. She was a great and transformational leader.
The political historian James MacGregor Burns distinguished between transactional and transformational kinds of leadership. Transactional leadership is quite common: you do this for me and I’ll do that for you, a give-and-take. By contrast, a transformational leader takes a longer view that empowers others. Together, they are motivated to move an organization forward. Burns argued that “the result of transforming leadership is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents.”1 As a Pulitzer Prize–winning presidential biographer, Burns explored these ideas with reference to politics, but they also apply to leadership in numerous diverse areas.
As SAH executive director, Pauline brought people together and moved the Society ahead in many ways. She took up her post in 1995 in the midst of a burgeoning digital revolution. At the time this dramatic change was not universally embraced, and at least one architecture school declared there would be no computers in its studios. However, Pauline understood the potential of digital technology and found generous funding to create SAHARA and SAH Archipedia and thereby make thousands of images available to scholars and the public.
Recent new initiatives include the development of a conservation management plan for the Charnley-Persky House. Both architects and historians have long appreciated the value of this architectural jewel, and a number of firms have conducted restoration work there over the years. However, with old houses there is always more to be done. The recent plan is the result of a comprehensive condition assessment outlining current and future needs.
Intertwined with this work is the new exhibition at the Charnley-Persky House, The City beyond the White City: Race, Two Chicago Homes, and Their Neighborhoods. The exhibition begins with the Indigenous history of the site and then compares and contrasts two homes using items uncovered by student archaeological excavations: the Charnley-Persky House on Chicago’s privileged North Side and the Mecca Flats on the underserved South Side.
Other important ongoing SAH initiatives include expanding the Society’s international presence, supporting young scholars and new kinds of leadership, and strengthening our commitment to sustainable diversity. Clearly SAH is an organization both engaged with the present and looking to the future.
Burns noted that transformational leadership “demands special qualities of compassion, knowledge, and strong values,” and this exemplifies Pauline, whose skills at bringing out the best in others were extraordinary.2 She was always looking for and open to suggestions and recommendations. Many of us remember conversations, meetings, conference calls, and Zoom sessions where she always listened intently and acknowledged and praised people for all their suggestions and ideas. She genuinely appreciated people’s input, and, even more important, she put their ideas into practice!
As a historian, Pauline understood and valued the scholarly work and talents of SAH members, and she carried out all her complex duties with kindness and good humor. She gathered together a dedicated group of people to work with her, and in 2020 this group was able to respond swiftly and creatively to invent a new form of digital annual meeting during the early stages of the COVID pandemic. This work continues after her death, as the planned celebration of the Charnley-Persky House expanded to become a celebration of Pauline’s life.
The words of the seventeenth-century poet Henry Vaughan provide comfort at a time like this:
I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm as it was bright.
—The World (ca. 1650)
Pauline was indeed all calm as she was bright. We can all benefit from her example. Thanks to Pauline’s transformational leadership, we have much to carry forward that will help the Society continue to move ahead.
James MacGregor Burns, Leadership (New York: Harper & Row, 1978), 4.
James MacGregor Burns, interview by Brian Lamb, Booknotes, C-SPAN, 4 June 1989, https://www.c-span.org/video/?7854-1/crosswinds-freedom (accessed 28 Jan. 2023).
Gold: Memories of Pauline Saliga
The Saturday after Pauline’s passing, I found myself consumed with grief. As I often do when I need to clear my head, I jumped into my car and hit the road. A couple of hours later I pulled up to the Abbey Church of Saint John the Baptist, a place that has been a touchstone for me for more than twenty-five years. As I walked into the concrete structure, designed by Marcel Breuer in the mid-twentieth century, I felt some of the weight of my grief lifted by the building’s beauty, and by the kindness of the Benedictines who call this church their spiritual home. Entering the large sanctuary that seats more than a thousand people, I soon found myself drawn to the small Lady Chapel on its west side (Figure 8).
I lit a candle for Pauline and sat down to pray and to think of her. Immediately I felt the small trapezoidal-shaped space take hold of me. The chapel is only 180 feet square, with two concrete walls framing a blue mosaic wall on one side and a wall made of sections of terracotta tile on the other. Gold leaf covers the concrete ceiling, and the floor is paved with black granite. The space, I realized, offered a perfect metaphor for Pauline, who always managed to bring different parts together into harmony to achieve greater ends. The Lady Chapel seeks to elevate one’s spirit. Similarly, Pauline always moved SAH forward in her role as our executive director and always elevated our spirits while doing so.
Throne of Wisdom
A twelfth-century French sculpture of the Madonna and Child, Mary, Throne of Wisdom, serves as the centerpiece of the Lady Chapel. Pauline, like a secular Mary, stood at the center of so many lives, particularly those of her wonderful family, whom we all continue to hold in our thoughts. Pauline was wisdom personified. Her decades-long commitment to studying, sharing, and understanding our built landscape, and especially Chicago, gave her an architectural intelligence that is rarely matched. She was also a keen executive director, always striving to bring both perspective and vitality to future directions for the Society.
The builders of the Lady Chapel cut black granite, produced by incredible energies released across inconceivable stretches of time, into neat hexagons to create the floor beneath our feet, thereby establishing a trustworthy and durable foundation. Pauline became our foundation at SAH, supporting all that went on and drawing upon what seemed like bottomless reserves of energy to reassure everyone around her that, whatever the present challenge, the Society would emerge stronger and more effective. I was always fascinated by her ability to navigate the most complicated of issues in the kindest, most professional manner at all times.
Reinforced concrete surrounds visitors to the Lady Chapel. On both the north and south walls, Breuer allowed the marks of the wooden formwork to remain visible. Concrete is liquid rock, malleable and open to change, yet solid and authoritative once formed. I saw such plasticity in Pauline, too, in her ability to continually transform the Society, enabling it to take on new qualities that both redefined and strengthened the organization. She was so proud of her ongoing collaborations with others, collaborations that led us into the digital humanities, online conferences and events, and financial security, thanks also to her grant writing skills and her ability to attract endowments. Her same innovative energy guided the restoration and upkeep of the Charnley-Persky House, as well as her efforts to make the Society more inclusive through the SAH IDEAS initiative for inclusion, diversity, equity, accountability, and sustainability.
Pauline’s ability to see the finest details, and to help others see them as well, while at the same time making steady progress toward grand achievements, finds its architectural equivalent in the terracotta-tiled eastern wall of the Lady Chapel. While separating the chapel from the nave, the wall is also permeable, opening out onto the larger sanctuary as it also defines a unique interior space. It was Pauline’s vibrant forte to always see how to link the actions of committees, staff, the board, donors, affiliate groups, chapters, and so on to the bigger picture, and this was something I admired greatly in her.
SAH’s pieces, its mosaic if you will, are many and complex. Pauline cared for every single person in our organization. She valued every single vantage point. Her ability to unite these disparate components resembles the way thousands of blue stone tesserae come together to enliven the western wall of the Lady Chapel. While each means something as an individual, the pieces attain their greatest power and beauty when they are assembled together.
Perhaps the gold leaf on the Lady Chapel ceiling best sums up the nature of our dear friend, Pauline. A few years ago, she graciously wrote a recommendation letter for me when I applied for an award. Reading her last few sentences, I was surprised to learn that Pauline compared me to a color—lime green—“refreshing, bold, and bright.” I will never forget this letter, and her technique of using color as an analogy has made its way into many recommendation letters that I have written since (with her permission of course). If I were to think of Pauline as a color, I would choose gold. Generous. Successful. Compassionate. Wise. I felt empowered in her presence.
Our Golden Friend
Since Pauline’s passing, several of my SAH friends have described her as luminous. I think this association is a wonderful way to allow her light to continue to shine into our lives as we move forward. Perhaps when you see something of gold it will bring this extraordinary person to mind, and help you to remember the wisdom, strength, vision, adaptability, and kindness that she radiated throughout her life (Figure 9).