In recent years, preservation agencies at the federal, state, and locals levels have advanced more inclusive approaches to historic preservation by commissioning theme studies, surveys, and nominations to registers of historic places that address previously neglected aspects of US heritage. Much of the work done under the broad umbrella of inclusive histories has been focused on communities defined by a single aspect of identity. This essay raises questions about the effectiveness of single-community studies in addressing previously overlooked aspects of history at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and more. We encourage preservation professionals to take seriously the concept of intersectionality, which acknowledges the multivalent quality of lived experience, addresses the complexity of identity, and recognizes the multiplicity of communities with a stake in the preservation and interpretation of any given historic property. This essay argues for the strategic importance of learning from recent studies of LGBTQ resources to refine intersectional approaches to preservation planning, while identifying hidden barriers to inclusion and cultural equity in programs and projects that use a single lens to identify cultural resources associated with underrepresented groups.
Taking Intersectionality Seriously: Learning from LGBTQ Heritage Initiatives for Historic Preservation
Donna Graves is an independent historian/urban planner based in Berkeley, CA. She develops interdisciplinary public history projects that emphasize social equity and sense of place. Her involvement in projects that weave together local histories, preservation, art, and community participation began with her tenure as executive director of The Power of Place, which received national acclaim for its ground-breaking work in interpreting the history of downtown Los Angeles through urban design, historic preservation, and public art. Graves served as project director for the Rosie the Riveter Memorial and has been instrumental in establishing and developing California’s Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park. Graves was director of Preserving California’s Japantowns, a statewide effort to identify and document what remains of the many pre-WWII communities destroyed by forced removal and incarceration. She recently co-authored (with Shayne Watson) a citywide study of LGBTQ historic places in San Francisco and co-authored a chapter for the National Park Service’s LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History (2016). Recognitions for Graves’ work include the Vernacular Architecture Forum’s first Advocacy Award, the National Park Service’s Home Front Award, the California Preservation Foundation’s Excellence in Historic Preservation Award and the California Governor’s Historic Preservation Award. In 2009–2010 Graves was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.
Gail Dubrow is Professor of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Public Affairs & Planning, and History at the University of Minnesota. Her research on places significant in the history of underrepresented groups has been the basis for theme studies, context documents, National Historic Landmark nominations, and other projects intended to make preservation an instrument of equity, diversity, and inclusion. She is the author of two prize-winning books: Sento at Sixth and Main, with Donna Graves, and Restoring Women’s History Through Historic Preservation, coedited with Jennifer Goodman, and is a contributor to recent National Park Service theme studies on LGBTQ Americans and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage. She is currently writing a book, Japonisme Revisited, that reimagines the American craze for all things Japanese from the standpoint of immigrant architects, landscape designers, carpenters, and gardeners from Japan who created and maintained the built environment of Japonisme over the course of the twentieth century. This project has been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Huntington Library, and the Smithsonian Institution.
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Donna Graves, Gail Dubrow; Taking Intersectionality Seriously: Learning from LGBTQ Heritage Initiatives for Historic Preservation. The Public Historian 1 May 2019; 41 (2): 290–316. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2019.41.2.290
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