Historic Preservation Colloquium

History/Theory

Fall 2012

Paul Bentel + Chris Neville, instructors

This course considered issues within the field of Historic Preservation with relevance to the way it is carried out in the world today. We began by distinguishing between its global presence as a popular movement and the growing ideological discourse among its professional practitioners. We engaged these historical manifestations of Historic Preservation critically, seeking a theoretical foothold that is not entirely conditioned by a professional discourse, on the one hand, nor influenced by prevailing economic and political circumstances, on the other hand. As a baseline, we examined thematic focal points that are ever-present within the discussion about the curatorial management of cultural heritage such as Significance and Cultural Value; Authenticity and Integrity; Place and Context; and Heritage. Special emphasis was given to the relationship between buildings as physical objects and their meaning in the present; and to the role of Historic Preservation as a field of environmental design. Students were required to present arguments on polemical issues relevant to their own independent research, to express a commitment to a particular point of view and to defend it against challenges from their class members. The course aided students in forming their own professional identities within the field of Historic Preservation by reinforcing their understanding of its intellectual content and encouraging them to participate actively in the discursive process by which it unfolds in theory and practice.