Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Description

This class examines the history and theory of historic preservation, focusing on the United States, but with reference to traditions and practices in other countries. The class is designed to examine the largely untold history of the historic preservation movement in this country, and explore how laws, public policies and cultural attitudes shape how we preserve or do not preserve the built environment. The class will give students a grounding in the history, theory and practice of historic preservation, but is not an applied, technical course. We will not, for example, be examining in great detail the practice of building conservation and restoration. The course will also involve visits to historic preservation sites in and around Boston. Students will have the opportunity to pursue either a traditional research paper or an applied project. Graduate students from Urban Studies and Planning, Architecture, History, and other related fields are welcome. Advanced undergraduates in these fields may take the class with permission of the instructor.


The textbooks for this class are:

Amazon logo Page, Max, and Randall Mason. Giving Preservation a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States. New York, NY: Routledge, 2003. ISBN: 9780415934435.

Amazon logo Walkowitz, Daniel J., and Lisa Maya Knauer. Memory and the Impact of Political Transformation in Public Space. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780822333647.

Course Requirements

  1. Class Attendance and Participation — A lecture class in which one doesn't say a single word all semester might actually be enjoyable and intellectually stimulating, depending on the quality of the readings and lectures. A seminar, however, depends on the regular, informed, energetic participation of its members. I am strongly committed to encouraging everyone to participate in class discussions.
  2. Weekly Commentaries — In order to spark discussion, I would like each of you to email me, by midnight the night before class, a brief (no more than one page) series of questions or commentary about the topic and/or readings for that week. Some weeks I may ask you to visit a particular site. The weekly questions and comments will not be graded, but you must do them (i.e. not submitting them will affect your grade).
  3. Short Papers — There are two short (2-4 page) papers for the course:
    1. Historic building or landscape — I would like you to visit a significant historical building or place of your choice and write a paper evaluating that place, how it is or is not being preserved, and what the value of the place is. Due at the beginning of class, before Ses #2.
    2. Boston Landmarks Commission — I would like you to attend a regular public meeting of the Boston Landmarks Commission and write a paper evaluating the meeting: what issues were covered, what particularly struck you, what the meeting says about how preservation is done. Due at the beginning of class in Ses #8.
  4. Final Paper or Project — You will have two options. For the paper option, you will, alone or together, examine a recent preservation controversy and analyze the issues raised in the controversy. For the project option, you are encouraged to develop an innovative proposal for a preservation intervention at a particular site: an innovative method of adaptive reuse, a new preservation bylaw, a model way of providing public interpretation of an historic site. Obviously, the topics will be developed in consultation with me. Presentations will be in Ses #12; final drafts due to me to the following week.