Building a More Inclusive Historic Preservation Program
By Teresa Isabel Leger de Fernandez, Vice Chairman, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
"We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community-and this nation."
These words by César Chávez serve as a guiding principle for the national historic preservation program and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation's (ACHP) efforts to inspire the preservation movement to fully embrace the heritage of Hispanics,
Latin@s and other ethnic groups.
Created by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), the ACHP
is an independent federal agency that advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy. This mandate from Congress, and inspiration from César Chávez, converged into the ACHP's efforts to engage community voices for the purpose of reviewing and improving our national historic preservation program..
In 2006, the ACHP convened a summit of preservation leaders and advocates. A major topic was how to recognize more historic sites important to diverse communities through vehicles such as the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
Participants found that historic properties of significance to groups unfamiliar with the NRHP process are vastly underrepresented. They suggested that improvements should be made in the racial, ethnic and geographic diversity of NRHP listings, an idea the National Park Service has taken to heart.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the NHPA this October, the conversation continues. In 2012, the ACHP began work to build a more inclusive preservation program. This included hosting listening sessions designed to receive input from diverse constituencies on how to engage all Americans in historic preservation.
ning sessions in Santa Fe, NM, in 2015, and Tampa, FL, in 2016, the ACHP heard from
and Hispanic representatives, that all too often they feel ignored by the preservation movement
Latin@s and Hispanics are, from an early age, accustomed to their contributions to the American experience being disregarded in official histories. This could be partly linked to how such histories are maintained - corridos, poesia, cuentos - (poems, songs, or dances) - which don't fit neatly within the place-based context of historic preservation.
Nevertheless,our community's diverse range of place-based experiences stretches from the location of civil rights struggles, to the maintenance of
acequia systems that sustain the communal and cooperative nature of our identity.
joined other conversations as well, including those at the inaugural meeting of Latinos in Heritage Conservation (LHC), which I attended, in Tucson, AZ. A number of consistent them
es were mentioned in many of the conversations, one of which was the need
to preserve cultural values, including the cultural practices, tradition
s, and knowledge associated with historic places.
In 2016, the ACHP adopted recommendations to make historic preservation more inclusive, as well as institutionalizing these recommendations into the daily work of the agency. One recommendation directs the ACHP to provide guidance to federal agencies on outreach to, and improved consultation with, underserved communities through programs such as the Section 106 review process, which ensures historic properties are considered during the development of any federal project.
The agency will also
offer technical assistance and develop training and guidance for diverse communities to engage them more fully in their own community preservation, as well as offer suggestions on how those communities might participate more actively and effectively in the national historic preservation program.
d the final recommendations, and suggested activities to meet these goals, click here.)
Consistent with Chávez's plea, attendees of the listening sessions urged preservationists to engage youth by making history relevant to them. To do this, preservation must have a local connection and meet young people "where they're at," via social media or hands-on projects in their own communities. One of the recommendations directly addresses this need.
The dialogue on building a more inclusive preservation movement will continue. As we look to the next 50 years, feedback from Latin@ and Hispanic communities will provide critical insight about the importance and challenges of preserving overlooked, but essential, strands of American history.
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