2020 Providence Symposium Wrap Up

Published in Programs.

PPS is sincerely grateful to all those who participated in this year’s Providence Symposium, Whose Places Matter (and Why?). This week-long program confronted a modern historic preservation movement that came of age in the era of redlining, urban renewal, and fierce debate about the future of our cities, resulting in more deeply entrenched racial, economic, and philosophical divides and a preservation practice that protected the interests of the privileged and powerful. 

Our speakers and panelists explored diverse topics including climate justice, the housing crisis, pedestrian safety, race and gender disparity in the design fields, and the intersection of popular culture and historic architecture. These wide-ranging discussions are essential as we explore the structural injustices that have shaped our built environment and the communities that inhabit it. 

In our final conversation “What Do We Want for Providence?”, Executive Director Brent Runyon concluded that historic preservation still leans on its origins, which are in large part based on the interests of affluent white people. Much progress remains to be made in diversifying what we preserve and who is a part of that decision-making process. We must seek to tell better and more diverse stories, including those about intangible heritage and spaces that no longer exist.

To accomplish this goal, preservationists need to cede power to those in the community with different perspectives, who also care about our special places and history. The time has come for the preservation movement to embrace a grassroots approach. As PPS embarks on a new strategic planning process in 2021, we will seek to re-conceive our organization’s mission and priorities. We look forward to incorporating the lessons learned from this Symposium as we continue to re-envision historic preservation, helping to build a healthier, more equitable Providence where everyone’s history matters.

Below you’ll find program videos, related content, and our generous sponsors!

Program Videos

Who Decides What’s Worth Saving?

Climate Justice and Preservation

What Do We Want for Providence?

All Symposium sessions are now on our Youtube channel!

Related links

Housing Politics Lab

Beyond the Built Environment


Racial and Environmental Justice Committee of Providence

Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America

The 2020 Providence Symposium was generously sponsored by:

Our public programming is made possible in part by a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed by PPS do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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