Providence Symposium | What Needs to Change?

Many regard the preservation field as being in the midst of a relevancy crisis — its systems outdated, its practices exclusionary, and its practitioners out of touch. In order for preservation to become more accessible and relevant to more communities and to survive into the future, deep change is necessary. But can we reform preservation or do we attempt to dismantle it and build anew? Can preservation ever be an instrument for addressing or advancing equity? What is the social responsibility of preservation, and what does accountability look like? This panel will entertain the possibilities. 

November 17 / 3:00 pm
Free / Advance registration required


Desiree Aranda is a city planner and cultural heritage consultant based in Phoenix, Arizona. She is also a co-founder and current co-chair of Latinos in Heritage Conservation. She previously worked for the San Francisco Planning Department as a preservation planner and for the nonprofit, San Francisco Heritage, as a project manager and deputy director. Her work focuses on identifying, documenting, and elevating important places associated with communities of color and other marginalized social groups. From 2014 to 2015, Desiree served on the advisory board for the Latinos in Twentieth-Century California National Register of Historic Places Context Statement produced by the California Office of Historic Preservation. She holds a bachelor’s of arts in sociology and women’s studies from the University of Georgia and a master’s of science in planning from the University of Arizona. She is also an alumna of the ROHO Advanced Oral History Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

Catherine Fleming Bruce is author of ‘The Sustainers: Being, Building and Doing Good through Activism in the Sacred Spaces of Civil Rights, Human Rights and Social Movements. In 2017,  she became the first Black author to win the University of Mary Washington Historic Preservation  Book Prize. She has participated in the 2016 Association for the Study of African American Life and History conference; the George Mason University’s 2017 Fall for the Book Festival; the 2018  National Council on Public History. Bruce led the effort to preserve the home of South Carolina civil rights activist Modjeska Monteith Simkins, and is currently preserving the Cyril O. Spann  Medical Office and the Visanska Starks House and Carriage House.  

An alumna of Agnes Scott College, Bruce received her MA in Mass Communication and  Information Studies at the University of South Carolina and pursued doctoral studies there. Bruce has a long history of civic engagement, including work with Occupy Columbia, an offshoot of the  Occupy Wall Street movement, electoral politics, and the United Nations’ World Summit for the  Information Society.

Sarah Marsom is a Heritage Resource Consultant Based in Columbus, Ohio. Her work strives to improve the historic preservation movement’s accessibility by empowering the next generation of community advocates and increasing representation of lesser-known histories through a variety of storytelling/engagement strategies. She is the founder of the Tiny Activist Project and organizer behind #DismantlePreservation. In 2018, Sarah was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as the recipient of the American Express Aspire Award during the 2018 National Preservation Awards and as an honoree of the inaugural 40 Under 40: People Saving Place’s list. Sarah Marsom’s work has been featured in Curbed, Traditional Building Magazine, and the National Parks Service’s LGBTQ America Theme Study, amongst other publications and podcasts.

Dr. Jeremy C. Wells is an associate professor in the Historic Preservation Program in the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at the University of Maryland, College Park. His research focuses on the psychology of heritage places; making the preservation enterprise more equitable, just, and resilient; and innovative community engagement tools for preservation planners. He runs the web site,, to explore these topics with the goal of making historic preservation more human-centered.

Moderated By

Bonnie McDonald aspires to shape preservation into a more relevant and just practice. As President and CEO of Landmarks Illinois (LI), Bonnie advances the vision, mission, and programs of Illinois’ only statewide preservation nonprofit organization. Her transformative thinking about preservation has led LI to focus its work on people and their important connection to historic places. She’s currently spearheading the organization’s evolution at its 50-year anniversary to enhance its relevancy and to create a national model for justice, equity, inclusion and diversity in preservation practice. Bonnie is a collaborative leader and together with her board, team and volunteers, they’ve nearly doubled LI’s staff, opened its first regional office, passed vital state legislation, and played a visible role as thought leaders during her eight years as president. In November 2018, Bonnie was elected board chair of the National Preservation Partners Network, the national nonprofit representing preservation organizations, and is proud to have been awarded the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation Mid-Career Fellowship in 2020. Bonnie received a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History (Summa Cum Laude) from the University of Minnesota and a Master’s Degree in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University.

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