Providence Symposium | Who Decides What’s Worth Saving?

Who “authorizes” cultural heritage and decides what places are worth protecting and celebrating? How are these decisions made and whose histories do they preserve? This panel discussion will explore the formal preservation systems currently in place and how they work for and against communities. Our guests will offer insight on how preservation works at the municipal, state, and federal levels and how the processes are responding to demands for change.

November 13 / 3:00 pm
Free / Advance registration required 


Sherry A. Frear, RLA, is Chief of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program, a role she assumed in May of this year. She brings to the National Register an interest in expanding the diversity of listings; updating and reissuing the Bulletins; and developing additional guidance for modern buildings and landscapes. Supported by credentials in historic preservation, landscape architecture, project management, and sustainable practices, her experience ranges from programming and planning to design and construction management to interpretation and outreach.

Sherry spent her formative professional years working for a large Washington, D.C., law firm, where she specialized in construction litigation support. Through volunteer work at the National Building Museum, she discovered the range of career options in the A/E/C profession, which lead her to Cornell University, where she earned both a Master’s in Historic Preservation Planning and a Master’s in Landscape Architecture. She has worked at the city, county, and federal levels, including a previous stint with NPS in 2010-2012 at Lowell National Historical Park. Sherry is a licensed landscape architect (MD).

Claudia Guerra is San Antonio’s first Cultural Historian, a position in the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP).  Her work focuses on including the voices of those who feel disenfranchised from preservation. As Cultural Historian, Claudia has been conducting oral histories and cultural mapping to capture the complete cultural story of San Antonio. Using principles from international perspectives on living heritage, her goal is to expand our understanding of heritage and to develop holistic polices that perpetuate tangible and intangible resources. Her work has aided in the creation of a new division in OHP, dedicated to living heritage in order to focus on sustainable development, socially inclusive practices, the protection and promotion of community character and cultural heritage, and the revitalization of traditional building crafts and trades.  Previous to this position, she worked for the Center for Cultural Sustainability at the University of Texas at San Antonio, her research focused on the connection between Spirit of Place and Spirit of People.

J. Paul Loether is the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission and the State Historic Preservation Officer for Rhode Island.  Mr. Loether has over 40 years of professional experience working in the field of historic preservation, exercising senior management and leadership at the state and national levels of government.  From 2007-2018, he worked at the National Park Service in Washington, DC, as Chief of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program; he also held the title of Keeper of the National Register.  Previously he was the Director of Culture for the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and Connecticut’s State Historic Preservation Officer. He earned an undergraduate degree in history at Trinity College and a graduate degree from Trinity in Public Policy with a focus on historic preservation.  Mr. Loether began his work with RIHPHC in late June 2018.

Stephanie Ryberg-Webster, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Studies at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs. Her research broadly addresses the intersections of historic preservation and urban development. Stephanie’s current work explores historic preservation in shrinking cities, including the 1970s-era history of historic preservation within the context of Cleveland’s escalating urban decline. She has published research on preservation and community development, African American heritage, historic rehabilitation tax credits, and preservation amid urban decline. Stephanie is the co-editor of Legacy Cities: Continuity and Change amid Decline and Revival (with J. Rosie Tighe). She earned a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Historic Preservation from the University of Maryland, and a Bachelor of Urban Planning from the University of Cincinnati.  

Moderated by

Elaine B. Stiles is an Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation in the School of Architecture, Art, and Historic Preservation at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. Elaine’s research focuses on the design processes and politics that shaped twentieth-century suburban development and affordable housing agendas in the US. Her dissertation, “Designing the Tract House: Builders, Buyers, and the New American Vernacular 1934-1959,” examines the design processes of large-scale merchant builders as they reconciled art, politics, technology, and market factors to transform Americans’ attitudes about the home and American housing culture. Her preservation-related research focuses on the impacts of prevailing preservation practices on social equity and inclusion.Elaine returned to graduate school after a decade of working as an architectural historian, historic preservation planner, and preservation advocate. She earned a BA in Art History from Smith College and an MA in Preservation Studies from Boston University, and a PhD in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.

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