TOPIC: Maintaining the Past, Preserving the Future: Reexamining Historically Designated Buildings and Landscapes
Catherine's project centers on a needed reexamination of one of the core practices of historic preservation in the United States: the creation and regulation of historic districts. These designated areas are among the most critical assets of the preservation movement; however, a large percentage of them were created in previous decades when methods of evaluation, standards for qualification, and regulation were quite different. In the 21st century, preservation theory and architectural studies have evolved significantly, while actual preservation practice remains largely constrained by the legislative framework set forth in 1966 by the National Historic Preservation Act. At the same time, older historic districts feature many buildings that have been highly altered or completely destroyed, prompting state and local governments to reevaluate the conditions within these evolving districts. Preservationists now face difficult questions about the future methods of surveying, recognizing, and managing historic districts. Catherine's dissertation will grapple with these theoretical questions, interrogate current approaches and processes, and advance models to guide future historic preservation practice in the United States.