As this issue goes to print, a groundswell of interest, or more accurately, critique and rejection of the long-seated definition and application of its subject, integrity, is underway. As part of the broader global movement addressing social justice and issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, a reconsideration of what historic integrity means for the identification, protection, and preservation of significant cultural places is long overdue. That is not to say that challenges to the existing concepts of significance and integrity were not being voiced earlier in academic and professional circles. But it remained a polite conversation, with any drama confined behind closed doors. That was until 2020, when the demands for social justice, equity, and inclusive representation questioned the continued presence of public monuments and sites dedicated to white supremacy worldwide.
All places have their histories. The question of the moment is not which history but whose histories and how they are to be remembered and represented. Guidelines defining historic preservation practice are based on principles deemed relevant for their time and place and, sometimes optimistically, for the future. If the dominant culture decides what, who, where, and why places are called out for significance, designation, and protection, then public history is distorted. In an attempt to address the perceived majority, the less visible minority is invariably neglected.
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