Preservation Conference Challenges Attendees to Lead the Change

Sponsored: The virtual conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation addresses important issues for community leaders and advocates, while offering affordable and free programming.

Preservation Conference Challenges Attendees to Lead the Change

The virtual conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation addresses important issues for community leaders and advocates, while offering affordable and free programming.

By Renee Kuhlman, Senior Director of Outreach and Support, National Trust for Historic Preservation

PastForward Online, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual conference, will be a four-day virtual experience November 2 – 5, 2021, that not only celebrates the power of place, but also challenges attendees to Lead the Change.

Conference Brings Together Leaders in Communities

More than 4,000 preservationists and allies, including city advocates, architects, urban planners, landscape designers, elected officials, commissioners, and main street directors, will convene online to discuss and strategize their role in leading the change for building better and stronger communities.

PastForward attendees are change-makers dedicated to strengthening communities, yet all are grappling with significant, overlapping challenges, from pandemic shutdowns and economic shock to racial injustice and a changing climate. The complexity and scale of these challenges require all leaders in communities across the nation to become even more innovative, nimble, and collaborative, bringing together diverse perspectives and values to create positive change.

Paul Edmondson, CEO and president, National Trust for Historic Preservation, welcomes attendees to PastForward Online 2020.

Asking the Important Questions

“This year at PastForward, attendees will explore their role in building stronger communities,” said Rhonda Sincavage, director, content and partnerships, National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Together, we will identify ways to take action based on our shared values and priorities. This is an opportunity for leaders to come together and outline next steps at this critical time for the movement.”

More than 100 speakers will pose questions during PastForward sessions that encourage attendees to look beyond what has traditionally been done, questions such as:

  • How can our shared values guide our action, collectively and individually?
  • To achieve equity in preservation practices and policies within our governments and within our own organizations, what long-term remedies should we institutionalize?
  • What can we do at our historic sites, within our organizations, and towns and cities, to support resilience and create new approaches needed to adapt to a changing climate?
  • How do we adapt our practices and involve the community as we maneuver in a post-pandemic world?

At PastForward, the expansive preservation movement will come together to thoughtfully discuss new ways to coordinate actions to make significant changes and strategize ways to Lead the Change.

Conference subthemes include:

  • Promoting Equity and Justice Through Historic Preservation. An increased awareness of the inequities in our society created by our nation’s history of discrimination means the preservation community is confronting its own roles, both positive and negative. We seek to evolve our work to better support equitable development, tell the full American story, and support stronger, more inclusive communities.
  • Sharpening Essential Practices of Preservation. Sessions in this subtheme will help participants take a fresh look at essential preservation tools, learn about innovations implemented in response to the pandemic, and discuss opportunities for greater collaboration and impact.
  • Adapting to a Changing Climate. Preservation has an important role to play in both mitigating the impacts of climate change and adapting to its effects. This subtheme will highlight innovative approaches and provide practical guidance to help preservationists move from climate concern to climate action.

2021 keynote speaker, MacArthur Fellow and public artist Walter Hood

Program Highlights and Keynote Speakers

With more than 32 thought-provoking educational sessions that offer Continuing Education Units from the American Institute of Architects and the American Planning Association, attendees have the chance to connect with others on topics that matter to them.

During the session, A Conversation About Landscapes and Preservation as Justice, attendees will hear from Walter Hood, landscape designer, MacArthur Fellow, and public artist, and Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

While the last day of the conference includes a discussion between Cassie Chin, deputy executive director, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, and Jamie Ford, author of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”

2021 keynote speaker Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund

Additional session highlights include:

  • African-American Land Ownership in Urban Cultural Heritage Preservation features panelists discussing the value of acquiring, holding on to, and developing property in historically African American urban neighborhoods, and how it impacts economic development, population retention, and heritage preservation.
  • Fostering Greater Participation in Preservation presents a cross-section of preservation advocates, municipal governments, and community-based organizations discussing how they are working in partnership with historically excluded communities to address the failings of local land use policies.
  • Aligning Preservation With The Climate Crisis showcases ways to integrate cultural heritage to address climate change and the impacts of “managed retreat” policies and practices on the preservation of aging African American neighborhoods.
  • Monuments and Memorializing the Difficult Past explores how society assimilates past events when memory induces controversy instead of consensus and the challenge of representing these contrasting aspects in a single monument.
  • Boosting Sensory Interpretation at Historic Sites identifies how cultural spaces and historic sites are tackling and making their offerings more accommodating and welcoming for people with disabilities.

“The PastForward experience not only includes high quality education, but also unique experiences to engage with elected officials and learn from ‘hands-on’ projects,” said Farin Salahuddin, director, PastForward Conference, National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Even with the virtual platform, we are creating unique experiences for attendees to network and learn from each other. We learned a lot last year with our first virtual conference, and are confident we will provide attendees with the best online conference experience in 2021.”

Attendees have the opportunity for a day of online programming dedicated to a community engagement project in Historic Anacostia in Washington, D.C., as well as join virtual advocacy with Congress. New this year is also pre-and post-conference workshops to extend the PastForward educational experience. These workshops are free and open to the public—conference registration is not required.

In addition, one of the signature PastForward events is the National Preservation Awards Ceremony which celebrates distinguished individuals, nonprofit organizations, historic sites, public agencies, and corporations whose skill and determination have given new meaning to their communities through preservation of our architectural and cultural heritage. This attendee favorite, which is free and open to the public, not only provides inspiration and best practices, but also a chance to come together and celebrate all the work and effort being down to Lead the Change in building stronger communities.

Affordable and Free Programming

Due to the virtual nature of this year’s conference, the National Trust hopes as many people as possible can experience PastForward. Discounted rates for organizational members, which includes the ability to bring ten colleagues for one flat rate, as well as select free programming ensures that anyone with an interest in saving communities will be able to participate. Attendees who register before October 4 will also be able to enjoy early bird discounted registration rates.

Learn more about the complete PastForward schedule, details on registration, and how to sign up for free programming at

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Renee Kuhlman is senior director of outreach and support at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Tags: historic preservationsponsored

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