HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMES BACK TO THE FUTURE: Rhode Island’s preservation conference goes virtual in April

Published on Monday, March 01, 2021

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The 35th Rhode Island Historic Preservation Conference, Come Back to the Future, will take place virtually Wednesday, April 21–Friday, April 23, 2021. The three-day program includes two keynote speakers, more than 15 breakout sessions, and numerous on-demand virtual tours and videos. Attendees will also have opportunities to network and participate in discussion groups. The event is organized by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) in collaboration with Preserve Rhode Island, Secretary of State Nellie A. Gorbea, and many generous partners. Lead sponsors include the National Park Service, The 1772 Foundation, and Dalkey Management. 

The conference explores two major themes: preserving Rhode Island’s recent past and understanding heritage landscapes. On Thursday, April 22, Modern architecture advocate and podcaster George Smart will deliver a keynote address on “The Accidental Archivist.” He is the creator of USModernist®, the world's largest online digital archive for Modernist residential design. Smart and his volunteer team have documented 8000 Modernist houses and have matched endangered properties with new owners. Following the keynote, Smart will join preservationists Rachel Robinson and Mary Kate Harrington for a session titled “But My House Isn’t Historic.” 

On Friday, April 23, Kofi Boone, FASLA, will give the keynote address on “Black Landscapes Matter.” Boone is a Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at North Carolina State University’s College of Design. His work spans landscape architecture and environmental justice and focuses on democratic design, digital media, and interpreting cultural landscapes. Following his keynote, Boone will join historian Keith Stokes and landscape architect Elena Pascarella for a session titled “Recovering African Heritage Landscapes.” 

Other breakout sessions include Ira Rakatansky’s Modernist Architecture, Indigenizing Design, Monuments and Meanings and topics that examine postwar suburbs, technology, climate change, and plans for the 250th anniversary of the Burning of the Gaspee. The menu of digital tours and bonus content continues to grow; highlights include virtual tours of the 19th century Knight Estate and Clouds Hill museum in Warwick, geology and architecture of the Pawtuxet River Valley, and Community College of Rhode Island’s Knight Campus—the Brutalist-style megastructure erected in 1968-72. The program on Wednesday, April 21, is devoted to workshops on historic district zoning. 

To register and view all program descriptions, visit the conference website: https://preservationconferenceri.com. The registration fee is $25. Student discounts are available.

Come Back to the Future conference banner - Copyright Thad Russell Photography
IMAGES (left to right): ©CCRI; ©Providence Public Library; ©Thad Russell Photography.