Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:
Hagar, Kristin M. (2011). Toward a New Approach to Evaluating Significance in Recent-Past Preservation Planning with a Case Study of 1960s Properties in Philadelphia County. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


In evaluating a stock of recent-past buildings, it is important to stay alert to the ways in which recent-past heritage is more difficult to assess, and what we might be prone to do to make it easier to assess. It is not enough to involve numerous people in the process and to articulate our method of analysis. We as preservation professionals must also consciously strive to avoid cognitive shortcuts. We must set evaluative standards and choose priorities, without simply dismissing a great portion of the built environment as “crap” or accepting self-evidence as a measure of significance. Complexity should not be a cause for despair. We must lead the public in a more self-reflexive view of built heritage, without getting stuck in never-ending philosophizing and debating. The field would benefit from a more systematic, methodical approach to championing pluralism in heritage and recognizing the polysemy in cultural objects, which nonetheless helps to uncover priorities of highest significance.

In sum, prior to, and in addition to, preservation advocacy efforts to publicize and popularize buildings of the recent-past, preservation planning efforts must establish better methods for identifying resources and assessing their significance. In light of the issues and caveats just introduced, this study asks: what is an optimal inventory method for a municipal/county-level commission or nonprofit organization to identify priorities for preservation planning for the recent-past?



Date Posted: 04 May 2012