Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Back, Margaret (2019). Managing Community Murals in an Urban Preservation Framework (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


Since their arrival in the 1960s, community murals have grown from grass roots efforts to beautify neighborhoods and assert community identity into artistically innovative expressions of injustices of the communities they serve. As murals increasingly appear in cities across the country, almost no guidelines exist for their management and care nor their relationship with existing cultural resource management practices. This thesis examines how community mural programs interact with other public and private entities to achieve preservation-oriented management practices. It explores the current policies and practices of three east coast community organizations, The Baltimore Mural Program, Mural Arts Philadelphia, and the Mayor’s Mural Crew of Boston. This paper considers how these programs manage and access information, how they determine lifespan, how they make decisions about maintaining and removing murals, and how stakeholders participate in their process and decisions. By analyzing current practices, this paper outlines the need for best practices in mural management using a values-based collections criteria. Beyond maintenance and care practices, this paper argues that preservation offers the opportunity to evaluate murals as contemporary contributions to the urban landscape.


cultural resource management, urban history, public art, maintenance, information management



Date Posted: 03 June 2019