Why We Need Public Historians—Especially Now

SAH 2021 Virtual Conference

Why We Need Public Historians—Especially Now
Thursday, May 13, 2021
12:00–1:30 PM CDT

In these tumultuous times, practitioners, students, and general readers alike feel a keen interest in public scholarship in architecture—in knowledgeable voices that will expand the constituency for serious discourse on the future of buildings, landscapes, and cities. What new venues, formats, and issues beckon for historians who seek readers beyond the field? What crucial contemporary debates will benefit from their perspectives and methods? How might deeper public engagement inform new trajectories for research, and vice versa? Conversely, are there disciplinary traditions and academic structures that might constrain emerging public historians in architecture? In an era when university-based economists, technologists, and scientists have published widely and attracted enthusiastic non-specialist audiences—and when the crises of climate resilience, public health, and housing equity all demand historically informed responses from scholars of the built environment—why have architectural historians not achieved comparable public presence?

This roundtable will bring together Places contributors Iman Ansari (USC), Reinhold Martin (Columbia University), Shannon Mattern (The New School), and Barbara Penner (UCL), and Places editor Nancy Levinson to explore these critical questions, moderated by Places managing editor Deborah Lilley.


SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610