Pauline Saliga announced that she will step down as executive director of the Society of Architectural Historians in early fall 2022. The announcement of her resignation follows the expansion of SAH’s open access resources and the completion of a multi-year study on architectural history in the United States.
“I have had the great fortune as president to work closely with Pauline over the last few years, and I have always been impressed by her knowledge, thoughtfulness, insights, patience, and creativity,” said Victoria Young, president of SAH and professor in the Department of Art History at University of St. Thomas. “She has shown incredible commitment to this organization from day one.”
Saliga became the executive director of SAH in 1995 when the organization moved its headquarters from Philadelphia to the National Historic Landmark Charnley-Persky House in Chicago. Since then, she has simultaneously served as executive director of both the Charnley-Persky House Museum Foundation and SAH, a nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation, and conservation of the built environment worldwide for the benefit of all.
“I have been very fortunate to have worked with many creative, generous, and collaborative individuals at SAH and Charnley-Persky House, including the current leadership and staff,” Pauline Saliga said. “I am grateful that I have been entrusted with stewarding the growth of both organizations for more than two decades. Serving as executive director of SAH and the Charnley-Persky House Museum has been an honor and the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Under Saliga’s leadership, SAH established itself as a leader in the digital humanities. Created with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the online Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH) was a collaborative effort of SAH and University of California Press and is one of the first humanities journals to incorporate multimedia such as video, audio and Google maps. The open access SAH Archipedia, developed by SAH and University of Virginia Press with lead funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, brings peer-reviewed scholarship to a worldwide audience interested in learning more about the built environment of the U.S. SAHARA, a digital archive developed by SAH in collaboration with Artstor and funded by the Mellon Foundation, contains more than 155,000 user-contributed images of the global built environment for research and teaching.
“Pauline Saliga’s quiet brilliance, steady guidance, commitments to equity and justice, and visionary leadership have been essential to SAH’s growth through the duration of her tenure as executive director,” said Dianne Harris, dean of the University of Washington College of Arts & Sciences and a past president of SAH. “Her embrace of digital innovation and the development of new modes of scholarly communication have contributed considerably to expanding the audience for architectural, urban and landscape history both in this country and abroad. Under Pauline’s leadership, SAH has established a new set of standards for what a learned society can be in the twenty-first century. She is both respected and beloved by SAH members, and we all owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude for her service.”
SAH promoted meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through the creation of an open access SAH Archipedia, year-round SAH CONNECTS virtual programs, and SAH Affiliate Groups. Last year, Saliga secured a $199,596 American Rescue Plan grant from the NEH to sustain and expand the Society’s public humanities publications and programs. In the same period, SAH strengthened its commitment to becoming a more equitable and inclusive organization that serves the needs of twenty-first-century architectural historians by creating the SAH IDEAS Committee (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accountability and Sustainability), and by starting a new strategic planning process.
Saliga served as co-principal investigator of the SAH Data Project, funded by the Mellon Foundation, from 2018 to 2021. SAH published the results of the project in Architectural History in the United States: Findings and Trends in Higher Education, the first national, in-depth study designed to assess the health of the field of architectural history.
“I had long recognized that, with her commitment and passion for SAH, Pauline was the beating heart of our Society. But only when I worked side-by-side with her on funding and developing the SAH Data Project did I fully recognize her as the true engine behind the innovation and leadership that SAH has for decades provided for other learned societies,” said Sandy Isenstadt, professor and chair of the Department of Art History at the University of Delaware. Isenstadt served as co-principal investigator of the SAH Data Project is a past president of SAH.
During Saliga’s tenure, SAH was granted nearly $4 million from the Mellon Foundation to support fellowships, digital publishing platforms, and the SAH Data Project. Since 1995, SAH has received more than $1.5 million from NEH to develop SAH Archipedia and the award-winning Buildings of the United States book series.
Throughout the year, SAH welcomes visitors from around the world to the Charnley-Persky House (1891–1892), designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, for guided tours, lectures and exhibitions. Saliga oversaw the completion of a conservation management plan, funded by a grant from the Alphawood Foundation Chicago, and raised more than $500,000 for restoration projects for the house.
She is currently working on the exhibition, The City Beyond the White City: Race, Two Chicago Homes, and their Neighborhoods, with Dr. Rebecca Graff, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Lake Forest College. The exhibition, which will be on view at Charnley-Persky House in September, will frame the history of race and the built environment in Chicago through the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and two homesites, the Charnley-Persky House and Mecca Flats, located respectively on Chicago’s privileged Near North and disinvested Near South Sides. Putting these three sites into conversation via this exhibit is a way to examine difficult and even erased Chicago histories.
Before joining SAH, Saliga was Associate Curator of Architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago (1981–1995) and Assistant Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (1977–1981).
The search for a successor will be led by a committee of SAH members appointed by Young in consultation with the SAH Executive Committee and Board.
“With her wisdom, integrity, and visionary thinking, Pauline has led SAH to become one of the most respected learned societies,” said Young. “She leaves SAH in a powerful place.”