Taking intersectionality seriously: Learning from LGBTQ heritage initiatives for historic preservation

Donna Graves, Gail Dubrow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In recent years, preservation agencies at the federal, state, and locals levels have advanced more inclusive approaches to historic preservation by commissioning theme studies, surveys, and nominations to registers of historic places that address previously neglected aspects of US heritage. Much of the work done under the broad umbrella of inclusive histories has been focused on communities defined by a single aspect of identity. This essay raises questions about the effectiveness of singlecommunity studies in addressing previously overlooked aspects of history at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and more. We encourage preservation professionals to take seriously the concept of intersectionality, which acknowledges the multivalent quality of lived experience, addresses the complexity of identity, and recognizes the multiplicity of communities with a stake in the preservation and interpretation of any given historic property. This essay argues for the strategic importance of learning from recent studies of LGBTQ resources to refine intersectional approaches to preservation planning, while identifying hidden barriers to inclusion and cultural equity in programs and projects that use a single lens to identify cultural resources associated with underrepresented groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-316
Number of pages27
JournalPublic Historian
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
24 Donna J. Graves and Shayne E. Watson, Citywide Historic Context Statement for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History in San Francisco (San Francisco: San Francisco Planning Department, March 2016). The LGBTQ Historic Context Statement was funded by a grant from the city’s Historic Preservation Fund Committee, with fiscal sponsorship from the GLBT Historical Society.

Funding Information:
After Japanese residents were forced from Japantown, the San Francisco YWCA turned 1830 Sutter Street over to the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which leased the building until 1960. During WWII, AFSC was active in working to document and ameliorate conditions for incarcerated Japanese Americans, including serving as a hub for the National Student Relocation Council, which recruited college-aged students from War Relocation Centers and helped them navigate the bureaucratic maze of paperwork to gain security clearance, enroll in new schools, and access financial support.38

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by The Regents of the University of California and the National Council on Public History. All rights reserved.


  • Cultural equity
  • Diversity
  • Historic preservation
  • Intersectionality


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