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Deconstructing ‘Collective Memory’ in Public Spaces

Thu, Jan 28    6:30pm

Deconstructing ‘Collective Memory’ in Public Spaces - A lecture by Shelby Green

The early efforts at historic preservation presumed a “collective memory,” meaning references to a past that is accepted as commonly shared and that is collectively commemorated. It assumes general agreement on the events of the past that should be recounted and their meaning. This “collective memory” has been used to construct narratives that define communities and urge specific rules and values that should be embraced. In recent years, we have come to see that that “collective memory” is indeed “curated memory,” and that memorializing it in public spaces has enabled the assertion of power by the curators over others and has often excluded those others from the stories of the nation, sometimes intentionally and other times, unthinkingly. The challenge going forward is how to enable our institutions (legal, political and social), as well as individual designers and planners, to rewrite the narratives to reveal memories of a diverse people.

Shelby Green is Professor of Law at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, White Plains, N.Y. She is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. She teaches and writes in the areas of property, real estate transactions, housing, and historic preservation. She is co-author, with Professor Nicholas A. Robinson, of Historic Preservation, Law and Culture (2018) and Historic Preservation: Stories and Laws (2020).

She is the Assistant Secretary and the chair of the Legal Education Group of the Real Property Trust and Estate Section of the American Bar Association (“ABA”). She is the editor of the “Keeping Current-Property” column in Probate & Property magazine and an organizer, occasional presenter, and regular moderator for the monthly webinar, Professors’ Corner, both offered by the same ABA section.

She is chair of the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Music School and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Jay Heritage Center, which manages the John Jay Estate, a National Historic Landmark in Rye, N.Y.