Featured Speakers

Keynote speaker Dr. Melinda Milligan
Dr. Melinda Milligan

Dr. Melinda Milligan, Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University, to the 2019 conference to deliver the Richard A. Grills Keynote Address in Historic Preservation.

Dr. Milligan is a leading researcher in the social psychology of historic preservation, particularly the study of place attachment and nostalgia.

Dr. Milligan’s keynote address is made possible through a generous grant from the Southeastern New England Educational and Charitable Foundation.


Benita Van Winkle

The sharing of memory in documentary photography, and especially the photographs used to uphold and support preservation efforts, bring depth and complexity, understanding and connection, energy and emotion to what might have been just a piece of paper with a silver or ink impression.

Benita Van Winkle is an Associate Professor of Art at High Point University. She earned her MFA from Southern Illinois University in photography, and teaches photographic courses from darkroom to digital, embracing the changes in the industry and technology. A documentary art photographer, her continued passion has been recording images and stories of vintage movie theaters across the US for almost forty years.


Marjory O’Toole

For so many members of the public, memory is a very powerful tie to a historic place or a local history. Sometimes those memories are our first (or only) hint that something of importance happened or that someplace was of special significance in the past, and so memories can be incredibly valuable...Without visible reminders on the landscape, history is far too easily forgotten.

Marjory O’Toole is the Executive Director of the Little Compton Historical Society and the author or co-author of a variety of local history books. She holds a Master of Arts in Public Humanities from Brown University. In 2018 she recruited 100 volunteers to safely clean 1000 gravestones in Little Compton and worked with a small circle of volunteers to research and share the history of the town’s 46 known historic cemeteries as part of the society’s “Remember Me” project. “Remember Me” has won national awards from the Association for Gravestone Studies and the American Association for State and Local History. Marjory was recently invited to join the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission.


TK Smith

Memory, is the driving force of preservation. What we attempt to hold on to from the past and how we choose to memorialize that past stems from memory...Am I passionate about preservation? I am both passionate and critical of preservation. I believe it has the power to both retain and erase culture, histories, and people.

TK Smith is a curator, writer, and critic, . He currently serves as a Tina Dunkley Curatorial Fellow in American Art at the Clark Atlanta University Art Museum and an African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Research Fellow for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Originally from Iowa, Smith recently relocated to Atlanta from St. Louis, MO, where he received his MA in American Studies from Saint Louis University.




Ashley Valanzola

Preservation of a site or an object means that there is a chance the person or event it represents will survive well into the future. Its memory lives on through the object or site, even though it may be interpreted in different ways.

Ashley Valanzola is a PhD Candidate in History studying under Professor Katrin Schultheiss at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Ashley earned her undergraduate degree in history at the United States Naval Academy and her Master’s degree at Norwich University. Her recent publications include a chapter in the soon-to-be released volume The Future of Holocaust Research called “Survival and Sacrifice: Eastern European Jewish Women in France (1939-1942),” and an article in the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s publication Reflections: “Material Culture and Memory: Objects from the Holocaust in Poland.” Ashley’s research uses material culture, gender theory, and memory studies to examine the lives of Jewish women and Holocaust memory in France.

One aspect of my work focuses on the memorialization and preservation of Holocaust sites in France. Preservation is crucial to the memory of the Holocaust because it maintains a visible reminder of the terror that occurred. Since people are dedicated to maintaining sites and objects from the Holocaust, their work helps refute Holocaust denial and counter the contemporary resurgence of anti-Semitism. The importance of preservation in Holocaust memory cannot be overemphasized.



Dina Posner

Memory is important in preservation because it is such an essential ingredient in the built environment. There are many beautiful historic buildings and landscapes that are saved, restored, and preserved for future generations; but these projects would lack significant impact if not for the history, stories, and memories associated with them.

Dina Posner graduated in 2015 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in interior architecture. It was after graduation while working at an architecture firm in Washington, D.C. that she became eager to engage more fully with historic architecture. She then moved to New York in 2017 to start the two-year Master of Science in Historic Preservation at Pratt Institute. She graduated from this program in May of 2019. As of July 2019, Dina has begun a position with the Palisades Parks Conservancy, a non-profit that works with 28 parks and historic sites in New York and New Jersey.

Dina wrote her Master’s thesis on the adaptive reuse of institutional sites of control and reform, specifically prisons, jails, penitentiaries, and psychiatric institutions. The thesis focuses on how the problematic history associated with these institutions can be either remembered or forgotten during the adaptive reuse process. Furthermore, the report establishes a remembrance continuum for examining the scale of remembering and forgetting seen in precedent adaptive reuse projects. Dina originally became interested in this topic when she attended an exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. which explored the history of St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric institution, and how it is being adaptively reused today.


Memory is the connection between our past and our present. Without it, we would live in a constant state of “now,” and preservation would be obsolete. Although not a perfect tool, as it is often clouded by bias (intentional and unintentional), memory allows us to reconnect with the broad world of the past. However, that bias – particularly at a societal level – has a strong influence on that which we do and do not reconnect, shaping what we do and do not preserve.

Valerie Heider joined the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) after spending nearly the first five years of her career in New England where she worked for Historic New England as a Preservation Manager, overseeing both the maintenance and capital improvements of multiple properties in the organization’s collection.

As a Project Manager with MNHS, Valerie is responsible for managing capital improvement and preservation, rehabilitation, reconstruction, and restoration projects to provide appropriate care and preservation of MNHS properties. Currently, she is responsible for a significant preservation project of the ruins courtyard at the Mill City Museum, which occupies part of the Washburn Crosby “A” Mill Complex, a National Historic Landmark, in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Valerie received a master’s degree in historic preservation from the joint program between Clemson University and The College of Charleston.


Gwen Stricker

Memory is important in preservation because it is intangible. Acknowledging memory and bias in memory is important in telling the story of any historic place in need of preservation. Collective memory lives in the built environment, and recounting this memory gives meaning to the bricks, stones, and paths that have witnessed our history. Memory injects individual value into places, it is what makes preservation controversial and challenging, it is what allows people to connect to their places.

Gwen Stricker, originally from Chicago, is an M.S. Historic Preservation student at Columbia University GSAPP in New York City. She previously received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture with a minor in Historic Preservation from Ball State University. She has completed internships at Jan Hird Pokorny Associates and Beyer Blinder Belle Architects, both prominent preservation architecture firms in NYC.


Tania Alam

If the memory is removed from preservation, is that really “preservation?” One can definitely choose to not preserve some memories, but one cannot “preserve” anything without attaching a memory to it. Preservation aspires to evoke emotions, pull some internal strings in observers, even among those who had no previous attachment to the preserved entity (may it be a place, structure or an event). Preservation works best when it is able to embed one or more memories that make the efforts worthwhile.

Tania Alam has a Bachelor of Architecture (B. Arch.) degree from Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (Dhaka, Bangladesh) and a Master of Science (MS) degree in Historic Preservation from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation (GSAPP) at Columbia (New York, NY). Her interests include “historic color palettes,” color psychology, green building design and general history.

After graduating from Columbia in 2017, she joined the firm Jablonski Building Conservation, Inc. (JBC) as an architectural conservator and has been there since. She has worked on projects involving conditions assessment, material testing (both on field and in the laboratory), and has assisted senior JBC conservators in rehabilitation and restoration of many buildings.


Dr. Laura Macaluso

Tracking the development of memory–how a society remembers events, people, identity–is deeply intertwined into how the world is structured politically and socially and how it functions today.

Laura A. Macaluso works with material culture, monuments, museums, and the communities in which these works reside. Her work spans across geographic locale, material and academic discipline, to find common themes and significance in the value of culture, from high art to low art, landscapes, objects, and archives. She has a Ph.D. from the Humanities/Cultural & Historic Preservation departments at Salve Regina University and is currently the Public History Specialist for the Lynchburg Museum System in central Virginia as well as the grants writer for the Lynchburg Museum Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her tenth book, Historic Virginia, A Tour of the State’s National Historic Landmarks, will be published this fall. Learn more about Dr. Macaluso through her website lauramacaluso.com


Ms. Jennifer Robinson

Memory can be viewed in two ways, both individually and collectively. It is not a fixed concept, and it is influenced by the different perspectives of individuals and communities. However, memory can also be an individual experience, and even people who travel through the same space may interpret it differently. It is this interpretation of memory, and considering all its facets, that I think is most fascinating to address in terms of preservation philosophy. How can physical places help us to understand memory? And what happens to memory if physical places are destroyed or eroded?

Jennifer Robinson received a BS in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising, and Design from the University of Rhode Island in 2009 and an MSc in Architectural Conservation from the University of Edinburgh in 2017. She worked for several years in museum collections at the Newport Historical Society, and was a 2018-2019 Research Fellow in Historic Landscapes at the Preservation Society of Newport County. She has been a member of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland’s Forth and Borders Cases Panel, a volunteer planning review body, since 2016. In September, she began a new position at Historic New England as Preservation Services Manager for Southern New England. There, she will help to facilitate the organization’s easement program in the region and will continue with preservation-related advocacy and public outreach.