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Statement on Monuments and Memorials
Regulations, Guidelines and Forms

On June 2 the Boston Preservation Alliance released a brief statement of our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We pledged to use our platform to share a more holistic, honest, and inclusive history that amplifies Black perspectives and those of other marginalized minorities. That statement was the first step in our journey to re-examine what stories we tell, whom we honor and celebrate, and to amplify the histories that have been minimized and outright excluded. Today we take our second step on this journey as we work to make space for these long-neglected voices. As we listen more closely to the perspectives of Black Bostonians, we recognize more clearly than ever that the stories of the past we choose to tell and the ways we choose to tell them have a direct impact on people’s lives. We often extol the value of historic places to motivate and empower, but we rarely recognize the paradoxical influence of these histories and the people we choose to honor—myopic choices that have subjugated and diminished self-worth. Today many of us are finally acknowledging this impact of our work. 

Last week the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued a bold statement regarding its position with regard to the removal of Confederate monuments. A key paragraph struck a chord with the Boston Preservation Alliance staff and directors:

“Although Confederate monuments are sometimes designated as historic, and while many were erected more than a century ago, the National Trust supports their removal from our public spaces when they continue to serve the purposes for which many were built—to glorify, promote, and reinforce white supremacy, overtly or implicitly. While some have suggested that removal may result in erasing history, we believe that removal may be necessary to achieve the greater good of ensuring racial justice and equality. And their history needs not end with their removal: we support relocation of these monuments to museums or other places where they may be preserved so that their history as elements of Jim Crow and racial injustice can be recognized and interpreted.”

While Confederate Monuments are not as much of an issue here in Boston, as we’ve watched events unfold around the world and here too, it’s clear that in this city—we too—must confront and address racist symbolism. The Boston Preservation Alliance acknowledges that the anguish symbols of racism have caused to the Black community for generations must end. We must recognize that these symbols have inflicted daily pain on many, empowered (and continue to empower) racist ideologies, and for too many of us have been dismissed as simple reflections of a past or works of art for which their negative aspects could be ignored. These are chapters in our nation’s history that we must confront and learn from. We cannot continue the same blind stance that ignores the ideals that so many of these monuments extol, the goals they pursued, or the impact they have on our fellow Bostonians.

Emancipation Group

Some statues and memorials here have been defaced as long-held emotions and animosity against their painful symbolism have driven action, however, equally powerful and convincing Black voices ask for substantive change. They ask our city to admit our culpability in the activities that brought us to this point, to recognize our blindness when we were encouraged to see how these monuments impact Black people and those of other marginalized minorities, and today to reassess whom we celebrate and how. For example, while President Lincoln should be honored, in today’s context is it more harmful than beneficial for Emancipation to be celebrated in such a public forum with the image of a Black man subserviently kneeling? These are important questions for the community to address, and we welcome the possibility of change driven by Black voices.

The time has come for a robust, community-led dialog about monuments in the public square. The time has come to determine whether now is the time for some to be removed to a place where they can stand as educational artifacts that foster difficult but much-needed conversations around our country’s deep entanglement with the horrors of racist ideologies. We must make space for more voices and we must listen to those imploring for a much-needed transformation in the way we think about our history. We welcome the opportunity to be a part of that process.

Statement from the National Trust

Other Resources

2020 Alliance Annual Report

There is always more to the story. 

2019 Alliance Annual Report

Together we make Boston better. 

2018-2019 Alliance Annual

In this 51 page booklet, we highlight Preservation Achievement Award winning projects, Boston pho

250 Years of Home Architecture in Boston

Take a virtual walk down history lane and explore great neighborhoods–including Beacon Hill, Dorc

Boston Groundwater Trust Video Series

In 2018, The Boston Groundwater Trust debuted a series of award winning informational videos abou

Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA) Historic Properties Survey—Final Report

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Boston Harborwalk—A Public Access Map of Boston’s Coastline

The Boston Harborwalk is a nearly 40-mile public waterfront walkway that winds through Boston’s w

The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse

Until now, little has been known about the climate change reductions that might be offered by reu

Back Bay Houses

Boston’s Back Bay is a miracle of preservation.

Piano Row: Cycles of History

Piano Row: Cycles of History is an original film documentary about the evolution of Bost

Historic Ladder Blocks—An Endangered Resource in Downtown Boston

With no local protection or means of preventing demolition, the Ladder Blocks are at great risk o

Boston Modern: The Spirit of Reinvention

Boston Modern: The Spirit of Reinvention events and booklet are part of the Modern Module program

Boston's Changing Neighborhoods

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Easements as a Tool for Preservation

Here in Boston there are a few ways we can protect a building or other historic resource.

City of Boston Archives The City Archives houses and manages historic City records and documents that are no longer in active use, including photographs, plans, deeds, maps and other documents. You’d be surprised by the wide range of historic materials that can inform your understanding of the history of Boston and its neighborhoods and buildings.
Neighborhood Preservation Workshops

The Boston Preservation Alliance’s Neighborhood Preservation Workshop was a pilot program that ra

Inspectional Services Department (ISD) The ISD enforces building and housing regulations. Permits applications for building, modifying, or demolishing a building are submitted to this department. Vacant and foreclosed properties are registered with the ISD, which includes documentation and photographs.
Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) The BPDA is Boston’s planning and economic development agency. They work with other City departments and organizations on a wide range of planning and development initiatives. Development projects are subject to comment periods and public processes. The BPDA plays a far reaching role in shaping the City.
Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) The Boston Landmarks Commission, along with the volunteer local Historic District Commissions, serve as the City’s steward of Boston’s historic buildings, places, and neighborhoods. The BLC and the Commissions are part of the city’s Environment Department, provide information and assistance concerning the regulatory process, historic preservation planning, archaeology, sources for historical information, and technical assistance.
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