Preservation through education is one of the most desired topics in the upcoming 2022 STQRY Summit. We interviewed presenter Renée Ingram, President & Founder of African American Heritage Preservation Foundation (AAHPF), and Ran Yan, Executive Director of Lewis Latimer House Museum, regarding their experience in leveraging digital technology for preserving historical sites, and what we can expect in their panel discussion.
Renee’s journey of founding AAHPF goes back to the early 1990s, when she undertook the effort to get her family’s cemetery (The Stanton Family Cemetery) placed on the Commonwealth of Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. It was an endangered historical site dating back to the 1850s, as a result of the Virginia Department of Transportation being allocated funding to widen and hard surface the state highway adjacent to the cemetery. “We felt that some of the burials may be disinterred, and we worked diligently with the Virginia Department of Transportation to realign their proposed plan,” Renee said. Hence, The Stanton Family Cemetery became the first free African American privately held family cemetery to be placed on these registers in 1993. Encouraged by the impressive result, Renee founded AAHPF in 1993 to engage and gain recognition for more endangered and little-known African American sites.
Ran started her career from a fellowship offered by the Historic House Trust of New York City, upon completing her master’s degree in historic preservation of planning at Cornell University. During this time, Ran worked on reimagining historic house museums, connecting with diverse communities, and educating the public through innovative programs. In 2015, Ran became the program director of Lewis Latimer House Museum, where she focused on improving community outreach and establishing new educational programs. With an astonishing achievement in historic preservation, Ran became the executive director of the museum in 2017.
“For small historical house museums like ours, it is crucial to embrace digital strategy as we have a small physical footprint and a limited space,” Ran mentioned. She believes that a strong online presence is the key to reaching more people and fulfilling their mission. The museum had already started working on digital engagement pre-covid, including online subscriptions and social media channels. Therefore, they were able to build upon this and further develop the initial infrastructure into an impactful presence during the Covid pandemic.
“When reviewing the Lewis Latimer House Museum, we found such rich history about the site. It is a fine example of utilizing the free mobile app to create different ways of learning African American history and the contributions of African Americans,” Renee said. In the webinar, the audience can expect to find out how the African American Sites app empowers its end users to learn the history, the significance of historical sites throughout the US, and to help preserve these sites for adaptive reuse.