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Researcher, educator, scholar Brent R. Fortenberry, PhD, named Director of Preservation Studies

February 08, 2021
Headshot of Brent Fortenberry

Historic preservation and vernacular architecture researcher, educator, and scholar Brent R. Fortenberry, PhD, has been appointed as the next Director of Preservation Studies and Christovich Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at Tulane School of Architecture.

"There is no better place in the United States to train the next generation of historic preservation leaders," said Fortenberry. "New Orleans is a microcosm of the 21st-century challenges that face historic preservationists, from climate change to racial, social, and heritage justice."

Fortenberry specializes in the vernacular architecture of the British Atlantic world and contemporary issues in historic preservation and cultural heritage. His most recent research focuses on the cities and port towns of the Greater Caribbean, including St. George's, Bermuda, and Natchez, Mississippi, as well as the plantation landscapes of Barbados, Jamaica, and South Carolina.

"I view these projects as equitable and collaborative endeavors to build capacity and provide resources for the broader effort to make the past more durable for the benefit of communities," Fortenberry said. "I am excited to continue to work in these contexts with students from the Master of Preservation program and the School of Architecture." 

Though his position officially begins in summer 2021, Fortenberry has already begun meeting with stakeholders at the school and outlining his vision for the Master of Preservation program – one that he says is three-fold.

"First, continue the program’s internationally regarded excellence in training the next generation of historic preservation leaders through high impact learning in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Greater Caribbean," Fortenberry said. "Second, to push forward historic preservation research particularly related to documenting under-represented narratives and finding creative solutions to the consequences of human-driven climate change and their impact on the historic built environment. Third, continue to provide positive impacts, capacity, and heritage resources to stakeholders through engaged, equitable collaborations in New Orleans, North America, and the world."

"More widely, preservation needs to engage with diverse and under-represented histories and communities more equitably," Fortenberry said. "The National Trust and other organizations have made broad-scale efforts to foster more inclusive and equitable dialogues, and now is the time for preservation education to do the same."

The broader historic preservation profession and academia are also sources of inspiration and focus for Fortenberry. "I view hands-on, project-based learning as a cornerstone of preservation education. What occurs in the classroom must have positive, real-world impacts."

Prior to joining TuSA, Fortenberry was an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University College of Architecture, teaching courses in architectural history and historic preservation. He served as Associate Director of the Center for Heritage Conservation and Chair of the Education Committee for the Vernacular Architecture Forum. Prior to his time at Texas A&M, Fortenberry held faculty and leadership positions at Clemson University and Boston University since 2012. He has authored numerous journal articles, book chapters, and conference presentations on modern vernacular architecture and the application of technology in historic preservation.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from William & Mary, a Master of Arts in Historical Archaeology from University of Bristol, a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Clemson University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Archaeology from Boston University.