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Spring Festival celebration in Dongsi historic neighborhood, Beijing, China. February 3rd, 2019. Photo credit: China News Service.

2020 SESAH SAH Annual International Conference Fellowship Report

SESAH SAH Annual International Conference Fellowship Report Mingqian Liu
Doctoral Candidate, Department of Architecture, Texas A&M University

Dongsi Hutong Museum, Beijing, China. January 2nd, 2019. Photo credit: Mingqian Liu.

The 2020 conference was supposed to be my first SAH international conference. Although due to COVID-19, the physical gathering was canceled, I was still able to present via their virtual platform, and interact with scholars from around the around. I gave a presentation of my dissertation project in a paper entitled “Community Museum’s Role in Historic Preservation: Towards an Integrated Museum Education and Public Participation” in the Graduate Student Lightning Talks session. At the session, I met other students who do research in heritage conservation, both in the United States and overseas. We were able to exchange contact information, and got to know more about each other’s’ projects. I came across students who study Chinese urban history, and we made plans to swap reference list, so we can expand our scope of reading. In term of format, this was also my first time pre-recording a formal conference presentation. I learned the technology and gained confidence of delivering my content this way, which can be a transferable skill for my future teaching assignments. All sessions at the SAH conference this year were available online for a month, so it I also watched the recording of multiple sessions. The keyword address on architectural and urban history of Seattle was my favorite one, since I’ve never been to the city. I was introduced to so many interesting historical places and cultural traditions in the Pacific Northwest.

Although I could not utilize the SESAH fellowship to travel to the SAH conference, I am grateful that SESAH still provided me with much needed financial support, so I can focus on my research during these uncertain times. My dissertation is a study on long-term residents’ perceptions of historic preservation policies and practices in an 800-year-old residential neighborhood in the inner city of Beijing, China. This past year, I finished the initial round of data collection with residents and professionals working in the field, and started to draft the introduction, methodology, and literature review chapters. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of this project, I found myself reading and discussing theories and topics with people in many other related fields in the humanities and social sciences. Such experience was highly valuable for me, and it constantly reminded me about the support I had from those academic and professional communities around me. This past spring and summer, when public health and financial crisis hit our society and many of us had to pause our research agenda in some way, I think it is important that we can still interact with our peers and support each other, even though we can’t be physically together. This was also a perfect time for us to reflect on how our research can help educate people, and then be transformed into actions that support social justice and progress for the actual communities we study. I look forward to share my research with SESAH in the upcoming virtual conference in October.