Conservation Conversations are public research dialogues pairing professionals in the field and exemplifying the goal of “Cultures of Conservation,” a five-year curricular initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

On Tuesday, March 15 at 6 pm, Gabrielle Berlinger will speak on “A Multiplicity of Voices: The Structure of Preservation at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.” David Favaloro will comment.


Gabrielle A. Berlinger is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Folklore and Tanenbaum Fellow of American Jewish Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Cultures of Conservation at Bard Graduate Center from 2013–2015. Trained as a folklorist, she studies the aesthetic expression of culture in everyday life with particular focus on vernacular architecture and ritual practice. She received her MA and PhD from Indiana University, Bloomington, in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.

David Favaloro is Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. He is primarily responsible for interpreting the history of the tenements at 97 and 103 Orchard Street, with an emphasis on research and exhibit development. He also oversees the museum’s preservation, conservation, and collections management programs. He received his MA in Public History from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

How do we measure the success of an historic house museum? By the degree to which the historic structure is physically preserved? By the number of people who visit each year? By the sense of “authenticity” that the visitor experiences? By the breadth of information imparted by the building’s history? All of these factors—conservation achievements, public attendance, affective impact, and educational value—are implicated in the quest to understand an historic house museum’s success, which begs the question, “What is the purpose of this historic house museum?” This presentation explores the relationship between the historic preservation of a 150-year-old tenement building-turned-museum, and the goals of the curators, conservators, historic preservation architects, and educators who have created and continue to re-create the museum experience within.