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Amber Wiley will serve as the inaugural director of Penn’s Center for the Preservation of Civil Right Sites (Photo by Emily Orr).

Rutgers University professor Amber Wiley will lead Penn’s Center for the Preservation of Civil Right Sites as the center’s first named director.

Wiley will serve as the inaugural Matt and Erika Nord director of the CPCRS, the Weitzman School of Design announced Tuesday in a press release. She will also serve as a presidential associate professor in the School of Design beginning in January 2023, focusing on teaching in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at Penn. The CPCRS, housed in the School of Design, works to conserve heritage sites associated with civil rights history and Black heritage in the United States.

Wiley’s tenure as the director of the CPCRS will begin in July of 2023, according to the press release. Her work as a historian of architecture and urban environments has focused on African American cultural heritage, particularly in New Orleans, as well as how preservation and public history contribute to the formation of identity and memory of cities. Wiley is currently a professor of art history at Rutgers University.

“This is as close to a dream job as one can get, and I am looking forward to building on the work that [Founding Faculty Director] Randy Mason has done and moving the vision forward,” Wiley said in the press release. “As we re-examine the multitude of ways people have fought against oppression in this country, and understand how these stories and battles are embedded within the built environment, CPCRS can be instrumental.”

The CPCRS is currently led by Faculty Director Randy Mason, a professor in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation. Mason launched the CPCRS at Penn in October of 2020 based on a collaboration with Tuskegee University to teach historical preservation.

In October of 2021, the CPCRS received $750,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of a joint grant split between Penn’s CPCRS and Tuskegee University’s Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science. The grant supported the CPCRS’s Capacity Building for Sustainable Preservation of Civil Rights Heritage Places initiative, which focuses on giving incoming preservation professionals an understanding of injustices in historical preservation.

"Erika and I believe it is incredibly important to preserve the civil rights heritage that has helped to shape our communities," 2001 Wharton graduate Matt Nord, a member of the Weitzman Board of Advisors and the director's endowed name, said in the press release. "We believe this center has the potential to be a powerful platform through which we can deepen our understanding of history and the vibrant cultures that are foundational to our country."