New DWPC member Ruth J. Abram is the proud recipient of the 2019 National Trust for Historic Preservation Louise E. duPont Crowninsheld Award. Ruth was the founder and 20-year president of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City. Founded in 1988, the Museum was the first to preserve and interpret a pair of 19th Century tenement buildings, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, one of which was the first tenement to be designated a National Historic Landmark. The Museum has pioneered the interpretation of immigrant, migrant, and refugee working class and poor peoples, and has set precedent for using history as a tool for addressing contemporary social issues, most importantly the ongoing role of immigration in building the nation. During her tenure, Abram also helped pioneer the use of online, digital tools in such projects as the “Immigrant Heritage Trail.”
She founded the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (SoC) with eight other historic sites, agreeing that “it is the obligation of historic sites to assist the public in drawing connections between the history of our sites and its contemporary implications.” SoC lead the only global movement dedicated to activating history by transforming museums, historic sites, and civil society organizations that document history into dynamic spaces that inspire people to advocate for democracy and human rights. There are now over 250 SoC members across nearly 70 countries.
After Abram retired, she moved to New Lebanon, NY, and coordinated Behold! New Lebanon (BNL)—a living museum of contemporary rural American life—in an effort to revive the town through cultural tourism. The BNL programs conducted by the actual people of New Lebanon became a part of the Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon regular programming in 2018.
From the Denver Woman’s Press Club: Congratulations, Ruth, for an honor well deserved!