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“We’re proud that Los Angeles, which is a city that’s sometimes derided as a city that doesn’t care about its history or doesn’t care about historic preservation, we think we’re finally exploding that myth once and for all.”

In 1962 Los Angeles passed one of the first and most forward-thinking historic preservation ordinances in the United States, which called for a complete survey of the city to identify cultural monuments. Nearly 40 years later, however, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) found that only 15 percent of the city’s 465 square miles and 880,000 legal parcels had been assessed. A few years after that, the city created the Office of Historic Resources and, together with the GCI, organized a citywide survey of landmarks. They cataloged everything from architecturally significant buildings to iconic plants and natural features to sites of historic events for many of the city’s ethnic and racial communities. The website HistoricPlacesLA, built on the GCI’s open-source Arches platform, makes these findings available to the public and provides a resource for city planners, researchers, movie producers, and residents.

In this episode, Ken Bernstein, principal city planner and manager at the Office of Historic Resources, City of Los Angeles, and Tim Whalen, the John E. and Louise Bryson Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, discuss the importance of documenting LA’s cultural heritage, the process involved in this work, and the value of ongoing surveys of the city.

Griffith Observatory at sunset with the city of Los Angeles below to the left.

Griffith Observatory. Photo: Stephen Schafer

More to explore:

Los Angeles Historic Resource Survey Project (2000–2015) GCI project information

JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
KEN BERNSTEIN: We’re proud that Los Angeles, which is a city that’s sometimes derided as a city...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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