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Community News

'The Future of the Past' Begins Rancho 2014 Series

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 15

Despite an abundance of world-class museums and well-documented historic sites, the Southland’s past is only dimly remembered (if at all) by many of its residents. It may be because of the relative newness of the streams of migrants from all parts of the world who have made Southern California their home. But the reason might also be found in how institutions of “public memory” have told the story of Southern California.

If the past is to have any meaning in the 21st century megalopolis, the cultural materials that have shaped Southern California must be gathered, questioned, and presented anew in light of new realities. To help sift through the changing assumptions and expectations of the region’s official storytellers, the first Conversations in Place for 2014 will bring together some of the state’s most eminent interpreters and architects of cultural history on Sunday, August 10.

The Conversation begins at 1:30 p.m. at the historic Rancho Los Alamitos in Long Beach. Advance purchase of tickets is required.

To consider the many implications of “The Past in the 21st Century,” the Conversations series will welcome W. Richard West, Jr. (president and CEO of The Autry National Center of the American West and founding director emeritus, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution), Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA (presidential appointed chairman of the United States Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and former California State Historic Preservation Officer), Stephen Farneth, FAIA (founding principle of Architectural Resources Group, which has preserved and rehabilitated some of the nation’s most significant historic sites, including Rancho Los Alamitos), and Pamela Seager (executive director of Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation).

D. J. Waldie, co-moderator of the series with Claudia Jurmain, director of special projects and publications at the Rancho and series founder, believes that the story of Southern California has always been troubled by narrative assumptions. “Key actors,” Waldie noted, “have been left out of Southern California’s history and their roles obscured in order to make the story more romantic or triumphant. Reframing the story isn’t just a matter of adding more diversity to the narrative. We’re looking for new ways of encountering the past.” Jurmain suggests that “When you take history out of the straightjacket of time, new ideas, space and forms come to be.”

Now in its third year, Conversations in Place 2014 will present three more illuminating explorations of “Southern California – Yesterday and Tomorrow” at Rancho Los Alamitos. The series continues through Sunday, November 2.

The remaining Conversations in the 2014 series will question if the past has any shaping power over Southern California’s economic and demographic future (September 14), take on the vexing question of “urban nature” and its relation to our homes, our neighborhoods, and even what food we put on the table (October 19), and the impact that new narrators of Southern California stories are having on the way our region is perceived at home and around the world (November 2).

Tickets for the Sunday, August 10 Conversations in Place are $25 each. Subscriptions to the 4-part series are $80. Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling Rancho Los Alamitos at (562) 431-3541.