Landmarks Illinois President & CEO Bonnie McDonald named 2020 Fitch Fellow


August 18, 2020

Media Contact:

Kaitlyn McAvoy
Communications Manager, Landmarks Illinois

CHICAGO – Landmarks Illinois is announcing its President & CEO Bonnie McDonald is one of three recipients of the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation 2020 Mid-Career Fellowship, an annual grant given to distinguished professionals to conduct research that provides significant value to the preservation field worldwide.

With the fellowship, McDonald will create a “Relevancy Guidebook for the U.S. Preservation Movement” that addresses the need for preservation to be more accessible, inclusive, equitable and diverse, as well as being a part of the solution to today’s toughest challenges such as climate change and housing affordability.

“The historic preservation movement is facing a relevancy crisis in the United States,” said McDonald. “Organizations are grappling with this topic nationwide as support for preservation diminishes. The guidebook’s purpose is to compile innovative ideas being tested around the country that are enhancing preservation’s impact for a broader group of people.”

McDonald joins Heidi Hohmann of Iowa State University and Laura Blokker and Andrew Liles of Tulane University as 2020 Mid-Career Fellowship recipients. The James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation supports professionals in historic preservation and allied fields through its mid-career fellowship grants. According to the Fitch Foundation, the grants are intended to support original research and creative thinking related to architectural heritage protection.

McDonald’s Relevancy Guidebook, which will be published digitally on the Landmarks Illinois website,, in the fall of 2021, will compile a series of articles, discussion guides, tips and tools that can be used by preservation practitioners, organizations and other professionals to address, discuss and implement solutions that broaden their audience and their reach. McDonald’s extensive research and in-depth interviews with more than 100 preservation and urban design professionals from around the nation will inspire the content for the free guidebook.

“These engaging discussions from the last year have proven to be incredibly informative and have shown me that the will and ingenuity to evolve the preservation movement already exists in our field,” said McDonald. “The intellects, knowledge and creativity of people working in and around preservation need only be tapped to identify our roadmap to relevancy.”

Praise for McDonald’s project from three of her project interviewees

“Bonnie’s project is near-and-dear to my heart,” said Felicia Mayro, Board Chair of the Neighborhood Preservation Center. “She is casting a wide net nationally, looking at historic preservation as it is defined and practiced throughout the country. In particular, she is speaking to practitioners who are using preservation to advance conversations around cultural identity, affordable housing, neighborhood development and social justice. This is the first such project that I know of that is taking this type of deep dive to identify the state of the preservation movement and ideas for innovation, and demonstrate how preservation can be relevant to the issues of our time and a tool to help tell a more diverse story about our communities.”

“Bonnie’s insightful inquiries prompt a deeper reflection on the tools that we need to tell the untold stories of the places we think we know,” said Dan Everhart, Outreach Historian for the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office. “Through purposeful engagement and wider representation, the preservation of diverse places frees us to better understand the broad spectrum of American culture.”

“We preserve places not to simply keep old buildings and neighborhoods but, more importantly, to help tell the stories of the people that live there, now and in the past,” said Adrian Scott Fine, Director of Advocacy for the Los Angeles. “When we start telling the full, honest story of everyone and where we have been, have gone, and can go in the future, preservation will reach a new moment. It is up to us to reframe the narrative and ensure all the layers, even the painful stories, are told, which means we need to rethink the way in which we do preservation. Kudos to Bonnie for helping us all to do this better and ensure preservation is relevant!”

More about McDonald

McDonald has served as President & CEO of Landmarks Illinois since 2012. In preparation for the organization’s 50th anniversary in 2021, McDonald has led a task force to serve as a think tank to reimagine the future of preservation in Illinois and beyond. In addition to publishing McDonald’s guidebook, Landmarks Illinois will also be publishing a philosophical manifesto on how the organization will evolve to ensure its endurance and relevancy for another 50 years.

“Landmarks Illinois will be a testing ground for the ideas that we develop to enhance preservation’s meaning and impact to a larger population,” said McDonald. “The upcoming Relevancy Guidebook will aid this effort, offer real-world examples and best practices and, hopefully, inspire other organizations to take necessary steps to remain sustainable and valuable to those they serve. This is intended to be just one source for information and a way to honor those making change in preservation on the ground.”
Recently, McDonald was also selected to co-chair a first-of-its-kind City of Chicago advisory committee that will assess city monuments and memorials and determine if any are problematic and warrant action or attention.

About Landmarks Illinois

We are People Saving Places for People. Landmarks Illinois is a membership-based nonprofit organization serving the people of Illinois. We inspire and empower stakeholders to save places that matter to them by providing free guidance, practical and financial resources and access to strategic partnerships. For more information, visit


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