The Cleo and James Marston Fitch Thesis Grant was established in 2001 through an endowment by the estate of James Marston Fitch (1909-2000). It is given annually to a Columbia University Historic Preservation student to cover expenses incurred in Master's thesis research.
A partially abandoned hose in Valdehorna (Zaragoza, Aragón, Spain), a village of 30 inhabitants. Valdehorna has lost 84% of its population since 1950. Photo courtesy of Alberto Sanchez-Sanchez
2016 Grant Recipient: Alberto Sanchez-Sanchez "Behind the Ecce Homo: Rural Development Policy and the Effects of Depopulation on the Preservation of Spanish Heritage"
The ongoing process of rural depopulation that Europe has experienced during the 20th century has had a considerably negative effect on the conservation of vernacular and historic buildings located in rural areas. Although this is a continental phenomenon, it seems to be especially prevalent in Southern Europe, and particularly in Spain. Taking the infamous restoration of the "Ecce Homo" fresco in the town of Borja (Zaragoza) as a starting point, this thesis aims to examine this problem, explore its magnitude, and identify challenges and opportunities to incorporate historic preservation into existing policies for rural development.
Grant funding provided by Preservation Alumni assisted with cost of travel and field investigation that were necessary to complete the research.