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UNC Charlotte professor named new executive director of Patapsco Heritage Greenway

A University of North Carolina at Charlotte professor has been selected as the new executive director of Patapsco Heritage Greenway, a preservation-based nonprofit that manages the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area.

Aaron Shapiro, an associate professor and director of public history at UNC Charlotte, will oversee operations of the nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and restore the environment, history and culture of the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area, one of 13 heritage areas in Maryland that support regional cultural, historic and natural resources tourism.

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The heritage area includes 23 sites for people to explore, stretching across Baltimore and Howard counties. It was expanded by 12 square miles this year to include sites such as a portion of the Korean Way in Howard County and the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore County, and now runs from the Carroll County to Baltimore City lines.

In addition to Korean Way and the Guinness brewery, the expansion includes the Diggs-Johnson Museum in Woodstock, Granite Historic District in Baltimore County and the Howard County Conservancy in Mt. Pleasant.

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Shapiro, a Chicago native who has served as national historian for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C., will take over the role of executive director from Lindsey Baker, who has led the organization since January 2018.

Shapiro will take over as executive director Oct. 1.

“While we have entered uncertain times, the pandemic has also drawn increased attention to the need for preserving our natural and cultural resources for the health and well-being of our communities,” Shapiro said in a statement. “PHG is well-positioned to help lead this effort.”

Prior to joining Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Shapiro started and directed the public history program at Auburn University in Alabama and was assistant director of the Scholl Center for Family and Community History at Chicago’s Newberry Library.

Shapiro’s research and teaching over the past two decades has focused on changing perspectives of cultural and natural landscapes; connections between memory, heritage and public historical interpretation; the history of land use and environmental change; modern environmental politics; and broader cultural transformations in 20th-century urban and rural America.

He also authored “The Lure of the North Woods: Cultivating Tourism in the Upper Midwest,” which won the 2014 Jon Gjerde Prize for best book on Midwestern history.

“We are extremely pleased that a candidate with Aaron’s expertise and experience is relocating to the Patapsco Valley area,” said Steve Wachs, Patapsco Heritage Greenway president, in a statement.

“We are confident he will play an important role in leading our organization and the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area through the post-pandemic phase of growth and transition.”

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