The Spanish missions of California represent the state's oldest and richest historical legacy. Established in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century by Franciscan missionaries, the missions were designed by artisans from Mexico, and built and decorated largely by Native Americans.

Secularized and generally abandoned in the 1830s and 1840s, the missions largely fell to ruin, only to be rediscovered in the late nineteenth century, when, following the publication of Helen Hunt Jackson's 1884 novel Ramona, their story was transformed into a romantic myth that came to define the image of California in the popular imagination. Recent scholarship has afforded us with a more balanced and complex understanding of California missions heritage. Practices in historic preservation have also evolved from reconstructions and restorations to more minimal interventions that are sensitive to the site's historical, architectural, artistic, spiritual, and religious values.

On October 20, 2009, in an event organized by the Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Publications, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Western Regional Office, a panel of experts discussed the history, art, and preservation of the California missions as viewed from multiple perspectives.


Julia Costello is the co-author of The California Missions: History, Art, and Preservation. She holds a PhD in archaeology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is an internationally recognized expert on archaeology and cultural resources in the Western United States, with a particular expertise in the California Missions. Julia has represented the United States on the International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

Clare Kunny (panel moderator) is a manager in the education department of the J. Paul Getty Museum. She holds a master's degree in art history from the University of Chicago, and has competed doctoral course work and preliminary exams at the University of Illinois in Chicago, specializing in colonial Mexican art. Her current research focuses on Antonio de Mendoza (1490–1552), the first viceroy of New Spain, who advocated for the establishment of the missions to evangelize the indigenous population and to settle the geographic expanse.

David Belardes is a long time board member of the California Missions Studies Association and a Native American descendent from neophytes at Mission San Juan Capistrano. He became a tribal leader of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians in 1989 and has worked to preserve historic sites in San Juan Capistrano and Juaneño burial grounds throughout Orange County. He also helped establish the Capistrano Indian Council and the Indian Education Program.

Anthea Hartig is the executive director of the western regional office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a position she has held since 2005. She holds a PhD in United States history, with emphases in California, the West, and the built environment, and a master's degree in historic resource management from the University of California, Riverside.