This week’s readings further highlighted the fact that so much of what goes on in the world of historic preservation is subjective. There are certain buildings and sites that I am sure we would all agree are significant to our larger collective history but many of the others that are preserved in the name of history, culture or impact raise questions. While Elvis Presley’s contributions to music and culture are significant, is Graceland itself really that historically significant? If Elvis had never lived there, would it still be listed as a National Historic Landmark? Are there other places in Memphis that would mean more to society?
The guidelines for historic preservation seem to remain largely subjective to the whims of historical preservation boards and even the court system. The documents from the Boise Historic Preservation Committee kept coming to mind as I read more on this section…so much back and forth over window sill depth and the matter of an inch. Additionally, historic preservation raises the thorny issues of property rights and eminent domain.
I can see the importance of adding places like the early McDonald’s to the National Register as it represents a shift in American (and global) culture as we became a more mobile society and required businesses to adapt to the changing needs of the consumer. However, as Ryan pointed out, would we make the argument to preserve the Wal-Marts, Best Buys, etc. to illustrate the architecture and culture of 2013? So many of our purchases today are made over the internet. How do we accurately preserve that for posterity?
Historic preservation is vitally important for us to not only embrace and understand our past, but also to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to interact with history. The subjective nature of the field raises concerns, however.