Preservation

Once again, I found these sections of Historic Preservation illuminating.  By outlining all the multiple ways of thinking about preservation, I could not help but notice how subjective everything is.  In determining historical or architectural significance, I could imagine how many arguments are fought over different buildings and which ones get preserved or not.  These processes are yet another area in which the bureaucracy creates hoops for people to jump through, discouraging more participation.

I thought it was interesting that the authors brought up the “experience economy” and the Starbucks example.  I see locally in Boise, that very same idea at work downtown and the businesses that occupy those spaces, ironically as a reaction against Starbucks.  The restaurants and coffee shops market themselves as being local and able to provide an atmosphere that deviates from the “chain businesses” to give them a “cool” vibe.  The historic buildings play a prominent role in the restaurant atmospheres, providing an “experience” at the same cost, or more, than the “chain” food establishments.  While that is a great use of the space, I wonder at the accessibility of those businesses.  Yes, I see the historic buildings and unique restaurants as assets to Boise, but I feel as if they only cater to specific people, excluding diverse participation in the downtown scene.  Like we have discussed before, I think it’s important that historic spaces be available to everyone.

I was glad that the authors also discussed the link between tourism and preservation.  By blending the two, heritage interpretation creates a more meaningful visit to tourists that goes beyond “site-seeing”.  This approach seeks to engage tourists foster an understanding of cultural places through the combination of tourism, preservation, living history, “edutainment,” and “experience” industries.  One example provided was how a local actor impersonated Thomas Edison and talked to visitors while on the tour.  While admirable, the book makes this approach seem like it is the best and only way to go about engrossing tourists.  I can’t help but consider how some visitors may not enjoy that experience, and how different people learn in multiple ways.  Once again, I think there cannot be a one size fits all model for varying historic sites.  Lastly, I thought the discussion on cultural and maritime landscapes broadened the scope of the book into areas that I hadn’t considered in my perceived discussion of preservation.

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