Preservation Reading

While reading this week’s chapters from Historic Preservation I kept thinking back to Dr. Lubamersky’s presentation to us about Sweden and her observation that the Swedish are not afraid to mix the old with the new. I love to see old buildings preserved, but…. I appreciated that on page 18 of the introduction there was a listing of several perspectives held by preservationists: “Some see their role primarily as saving old buildings, some as preserving a cultural heritage, some as fostering urban revitalization, and some as contributing to sustainability and an alternative approach to current development practice.” I would like to think that all those views are important and taken into consideration. I’d also like to believe there is an option that sometimes a building might not be not worth saving.

I had very mixed feelings about one of the Boise Architecture Project’s picks for their endangered list, the Googie style Japanese Restaurant. I remember when it was a Sambo’s. That’s right. A shortening of the name Little Black Sambo. It may be kind of like a slave cabin in its historical and cultural significance. It might be really important for Idaho to have an example of that kind of architecture. Or we could question its deteriorated state and say bye-bye. Recently, I suggested to a friend who was having trouble purging useless, old knickknacks that he should take digital photos of them and save the images, not the actual items. I might be okay with a digital photo of that restaurant in a digital archive.

2 thoughts on “Preservation Reading”

  1. This week’s reading also reminded me of Dr. Lubamersky’s presentation, but it was a different passage than the one you mention. The book mentions living history museums which, like Sweden’s Skansen, exhibit reenactments of historical events or lifestyles. Aside from the buildings themselves, however, I am uncertain to what extent character interpretation can be considered preservation. It is usually just that–interpretation. Unless the character interpreters truly preserve some aspect of historical everyday life (such as a craft, which Dr. Lubamersky mentioned the Skansen does), I wouldn’t classify living history as historic preservation. I have never been to historic Plimoth Plantation, but the book implies that perhaps some preservation of “everyday village activities” does occur in its interpretation. One example of a living history museum that successfully combines interpretation and preservation is Colonial Williamsburg, which tries to accurately preserve colonial craftsmanship. The actors who interpret roles there such as the silversmith and the wheelwright are not merely actors at all; they actually have learned and now practice their historical crafts. This is a mode of true interpretation/preservation that I think living history museums should strive for.

  2. Interesting points, Ellen and Anna.

    Re: Plimoth Plantation. . . Interpretation there is really interesting. They’ve reconstructed an English village, and the interpreters are in character, all of them as specific people who occupied the village in 1627. If memory serves, they relive the year 1627 over and over, reenacting specific events on each day rather than just a “typical” day. There’s also a Wampanoag homesite where the interpreters are not in character, though they are in costume. For many reasons I won’t go into here–maybe we can discuss them in class?–I think it was a very, very good idea to differentiate approaches between the two sites at Plimoth Plantation.

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