Understanding the development of the field of historic preservation is an essential key to understanding the methods and practices that are currently used by historians, architects, and preservationists. I wish I could say that I was surprised to learn that private sector women’s groups were the unofficial founding “mothers” of historic preservation, but I was not. I find it very fitting that the movement for preserving important culture and historic buildings began as a “grass-roots movement” driven by the awareness and desires of different stakeholders and interested parties (12). And yet, within 175 years, the process has taken on a much more bureaucratic approach which now requires comments and approval from review boards and nomination committees. Author Norman Tyler did a sufficient job explaining how the movement progressed from its humble beginnings into a process that is currently being dictated by government agencies and non-profit organizations. Although I acknowledge that government support is a crucial component for successful preservation projects, and the reasons for this are many, such as financial support or campaigns to increase public awareness; however, this does make me question the presence of alternative motives or political agendas in determining projects worthy of preservation. I would hope that by maintaining a strong community component in such projects, that the historic and cultural reasons for preservation remain the deciding factors in project approval and commitment. Knowing that the roots of this movement began with the efforts of local community organizations is comforting, especially in light of uncertain financial times and increasing budget cuts. I am confident that with the presence of small localized affiliates the field of historic preservation will continue to prosper and provide a genuine and necessary service.
In addition to recognizing the historiography of the field of historic preservation, I found knowing the physical preservation methods and approaches equally if not more crucial to understanding the challenges inherently found within the field. Prior to reading Historic Preservation I was unaware of the different approaches designers can use to incorporate an old building into a more modern setting. I can see the difficulties that designers face when trying to restore an old façade or build something new in an historic area. Because of challenges steeped in differing opinions and perspectives, it is important for designers to consult with historians prior to completing a design in order to better grasp the significance of place, time, and the previous use of the space. Having a solid knowledge of those components will make the job of choosing a matching, compatible or contrasting design scheme easier to create and will at the same time facilitate in gaining community support needed to move forward with such a project.
Also, on a side note, since Tyler did mention Boulder, CO (my home town) as an example of a “city that accepts regulation as good for the community,” I wanted to share a relatively new preservation project that seems to face many of the challenges and concerns that Tyler raised through the readings. I have added the link to the project website, and also some links to other related issues.